A Brighton swimming teacher is celebrating 10 years of taking people from “pool to pier” with a series of events including a reunion and a beach clean.
Paul Smith, founder of the Brighton Swimming School, based at the Brighton Swimming Centre, in Eastern Road, in Kemp Town, started the Pool to Pier courses in 2009.
The aim was to help people progress from swimming in a pool to being confident in the sea.
Mr Smith said: “Since it started with 13 plucky pool swimmers in 2009, it’s grown into a major learning programme with the aim of developing competent pool swimmers into confident sea swimmers.
“Since then, almost 1,000 swimmers have taken part and become confident at swimming round the Palace Pier and beyond.
“Based at the Brighton Swimming Centre in Kemp Town and the beach in Madeira Drive, the year-round programme focuses on swimming stroke development, stamina, learning about tides and currents and becoming proficient and capable open water swimmers.”
Mr Smith added: “I became passionate about sea swimming myself and wondered if other people would be equally interested and passionate about the sea.
“I always had an environmental perspective in the back of my mind that the more people who swim in the sea, the more people who would care about the sea.
“The swimmers who have completed Pool to Pier have been from very diverse backgrounds but they often share similar aims – they are keen to learn something new, have an adventurous spirit and sometimes see open water swimming as a way to ‘switch off’ from a hectic life.
“In fact, since we started Pool to Pier, interest in open water swimming has soared and recently the possible benefits to mental health have been highlighted and now seem to be picking up traction.
“Personally, I have always felt a bit happier after a sea swim – it really is a buzz (especially in the winter) – so I do support the mental health theory!
“During the 10 years we have seen a good range of marine life including dolphins, porpoises, seals, etc, and have tried to instil an ethos of protecting our beach environment by encouraging our swimmers to pick up any litter they see.
“I think the environment is too big an issue now not to see beach litter – especially plastic – as everyone’s problem.
“We should always think, ‘Yes, maybe it’s not our litter – but it’s our ocean.’”
“It’s been an immense privilege since 2009 to help introduce adults and teenagers to the sea and the adventures and new friendships that accompany it.
“I see many of them now swimming every day and I can see how it’s impacted beneficially on their lives.
“I’m am so grateful for their support and for my team of coaches and lifeguards.”
Mr Smith also said: “In the forefront of my mind now is the environment – the crisis facing us is becoming clearer by the day.
“An immediate example has been the rise in local sea temperatures.
“We always waited till the sea reached 10C before we took our swimmers at the start of May. It has rarely exceeded 10 degrees in the last decade at that time.
“When we entered the sea this year it was approaching 14C. That’s a dramatic and frightening jump.
“We have planned a number of events to mark our anniversary including a huge beach clean, a swim on route to the wind farms and a social reunion with former swimmers.
“We are planning new swims and eagerly looking forward to the next 10 years.”
To find out more about the Pool to Pier programme – or to help – call 01273 434400 or go to www.pool2pier.com.