Two men and a woman have died after they got into difficulty while surfing off Mawgan Porth Beach in Newquay, Cornwall.
Devon and Cornwall Police said they were called by the coastguard after reports that seven people were in difficulty in the water.
Three people were taken unconscious from the sea and brought to a hospital in Treliske where they were later pronounced dead.
The other four people have been accounted for and are safe.
Superintendent Jim Pearce said: "This is a tragic incident and our condolences go out to the families of those involved.
"Along with the other emergency services we are now working to ascertain the full circumstances of this incident and our priority is to contact the families of those involved and offer all the support we can," he said.
It is not known at this stage whether three people who died were tourists or locals and whether they were experienced surfers or not.
Peter Abell, owner of the Kingsurf surf school at Mawgan Porth - which was not involved in the incident - described the tragedy as "really, really unlucky".
He said parts of the beach are always safe but said beaches are always changing, adding: "You can never predict this."
Mr Abell said he believes the group that got into difficulty were probably tourists.
Asked about surfing conditions today, he said it was "not as bad as it can be", but there were some currents that were "slightly more dangerous than usual".
He added: "The waves were bigger, they were quite big. And it wasn't the safest of days to be in the sea.
"But it wasn't particularly dangerous. There were lots of safe places to be and they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."