Updated 2 January 2017: At the beginning of August, I posted that the Canaries held the dubious honour of being in second place nationally for drownings with 43. Of those, 11 were in Tenerife. At some points in the year, the figures were running at double those of 2015, but in the final analysis, 21 died by drowning in Tenerife’s waters in 2016. The figures for the Canaries as a whole, released by the water safety campaign Canarias, 1.500 Km de costa, show that 72 people drowned in these waters last year, up 16% on 2015, the last death being that of a tourist in La Gomera’s Valle Gran Rey on New Year’s Eve itself.

I know I sound like a broken record, but please take care in the water here. As I’ve said too often to count, cardiac arrest in the sea is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, it’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 75°F (24°C) even in August. And so, regardless of the time of year, even in high summer, Tenerife’s waters are technically cold. Bathers can get into difficulties within five minutes.

To be specific about symptoms, normal body temperature is 98.6ºF; shivering begins when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5º; amnesia and coordination problems begin to set in at approximately 94º, unconsciousness at 86º, and death, normally from cardiac arrest, at approximately 79º … and 79º is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures!

Please be aware of the dangers of the sea here, and not just the problems associated with “cold water”, but also the warning flags that fly on our beaches, rip tides and undertow, all issues that bathers need to know about. Please read THIS page on staying safe in Tenerife waters. Above all, however, please don’t interpret this information as a warning not to go in the water. What it is is advice to go in the water with care, forearmed because forewarned … and therefore able to enjoy the sea safely.

I’ll start a new post for “Drownings in Tenerife in 2017” in due course. I hope it won’t be needed for some time, though there has already been one fatality this year: a 65-year-old Finnish man drowned yesterday, New Year’s Day, in the sea at Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria, when he went into the water to try to save his partner who was herself in difficulties.

Updated 19 December 2016: The sea has been rough the past few days, with yellow alert in place from Aemet for costeros, as I posted HERE, and sadly, as feared, a life has been lost in the sea at 11.40 this morning at Playa la Arena on the west coast of Tenerife. The man’s body was recovered from the water by lifeguards at the beach, but sadly they were not able to resuscitate him despite concerted and prolonged efforts, supplemented by medical staff from Alcalá surgery. There are no details yet as to the man’s identity, nationality or age.

Updated 7 November: A 79-year-old man drowned at Playa de Troya just after midday today. The man, who is said to have been a visitor, was found unconscious in the water and after being rescued by lifeguards was found to be in cardiac arrest. Despite the efforts of lifeguards and paramedics, however, he was unable to be resuscitated and sadly was declared dead at the scene.

As I’ve said before, cardiac arrest in the sea is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, it’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 24°C (75°F) even in August. And so, regardless of the time of year, even in high summer, Tenerife’s waters are technically cold. Bathers can get into difficulties within five minutes.

To be specific about symptoms, normal body temperature is 98.6º; shivering begins when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5º; amnesia and coordination problems begin to set in at approximately 94º, unconsciousness at 86º, and death, normally from cardiac arrest, at approximately 79º … and 79º is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures! Please also see THIS page on how to stay safe in Tenerife’s waters.

Updated 30 October: A man in his mid-50s drowned this lunchtime just 50m out from the beach in Camino Playa de Jover on the La Laguna coast. Emergency services were dispatched at 12.30 after receiving reports that a man had been discovered unconscious, but after he was recovered and transferred to TFN by search and rescue helicopter, paramedics were unable to do anything for him and he was declared dead on arrival.

Updated 1 September: The body of a 49-year-old German windsurfer was found floating off the El Médano coast this lunchtime. Emergency services say that they were called out shortly before 1.30pm with reports of the sad discovery and a helicopter was dispatched, though the body was recovered by lifeguards at the beach with a dinghy. Paramedics found that the man had suffered a cardiac arrest in the water, but their prolonged efforts to resuscitate him were sadly to no avail and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Cardiac arrest is a known symptom of cold water shock: please read THIS page on staying safe in Tenerife waters.

