Brighton & Hove’s beach is popular with swimmers. Experienced sea swimmers know the risks involved and are prepared for the changing nature of the sea. A few hardy souls venture into the sea all year round!
Sea swimming takes skill, stamina and knowledge of the physical dangers. Even on a calm day sea currents, under tow or a sudden change in weather can create life threatening hazards without warning.
In recent years, seafront officers have attended incidents where members of the public have got into extreme difficulty after entering the sea without proper planning or appropriate clothes.
This Christmas, the Brighton & Hove City Council’s seafront office is keen make sure everyone is aware of the dangers of the sea.
Seafront manager Viki Miller explained:
“Holiday high spirits can lead to people doing things they would never normally consider fun, such as wading into freezing seawater. We urge people to stay safe on the shore this winter. If you are not an experienced sea swimmer and do not have safety measures in place, you are at serious risk of injury or death. We welcome visitors to enjoy the beach, which is very beautiful right now, but please stay out of the icy cold sea.”
The seafront office has issued a list of winter water facts to remind people why the sea is best appreciated from dry land 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.
• In some conditions, the lifeboat can not attempt a rescue of people in distress. Large crashing waves close to the shore can place the lifeboat crew’s lives at risk and make it impossible to reach those in need.