Beach and water safety

How to keep yourself safe when visiting our coastal areas.

We ensure people using our beaches and coast do so safely and responsibly for the enjoyment of all.

We want you to enjoy your time at the beach, but it can be a dangerous place.

Each year the lifeguards attend hundreds of incidents, just because people ignore safety information, or don’t take the right precautions. 

Even the most experienced swimmers can find themselves in trouble when they underestimate the risks, and if you don’t know what you’re doing you can find yourself in trouble very quickly.


Some beaches are only accessible during low tide and once the tide comes in, it is possible to become cut off which could have fatal consequences. 

Always check tide times before walking along beaches and stay away from the base of cliffs. For information on tide times visit - we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information, so once on the beach you should always remain alert to your surroundings.

Always swim parallel to the shore and stay in your depth.   In certain locations and with spring tides the currents can feel like they're pulling you along and out to sea. Stay calm, if you’re not an experienced swimmer, swim horizontally out of the rip tide before attempting to head back towards the beach, if you’re a stronger swimmer you can attempt to swim diagonally across to the nearest point on the beach, but remember to be cautious, don’t fight the current and conserve your energy.

Beach safety

Our beaches are a fantastic place to be, but you want to make it a trip to remember for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

It might seem obvious at first, but you should make sure you have a good understanding of how to stay safe at the beach, including what to do if you are struggling in the water, how to spot a rip current and understanding the flags on a lifeguarded beach.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have produced a handy guide to understanding all of the above and more, which can be found on this page: RNLI Beach Safety

Want to make sure your children know how to stay safe at the beach too? This fantastic video from East Sussex and Cambridge Fire and Rescue featuring Jet the Dragon is an engaging way to teach them what they need to know about beach safety.

In Eastbourne, the Lifeguards are located near the Wish Tower and are on duty from 1st of May to 30th September. the safest place to swim is in on the beaches between the red and yellow flags.

Some other top tips:

  • Always wear clothing designed for swimming – when wet, normal clothes can cause you to sink!
  • Beware of soft sand and mud exposed at low tide
  • Do not dig deep holes or tunnels in the sand
  • Beware or rocks and underwater obstructions
  • Stay away from groynes and the base of the pier 
  • Most of our beaches are pebble – not sand – and there are sharp rockpools on our coastline so remember to wear suitable footwear.
  • Never mix alcohol or drugs with swimming
  • Safety signs are located along the foreshore, make sure you read the information and familiarise yourself with the environment.


Whilst inflatables can be great fun, we do not encourage using inflatables on our beaches.

Inflatables can often get their users into trouble very quickly, as they can get caught in coastal winds or pulled out to sea by strong currents.

If you do plan to use an inflatable at the beach, please check out the RNLI guidance on safe use first, to ensure that you are taking sensible precautions. 


In some areas of our coastline, yellow buoys have been placed 200m from the shore. 

The buoys are placed for safety reasons - please do not interfere with these in any way.

The landside of these buoys is a safe swimming zone where only hand powered craft are permitted up to a speed of 8 knots.

It is however, up to individuals to make their own decisions as to the suitability of the sea conditions for swimming.

Pier and groyne jumping

Pier and groyne jumping is extremely dangerous. 

You should never jump off any structure directly into the sea as you can never be sure how deep the water is or if there are submerged objects below. 

Jumping will also encourage others to do so who may know less about the conditions, tides and sea depths. 

These are called copycat incidents where someone thinks they can do as others, lacks the knowledge and has an accident.

Cliff Safety

Our cliffs are made of chalk and can crumble very easily without warning. 

If you are down on the beach, never place yourself at the base of the cliff, there is a genuine risk that the rock above could collapse down on to you.

For the same reason, if you are visiting the top of our cliffs never stand to close to the edge – it could collapse underneath you very easily.

 If you notice any cracks in our cliff edges, please let us know.

What to do in an emergency

Phone 999 and ask for the coastguard if you see anyone in danger or attempting to enter the water in dangerous sea conditions.

You can also notify your nearest Lifeguard if they're on patrol.

Further information

Knowing the risks means that you’re far more likely to go home safely at the end of your visit. 

For further guidance on beach and water safety visit the RNLI website.

We have byelaws in operation between 1 May and 30 September to regulate the use of pleasure craft along our district coastlines. Information notices are displayed along the beach areas where the byelaws apply.

Beaches in Seaford, Newhaven and East Saltdean are zoned with a series of yellow marker buoys to create protected areas for bathers safe from boats, yachts, jet skis, sailboards, kite surfers and other craft.

Seaford lifeguards are authorised to act in the enforcement of these byelaws. They carry out both sea and beach patrols at Seaford each weekend during the summer months.

Incidents of boat owners operating contrary to the byelaws can be reported. Note any identifying name or number on the vessel and report the matter to us or the lifeguard headquarters at the Salts recreation ground in Seaford.

Any boat or watercraft user who is acting dangerously or operating within a restricted area will be advised accordingly. Anyone who fails to obey safety instructions may face formal action.

The sandy beach at Newhaven Harbour entrance is under the control of the Harbour Authority whose own speed restriction rules apply.

We recommend you download our beach safety leaflet below, this will give you good safety advice, including be safe in the sun.


The Lifeguards operate on the main resort beach from May 1 to September 30. They are trained in first aid, rescue methods, life support, spinal management, weather meteorology, boat handling and regularly undergo fitness training.

The lifeguards also operate the Kidzsafe wristband system, which prevents kids getting lost on the beach. Wristbands are completely free from the Lifeguard and First Aid Post and the Seafront Office.

Tyro Lifeguard courses

These run throughout August at the Lifeguard Station on the seafront. Sessions are run by our qualified and experienced team and include personal survival, beach rescue skills, essential beach safety and being safe in the sun. 


  • Your child must be able to swim 100 metres unaided
  • Your must be between 8-14 years of age

There are four levels, one level per each three hour session. To book, call the Seafront Office on 01323 410611. For more information, dates and prices download the leaflet below.

Kids' safety packs and Kidzsafe wristband scheme

Eastbourne’s lifeguards help kids stay safe in the summer sun by handing out free kids beach safety packs. These have everything needed to be safe on Eastbourne’s beaches.

The packs include a sachet of Boots high factor children’s sun-cream, a brightly coloured waterproof wristband and a children’s beach safety activity sheet and crayons. The wristband has a space for a mobile number, so that the lifeguards can easily contact the parents in case of the child being separated from them. These packs can be obtained from the Seafront Office or through the VisitEastbourne e-Shop.

Eastbourne's sun safety campaign was featured live on GMTV. Also BBC Breakfast featured the Kidzsafe wristband scheme in May 2008.

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