Watch out for sharks if you dip your toes in the water off the stunning beaches of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Riptides, too. Hurricanes, too. According to the online travel publication Travel Lens, which used information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Shark Institute, New Smyrna Beach is the top beach in America to visit. The number of shark attacks, hurricane frequency, and surf-related deaths was all high here. Seven of the 10 named hazardous shorelines were located in Florida.
From 2010 to January 13, 2023, New Smyrna Beach saw 32 shark attacks, more than any other beach, and 10 fatalities in the surf zone. Between 1851 and 2020, 120 hurricanes struck the coastal community south of Daytona Beach, according to NOAA. In defense of the list, it does state that “the culinary scene is outstanding” and that “the beach isn’t all horrible.”
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Of course, the locals are entirely aware of this. Shark Park, which is no longer open, sells T-shirts with the slogan “Shark Bite Capital,” In 2022, ornamental shark statues created by local artists and high school students were erected all over the city. The mascot of the nearby high school? Sorry, but those are the Barracudas or Cudas. Ironically, Port Orange, which lacks an Atlantic shoreline, is home to the Sharks. Atlantic High is close.
The second spot? Seven fatalities in the surf zone, seven shark attacks, and 120 hurricanes have occurred in Cocoa Beach. Ormond Beach comes in third with eight deaths in the surf zone and four shark attacks since 2010. Despite not having a shark problem, Panama City Beach, ranked fourth overall, was declared the most dangerous beach for surfers, with 24 fatalities occurring in the surf zone over the same period.
(Daytona Beach was the second-most hazardous location for surfers.) But it’s not just surfers and sharks. Seven out of the top ten most dangerous beaches can be located in Florida, which Travel Lens claims were the state most severely damaged by storms.
Where Are America’s Most Dangerous Beaches?
The top 10 unsafe beaches, according to Travel Lens, are as follows:
- Florida’s New Smyrna Beach – 8.14 out of 10 for danger
- Florida’s Cocoa Beach – 7.57/10 risk rating
- Beach, Florida’s Ormond – 7.48/10 for hazard
- Florida’s Panama City Beach – 7.16/10 for hazard
- South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach has a 6.61/10 danger rating.
- Florida’s Melbourne Beach. – 6.35/10 risk rating
- Florida’s Jacksonville Beach – 6.02/10 risk rating
- Oak Island, North Carolina: 5.54 out of 10 for danger
- Alabama’s Gulf Shores has a 5.38/10 risk rating.
- Florida’s Fort Lauderdale has a 5.37/10 risk rating.
What is a Surf Zone?
The National Weather Service defines the surf zone as the water between the beach’s high tide line and the seaward side of breaking waves. The NWS classifies fatalities in surf zones into three categories: rip current, high surf, and sneaker wave.
Rip Currents: River-like, relatively small-scale currents that flow away from the beach in the surf zone. Strong rip currents can drag people out into the ocean or exhaust them as they try to swim to land. Rip currents are the leading cause of death in the surf zone.
High surf: Huge waves that break on or close to the shore, usually due to swells produced by a far-off storm.
Sneaker Wave: A powerful wave that unexpectedly sweeps a beach or the coast, taking people by surprise and hurling them into the sea.
How Can I Stay Safe at the Beach?
Check the official surf zone forecast, beach advisories and closures, and local weather before loading the car. Keep up-to-date with the local weather and ocean conditions at all times. What time does the tide come in or go out? What level of rip current hazard is there right now? Are thunderstorms anticipated? The National Weather Service states that even storms far from the coast can produce hazardous waves and currents at the beach.
- Have swimming skills and swim close to a lifeguard.
- Bring flotation equipment or a life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard.
- Swim with buddies.
- If you need to call for assistance, you should know the beach’s address.
- Learn where the beach’s life stations with life rings that can be thrown to someone in need are located.
- Observe any warning flags at the beach, lifeguard stations, or chairs.
How Can I Avoid Being Attacked by a Shark at a Florida Beach?
The word “shark attacks” should be dropped in favor of less sensational terms like encounters, incidents, or bites, say scientists and wildlife officials. Most bites do not pose a serious health risk (although still not any fun). According to the International Shark Attack File of the Florida Museum of Natural History, no fatal bites have been reported in Volusia County, including New Smyrna Beach and Ormond Beach.