Two other tourists had to be rescued from Karon beach this afternoon, said Colonel Boonlert On-Kang of Chalong Police Station, which oversees southern Phuket and Kata and Karon on Phuket's holiday west coast.
The drowning comes with no lifeguards on any of Phuket's west coast beaches because of the requirements of local authorities to renegotiate the terms of the lifeguard contract each year.
The Frenchman's death is likely to raise concern among Phuket's honorary consuls, whose duty it is to look after the safety and security of tourists.
Lifeguards have not been on Phuket's beaches since April 7.
This time of the year, when monsoon ''rips'' form at beaches, is considered to be the most dangerous - even though some brochures like to suggest that Phuket in the low season is ''summer.''
Karon beach has claimed more lives of tourists on Phuket in recent years than any other beach.
The man's body is at Patong Hospital, Colonel Boonlert said, but police have been unable to interview his wife because she is grieving deeply.
The Phuket Lifeguard Service hopes a deal can be done in the next few days so they can be back on the beaches as early as Tuesday, after an absence of six weeks.
Water safety experts have called for a change to the system on Phuket so that the holiday island, which aims to be a year-round beach destination, can provide lifeguards year-round.