Study of a Possible Link Between Drowning and Near-Drowning Events and Surf Conditions in South Texas

Study Background:

Over the past year and a half a study was conducted to find out more about the cause of drownings and near drownings in the surf of the South Texas Beaches. A particular focus of the study was to correlate incidents in the surf zone and meteorological and surf conditions such as the possible occurrence of rip currents. A brief outline of the study and its findings is provided in the draft executive report below. The rest of the study results can be found in the full draft report below as well. Note that this report and its findings are not final and will likely be updated based on the feedback of the study participants and others interested in and knowledgeable about the South Texas coast.

How You can Help:

Some of the results of the study were not surprising such as the regular observation of mild rip currents all along the South Texas Coast and the observation of strong rip currents during tropical storms and strong frontal passages near structures. Some of the results are a little unexpected such as the lack of correlation between incidences of drowning, near drowning and swimmer in distress events and overall atmospheric and oceanic conditions. If you have the time to look over portions of the report you may be able to comment, offer suggestions or point to shortcomings. If you have witnessed strong rip currents or rescue of swimmers in distress and remember some of the details such as the date of the event I would be grateful if you could share it. You can contact me at the E-mail address below. Thanks!

Report Table of Contents

Executive Summary
(this link gives you the Executive summary only, the rest of the report excluding appendices is accessible by clicking any of the chapters below)

Full Report

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Study Scope and Objectives
  4. Rip Currents
  5. Preponderance of Rip Currents on the South Texas Coast
  6. Assessment of Surf Conditions during Drowning and Near-Drowning Events
  7. Specific Cases of Drowning and Near-Drowning Events
  8. Drowning and Near-Drowning Events
  9. Possible Correlation between Drowning and Near-Drowning Events and Surf Conditions
  10. Conclusions and Recommendations
  11. Acknowledgements
  12. References

Report Appendices:

(the appendices are split in three groups 1-5, 6 and 7-10)

  1. Scanned copy of NOAA & USLA “RIP CURRENTS! BREAK THE GRIP OF THE RIP” brochure
  2. US Coast Guard Information and Recommendations Regarding Rip currents
  3. US Coast Guard Recommendations for Beach and Ocean Safety
  4. Texas Sea Grant and National Weather Service “Rip Currents” Placard
  5. Rip Current Survey
  6. Aerial Photography of the Southern Portion of the Texas Coast with Locations of Structures (Appendix 6 is a large file, 7.7 MB, and may take a while to upload depending on your connection speed)
  7. List of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico during Study Years (1983-June 2005)
  8. Agencies Contacted to Obtain Surf Drowning and Swimming Incidents Information
  9. Atmospheric and Surf Conditions During Nueces County Surf Incidents
  10. Atmospheric and Surf Conditions During Cameron County Surf Incidents


The support of Texas Seagrant for this ongoing study is greatly acknowledged. The Corpus Christi Weather Forecasting Office, the Nueces County Beach Services division, and the Cameron County Park Ranger Division are greatfully acknowledged for their assistance in providing data on surf incidents and valuable feedback for this study. Without their contribution this study would not have been possible. Many thanks to a number of individuals who have contributed to provide important information for the study such as answering the rip current questionnaires and discussing the overall scope of the study. Thank you as well to Michael Willingham, Sara Ussery and John Adams from the TAMUCC Division of Nearshore Research whose help in finding and discussing information has been invaluable.