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Sea Lanes

14 / 06 / 2024

Nestled along Brighton’s pebbled shoreline lies a full-sized open-air Olympic swimming pool.

On bright days, sunlight glimmers off the water’s surface as lanes of swimmers in coloured caps glide past. Some are focused on speed and technique, while others leisurely bob through the water. A seagull keeps watch from its perch, and just beyond, waves crash onto the beach.

This is Brighton’s Sea Lanes, a community wellness hub which is home to the National Open Water Swimming Centre. Surrounding the pool is a range of businesses housed in shipping containers including a coffee shop, beer bar, yoga studio, outdoor gym and physio.

As well as taking part in the various activities on offer here, Sea Lanes is also a great place to stop and watch the world go by, whether it’s a post-swim coffee or a spot of remote working. The best spot on a sunny day is their upstairs terrace (with a pint or flat white in hand) which overlooks the pool and the sea beyond. The space is filled with dogs, families and dry robe-clad locals soaking up the idyllic atmosphere created here.

Opened in June 2023, Sea Lanes was created to provide quality swimming facilities for the local community and act as a stepping stone for those looking to gain the confidence to swim in the sea. The pool is heated to 19C (the summer temperature of the sea) in order to best mimic the sea conditions and allow people to train all year round.

Ross Gilbert, Director at Sea Lanes, shares his insights with us about the first half-year and their plans for the future. “The first six months since opening has been truly amazing! The feedback has been really positive, and membership has exceeded our expectations. The atmosphere at Sea Lanes is vibrant and we have already welcomed some incredible guests such as Olympian Amber Keegan and World Champion Freediver Alessia Zecchini.

“Opening day was pretty special — given it took us 8 years of hard work and persistence to get there — but a moment that springs immediately to mind which illustrates the power such a good community asset can have and makes all the effort worth it is the Team Dominica event. Team Dominica, a local charity, organised the Great Lengths event in September which raised over £26k to assist young people with learning disabilities into paid employment and reach their full potential.”

While Sea Lanes now feels part of the fabric of the city here, it took the team close to a decade to make it a reality. Gilbert says: “There were quite a few challenges initially getting through the planning approval and ensuring that the project would fulfil all the needs of the local community. Now we are in an operational phase which presents different challenges but none that we have not been able to overcome (so far anyway).”

It seems that the hard work and persistence paid off, with a vibrant hub helping to revitalise this area of the city. Gilbert says:

“Sea Lanes took a vacant and unloved parcel of land on Madeira Drive and transformed it into a year-round destination for all to visit. Whether you are into swimming, running, cycling, yoga, fitness, recovery or simply relaxing with a coffee, a beer or a bite to eat – sun up to sun down there is something here for everyone. We are delighted to have been embraced by the local community and play our part as a wellness hub within it.”


But sea swimming isn’t a new phenomenon in Brighton. A mural running around the walled edge of the pool reads: ‘This is the city with the natural edge’. It’s a reference, of course, to the shoreline which runs along its southern edge, as well as the South Downs national park which borders Brighton on the other side. Since its creation as a health resort for the wealthy in the 18th century, Brighton has remained one of the UK’s most popular seaside destinations and a popular spot for a dip in the sea.

As Gilbert tells us, it was a British physician Dr. Richard Russell at this time who proclaimed the therapeutic benefits of bathing in (and even drinking) seawater. He is credited with transforming Brighton from a small fishing village to a popular Victorian resort, and now into the thriving ‘city by the sea’ that it is today. While we’d recommend steering clear of drinking seawater, cold water swimming has been found to have many physical benefits including boosting the immune system, improving mood and even sleep.

As well as these physical benefits, Sea Lanes is hoping to teach people how to take part in sea swimming more safely. Gilbert says: “There are challenges to open-water swimming...

Around 85% of accidental drownings occur at open water sites, and many of these occur due
to lack of knowledge and understanding of the hazards associated. Sea Lanes Brighton provides the opportunity for swimmers to gain the skills, techniques and confidence to swim in the sea safely.”

Sea Lanes helps to prepare swimmers for open water in many ways. “The temperature for one,” explains Gilbert, “and the focus of the open-air pool is on swimming up and down and training, and to act as a stepping stone to facilitate swimmers to gain the skills, techniques and confidence to begin swimming in the sea safely.”


Sea Lanes offers several events centred around open water swimming from challenge swims, talks, fundraising events, and masterclasses. Their regular beach cleans in partnership with Leave No Trace are well attended and they are currently offering a winter pop-up sauna which opened just before Christmas. This year, they’re also unveiling triathlon training weekends, more swim challenges and swim related talks.

What could have simply been an open-air pool is instead a thriving community which is breathing life back into a formerly underused part of the seafront. Sea Lanes has brought together some great local businesses and provided a wide range of facilities and activities for locals. This feels like just the beginning and it will be great to see the knock on effect it may continue to have on the surrounding area.

To find out all about Sea Lanes, head to their website, where you can sign up for their newsletter or follow them on social media (@sealanesbtn) for all the latest news.

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