Updated 1 August: Figures released today by the Real Federación Española de Salvamento y Socorrismo show that drownings have increased in the first seven months of this year by some 20% throughout Spain, but almost doubled in the Canaries in the same period. Nationally, most drownings occurred  in Galicia, with 46 deaths, but the Canaries is in second place with 43 – in just seven months, 11 of them in Tenerife from official figures, and with the main holiday month of August only just beginning.

Please be aware of the dangers of the sea here, and the warning flags that fly. Do also bear in mind that even in August our waters don’t get above 24ºC (75ºF), which means they are classified as “cold” – which is applied to any water up to 25ºC – and so can cause cold water shock. Swimmers also need to know about rip tides and undertow, so please read THIS page on staying safe in Tenerife waters. This is not to say don’t go in the water! But it is to say go in the water with care, and with foreknowledge … and therefore be safe in the water.

Updated 16 July: Emergency services say that they found a man’s body in the sea at Playa de Benijo in north Tenerife around 6.20pm this evening, and that although the poor soul is still not identified, it is likely to be that of the Italian swimmer who disappeared there on Monday (link). The body was recovered by lifeboat after being located by a search and rescue helicopter. This is the eleventh confirmed drowning in Tenerife’s waters so far this year.

As I’ve said before, cardiac arrest in the sea is a symptom of cold water shock, which can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, it’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 24°C (75°F) even in August. And so, regardless of the time of year, even in high summer, Tenerife’s waters are technically cold. Bathers can get into difficulties within five minutes.

To be specific about symptoms, normal body temperature is 98.6º; shivering begins when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5º; amnesia and coordination problems begin to set in at approximately 94º, unconsciousness at 86º, and death, normally from cardiac arrest, at approximately 79º … and 79º is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures! Please also see THIS page on how to stay safe in Tenerife’s waters.

Updated 4 July: A 65-year-old man drowned at 6pm this evening at Playa de La Enramada in La Caleta. Emergency services say that they were called out with reports that he had been pulled out of the water, but paramedics found him in cardiac arrest, and sadly, despite their efforts, they could not resuscitate him and he was declared dead at the scene.

Updated 25 June: A 65-year-old man drowned in the sea off the Las Galletas coast near El Fraile shortly before 8pm this evening. Emergency services were called out at 7.50pm with reports that someone was in difficulty in the water, and a helicopter rescued the man and transferred him to TFS where he was seen by paramedics, and determined to be in cardiac arrest. Sadly, despite prolonged efforts of around an hour to resuscitate him, nothing could be done to save his life and he was confirmed dead at the airport.

Updated 21 May: A 65-year-old woman drowned at 11am yesterday morning in the playa de la Avenida Marítima area of Candelaria. Emergency services say that she was pulled from the water by lifeguards but was found in cardiac arrest, and that despite their efforts to resuscitate her, she could not be helped and was declared dead at the scene.

Udpated 1 May: Emergency services were called out shortly before 3.30 this afternoon by a leisure craft reporting that a passenger had been pulled from the water in cardiac arrest after bathing in the sea. Resuscitation attempts on board were helped by telephone help from the 112 control room while the boat headed for port in Los Gigantes where a doctor and nurse were waiting. Sadly, their efforts, together with those of paramedics and helicopter medics who took up resuscitation attempts, were in vain and the 62-year-0ld German man man was declared dead at the scene, the seventh victim of drowning so far this year in Tenerife.

Updated 18 March: A man died after drowning at Playa El Camisón just before 4pm this afternoon. At the moment there are no details about his age or nationality, but emergency services say that they were called out with reports that lifeguards had pulled the man from the water and were trying to resuscitate him. Sadly, however, their efforts, and those of paramedics who attended, were in vain and the man was confirmed dead at the scene. This is the sixth death through drowning in Tenerife so far this year; there have also been five fatalities through drowning in Gran Canaria, two in La Palma, and one each in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Local rumours that a Russian woman recently drowned in Callao Salvaje have been denied by the authorities.

