A wild and windy forecast for Christmas Day is causing extremely dangerous conditions for both novice and experienced swimmers who may want to have a festive dip.
The forecast is for increasingly strong winds up to and including Christmas Day. This follows almost a week of heavy swell, causing extremely hazardous sea conditions. On Christmas Day itself, the wind is forecast to increase during the morning to become strong by midday, with gusts of between 25-30mph.
As there is now a real risk to anyone entering the water, Brighton & Hove City Council will be closing the beach on December 25 at the site of the traditional Christmas Day swim, which usually takes place at 11am. The seafront team will be on the beach from 8.30am to put up signage, inform the public of the temporary closure and give advice regarding the conditions.
High tide at 9:10am will bring tides of up to 5.7metres that will also add to the high waves and volatile sea conditions. Last year a drowning man was rescued on Brighton beach in similar conditions and in 2007 12 people were rescued, again when the weather was windy with treacherous waves.
Sea swimming takes skill, stamina and knowledge of the physical dangers. Even on a calm day sea currents, undertow or a sudden change in weather can create life threatening hazards without warning.
Brighton & Hove City Council’s seafront team monitors the sea conditions but there is no beach lifeguard service in operation during the winter months.
Seafront manager Viki Miller explained:
“It can be tempting to have a splash in the sea at Christmas, but it’s absolutely not worth putting yourself at risk. Not only could you be caught out by the strong currents, but the sea temperature is extremely cold this time of year.
“We will be monitoring the weather on the day and will be advising people about safety. The conditions are already hazardous, with the forecast set to get worse, so as a last resort we will be closing the beach tomorrow. We want people to be able to enjoy the beach, but safety is a top priority.”
The seafront team’s winter water facts show why it is better to stay on the shore rather than in the water at this time of year:
• Sea temperatures in the winter months are about 5 degrees centigrade and can be even colder.
• The wind chill makes the air temperature seem colder than the sea. Even on an apparently clear sunny day, the sea temperature can drop body temperature quickly and fatally.
• It only takes a few minutes for the body’s core temperature to drop by two degrees and for the onset of hypothermia to begin.
• It is never safe to go into the sea after drinking alcohol. Even a small amount of alcohol speeds up the onset of hypothermia in cold water. Drinking also reduces your capabilities. You may also think you are a better swimmer than your true ability and take unnecessary risks.
• Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition or taking medication runs additional risks by subjecting their body to a sudden drop of temperature by entering the sea.
• Winter environmental conditions can be extremely challenging, even for the most experienced swimmers. The tide and the weather dictate the conditions and these should not be underestimated.
• There is no beach lifeguard service provision in place during the winter months
• Large crashing waves close to the shore can place lifeboat crews’ lives at risk and make it impossible to reach those in need.