Experts gathered in Miami recently for the First International Symposium on Rip Currents, the No. 1 cause of beachfront drowning.

Attendance exceeded expectations and a number of exciting initiatives were announced, said Dr. John Fletemeyer, research professor at the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. A contract for the first-ever book on rip currents was signed with publisher CRC Press, a subsidiary of U.K.- based Informa. Additionally, the inaugural International Rip Current Education Award was presented to Olga Giner. In honor of her son, who drowned trying to save a young girl, Giner founded the Giankarlo Squicimari Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers of rip currents.

“It was extremely interesting to see the different scientists and researchers getting together to share information and get the word out to the public,” Giner said of the conference.

The objective of the event, held Feb. 17-19, was to present the latest research and “address the disconnect between science and public education,” said Fletemeyer, who organized the symposium along with Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research.

“We all realized what a role education plays,” Fletemeyer added.

The two keynote speakers were Dr. Robert Brander, a coastal geomorphologist and senior lecturer in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and Adolph Kiefer, Olympic champion and founder of Adolph Kiefer & Co. in Zion, Ill. Sessions on forecasting and historical analysis were presented.

The next International Symposium on Rip Currents will be held in Australia in 2012. Fletemeyer said areas for future research include assessing whether current rip current safety recommendations should be revised and locating “hot spots” of rip current activity.