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Seaside safety

Posted 24 February 2017 by Andrew Gardner google authorship button

Camber Sands on a Blow Day
 
Sussex beaches are enticing. You might well be looking forward to a family beach holiday, or a dip at Brighton after shopping; hiking the Sussex coast path or a romantic sunset stroll on a sandy beach.
 
But I wonder if even this nation of islanders is losing touch with the coastline. We escape the city for a weekend break and rush the seaside without checking tides, currents or local lore. If you weren't brought up near the coast, or you've only known sea that isn't tidal, you may be unaware of the risks. You might not have met the flag system: including green for 'safe', red for 'danger, do not swim', yellow for 'caution' and white/black for a surfing area (no swimming). Most people have a wonderful time at the seaside, and we'd like to make sure you're among them.
 
Every 24 hours (actually 24hrs 50mins) sees two high tides and two low tides. Some beaches have stronger tides than others, while some also have currents - ever swum towards the beach and found yourself drifting along? - or, occasionally, dangerous rips that burst straight out from the shore. But even rips can be avoided if you look first.
 
Not all tides are the same - you might have heard spring tides, so-called for their power rather than the season, make headlines. They happen about twice a month when the tidal range is greatest, and local advice might be to avoid swimming around spring tides.
Generally the safest time to swim is one hour either side of high or low tide, when the water is least active - though the English sea never stays still. If you're going sea-fishing, on the other hand, you'll want to go out when the sea is most active. If you're walking, watch the incoming tide so you don't get cut off.
 
Before you take to the beach, whether you're swimming, walking, surfing or just chilling, do check local tide tables - available at local information points, and on the internet. Talk to people who know the beach, take time to look, and then have a lovely time, safely.