There were 87 people who died by drowning last year in Great Lakes waters, according to numbers reported by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
A significant number of swimmers were caught in rip currents. Project CEO Bob Pratt says safety experts are still learning about rip-current survival, but there's some evidence to suggest the best thing for a swimmer to do if caught in a rip current is to stop swimming.
"The Mackinac Rip Current group uses the term, flip float and follow, he says. "It's kind of like stop, drop and roll that the fire service uses.
"So they want you to flip over on your back, and float with the current and follow the current. And in many cases the current will actually bring you back into the shore. And it's really panic that kills people."
More than half of the drownings last year in Great Lakes waters happened on Lake Michigan, most toward population centers near the southern end of the lake. Pratt also says waves tend to be larger toward the southern end of the lake.
But rip currents can also be a problem in northern Lake Michigan.
"In the northern areas we also see drownings due to fishing, and kayaking, and boating and things," he says.
In 2011, there were drownings in northern Michigan off the coast of Frankfort, Northport, Traverse City and Charlevoix.
Pratt says numbers are up this year over 2010, though it's not clear whether that is simply because the group is doing a better job of collecting information.