Rip currents in Cocoa Beach pose risk for swimmers



COCOA BEACH, Fla. - Some Brevard County residents woke up before the sun to a chilly morning to celebrate Easter Sunday on the beach.

Hundreds of people from numerous churches packed Cocoa Beach for a sunrise Easter service.

Another Cocoa Beach tradition, the 50th annual Ron Jon Easter Surf Festival, also kicked off in the morning, despite a high risk of rip currents.

Brevard County beach patrol officials said they performed 15 rescues so far this weekend.

They said there were 13 rescues on Saturday and two on Sunday, and they expect the rough surf to continue into the week.

Hannah Blevins, 12, regularly competes in the surf competition. She was a finalist for the past three years, but this year she won for her age group. She said Sunday’s conditions are not ideal for swimming.

“It’s not good to swim in,” she said. “I wouldn’t swim out there.”

That’s exactly what beach safety officials were warning the thousands of visitors attending the event.

“We’ve been extremely proactive in keeping people out of rip currents today,” said Eisen Wichter with Brevard County Ocean Rescue.

High winds and cooler temperatures were enough to keep most people on shore, but to be safe, Ocean Rescue beefed up patrols and enacted its own preventative measures to get the word out.

Red flag warnings for rough surf have been flying since Saturday morning, and every lifeguard stand has tips posted on how to escape the grip of the rip current.

“Swim near a lifeguard, but also never swim alone. Make sure you have someone with you and know your limits,” Wichter said.

On Saturday, a 51-year-old tourist died after being found floating unconscious in the surf in Cocoa Beach.

Police said an autopsy is underway to determine the exact cause of his death.