Brighton Palace Pier emanates an old fashioned British seaside charm even in the midst of wild, wet, windy weather – and despite the climate remains popular, with over four million visitors per year (in normal times). Since opening in 1899, the pier has been featured in many works of British culture, including the gangster thriller “Brighton Rock”, the comedy “Carry On at Your Convenience” and The Who’s concept album and film “Quadrophenia”.
The rival West Pier, became derelict after its closure to the public in 1975, and only a partial metal framework remains, just visible to the left of the kiosk. Ruined or not, it’s still used in the annual Pier to Pier swimming race, covering the two thirds of a mile course.
Initiated in 1936, by Brighton Swimming Club, with interruptions for wartime beach closures and one or two cancellations due to rough seas, the race has been a highlight of the seafront event calendar. It started as a male only event, but opened up in the 1980s to both sexes, with the prize categories widened to include different age groups and team efforts. Competitors used to dive off the West Pier to start the race, but since the West Pier closure, the race has started from the beach immediately next to the old pier.
The swim, traditionally run as a race, has been opened up to non-competitive swimmers by adding a challenger wave where the prize is focusing on the achievement of finishing the swim in average sea temperature of 15°C. Brrrr!