Updated 22 January : We’re still not out of January …

A 75-year-old man drowned this afternoon in Playa Fañabé. Emergency services say that they were called out around 4pm to reports that the man had been pulled from the water by fellow bathers and was in cardiac arrest. They, plus Protección Civil, and then paramedics all tried to resuscitate the man but without success, and he was declared dead at the scene.

Update 13 January:  A homeless 55-year-old Austrian has been found dead on Las Teresitas beach in Santa Cruz; he is said to have drowned when swimming while under the influence of alcohol.

Update 11 January: Emergency services say a 65-year-old Finnish man has died around 2pm this afternoon after being swept into the sea from the natural pools at Playa de Jover, on the La Laguna coast. A GES rescue helicopter was involved in his rescue, but he was unable to be saved despite the resuscitation efforts of paramedics and medics from a local health centre, and he was confirmed dead at the scene.

Update 10 January: A 61-year-old British man drowned after suffering a cardiac arrest in the water shortly before 3pm today at Callao Salvaje. Sadly lifeguards and paramedics were unable to resuscitate him, and he was declared dead at the scene.

Cardiac arrest is a known symptom of cold water shock, and the danger can also be exacerbated by various factors. There are more details on how to stay safe in Tenerife’s waters on THIS page, where I specifically name Callao Salvaje as a beach where bathers can get into difficulty because of the frequent need to struggle against a pronounced undertow.

As I posted HERE yesterday, 62 people died at Canarian beaches last year, just under one every six days. Please be aware, and stay safe.

Original post 1 January: I really didn’t want to do this on 1 January, but Tenerife has recorded the first drowning of the year in Playa de Chovito, Las Caletillas, near Candelaria. The victim is a 70-year-old man who emergency services say was pulled from the water just before 10am after suffering a cardiac arrest while swimming. Paramedics were dispatched to reports of the incident but their resuscitation efforts were sadly to no avail and they declared the swimmer dead at the scene.

Cardiac arrest in the sea is a symptom of cold water shock. Yet again I’ll say that cold water shock can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º, it’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and the water around the Canaries’ doesn’t get above 24°C (75°F) even in August. And so, regardless of the time of year, even in high summer, Tenerife’s waters are technically cold.  Bathers can get into difficulties within five minutes.

To be specific about symptoms, normal body temperature is 98.6º; shivering begins when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5º; amnesia and coordination problems begin to set in at approximately 94º, unconsciousness at 86º, and death, normally from cardiac arrest, at approximately 79º … and 79º is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures!

According to figures released by the Real Federación Española de Salvamento y Socorrismo, the Canaries registered one drowning at a beach every six days in 2015, the second highest rate in any Spanish area, and one of the main causes of death in otherwise healthy people. Sixty two people drowned at Canarian beaches in 2015. Please read my page HERE for information on all this and for recommendations on how to stay safe in waters around Tenerife.

This article has 19 Comments

  1. I swim for 30 mina every day in my pool at often only 20.Are you saying this is bad for me?I always feel better afterwards. I am 70 shh!

  2. No, I’m not saying it’s “bad for you”, but it is technically cold water and has risks associated with cold water. But a swimming pool is obviously far safer than the sea simply because it’s contained, and not subject to waves or undertow. And it will always be easier to get someone in trouble out of a swimming pool than find them and extricate them from the sea.

  3. Gosh Wanda I didn’t know you were 70! You’re looking pretty good. Keep swimming in that pool 😉

  4. hi janet.the british man who drowned today is a very good friend of ours.We all are still in disbelief.

  5. Morning Janet
    The British man which drown we work with his wife I can imagine what she is going through I’m still in a shock I will continue to pray for her

  6. Every year i swim in those waters and YES Janet (as usual) you are perfectly correct the currents are really strong there and the sea bed drops away very suddenly. Quite often when i have only been floating for a short while i suddenly realise how far out i am!
    Happy New Year By The Way.

  7. and happy new year to you too, David … I know you speak from personal experience of the sea at Callao Salvaje.

