The warning comes as the recent mild weather has drawn more people onto the beaches, many getting dangerously close to the crashing waves.
Seafront Officer Chris Ingall explained: “The continuing mild weather has meant that the Seafront has been much busier than in previous winters. It’s been great to see so many people enjoying a stroll on the promenade and its good news for seafront businesses, but we would ask people to stay on the path or high up on the beach, especially when the sea conditions are rough.
“Please keep a close eye on children and hold their hand when on the beach. Do not allow children to play ‘chicken’ with the surf washing up the beach – we see this regularly on big winter surf days and this is precisely how people become washed out to sea. Parents need to take greater responsibility and keep little ones close at all times when visiting the beach.”
Dog owners are also advised to keep their pets on leads and away from the shoreline.
“Sea swimming takes skill, stamina and knowledge of the physical dangers and should only be for the very experienced, using suitable wetsuits, in very calm conditions and with a friend,” said Chris. “Even on a calm day sea currents, undertow or a sudden change in weather can create life threatening hazards without warning. Even experienced swimmers can get caught out.”
Roger Cohen, Operations Manager for Brighton Lifeboat added: “Christmas Day is like any other day for the RNLI. If assistance is required, our volunteer crews will turn out and aid where we are needed.”
A set of Winter Water Facts, endorsed by the RNLI, 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.
- 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 emergency services’ lives at risk and make it impossible to reach those in need.