  8. Yes another ((( … Do not always blame the sea.
    I see lots of “third age” people (respect) jogging in the worst calima conditions.
    And the same goes for swimming. Most do not move an inch all year and once in Tenerife they all think they’re Johnny Weissmuller ((
    Be informed and let a doctor check your physical resistance before you go for a walk (hiking) or go swimming. To me personally, the water is too cold, swimming pool included. So I’m not going in there. Listen to your body and a former seaman.

  9. Wednesday march 16th 2016 a Russian woman died on the beach of Callao Salvaje. Short time before she was pulled out of the sea by the lifeguard. She seemed to be ok but after about 10 minutes she collapsed, without breathing and my boyfriend and I started to try to resuscitate her together with the lifeguard who pulled her out of the water. Later it was taken over by the emergency services but despite of all efforts, she died on the beach. Its not clear if she died because of drowning or a cardiac arrest. For my friend and myself, who were on the beach as tourists, it was a terrible experience. We did what we could, so did the lifeguard, but we did not succeed.

  10. We were on the beach of Playa el Camison on the 18th when this poor gentleman died. We did not know at the time the age, nationality or gender of the person who passed away. We could clearly see the life guards, paramedics and nurses trying hard and for ages to revive the person but sadly unable to. We left the beach as respectfully as we could and our hearts go out to this man’s relatives, loved ones and friends…my husband said the emergency workers worked very hard to revive him (I could not watch…). We left the beach in a very somber mood and so sad that a person’s life had ended. RIP to this man, whoever he was…

  11. Shocking to hear of so many drownings, I come from Guernsey where the water is so very cold and I can’t ever remember a swimmer drowning. We live in Tenerife in the winters now and have to say up to a year ago I would stay in the sea for 1 hour as never found it that cold but it did take a long time to warm up again I have to say. After reading Janet’s comments on body temperature etc I was amazed and have now stopped doing that now and 20 min is my lot. Time to buy a wet suit I think! Thank you Janet, keep printing your advice as it saves lives! X

  12. This is terrible news. The man who died today was a windsurfer. I was myself windsurfing this afternoon in el Medano south bay, shortly after it happened, and as a fellow windsurfer I am choosing my words very carefully. On my way down to the beach I witnessed the helicopter, police etc and soon discovered the sad news.
    If it is true that he suffered a cardiac arrest I would have to say that cold water shock would not be involved in this case. He would have been wearing an appropriate wetsuit etc Incidentally, the water is at it’s warmest for the whole year right now. Much more relevant in this case is the fact that the wind was exceptionally strong (30 to 40 knots), the swell was large (around 3 metres) and the sea state extremely choppy, in other words quite extreme conditions for most people. But not unusual for experienced windsurfers.
    Other possible causes could be: equipment failure, or a collision with his own equipment (boom or mast) leading to knocking himself out and drowning.
    This death has nothing much to do with others involving swimmers, or general beach users (e.g. the five who drowned at Camber Sands recently). Windsurfers are well aware of the risks involved in doing the sport that we love, and we do everything within our control to minimise them. Sadly, suffering a heart attack while sailing, might be something that we couldn’t foresee or prevent, but I have to say that all the windsurfers that I know are fit and experienced.
    My condolences to his family.

  13. Emergency services and police are confirming that this was a German tourist. They don’t say that he was not a windsurfer, but he wasn’t a regular at that beach.

  14. I suppose it is to be expected but you do notice the advancing ages of all those poor people involved in cardiac arrests/drowning incidents as reported here by Janet. There are 13 events described and the average age of all thirteen victims is 65. The youngest was 49 and the oldest 84. There were 4 people in their seventies plus.

    I think these limited statistics tell their own story. The ocean may look very inviting, but take great care the older you are.

  15. very well said, snowy, and of course there are the near-misses which aren’t listed here. Two today, one of which I’m still waiting for details about, but the other was in their 80s.

  16. I was in Playa de la arena this afternoon at around 3 and there were red flags flying on the beach and about 20 people still swimming!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *