Safe Outdoor Swimming #SOS

Featured

by Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge

Outdoor swimming is a great year-round sport and growing fast in popularity, but this is not the controlled environment of the swimming pool. There are often no life-guards, the shore may be further away than you think and the water is much cooler; the average public pool temperature is around 27’ – 28’ Centigrade, the average sea temperature around Ireland ranges from 8’ to 18’C. Add to that, wind chill and water movement and in February temps can get really low (I have personally recorded swims at 3’C!) Lakes tend to warm up and cool down quicker, some getting to icy depths in winter.  

If you can swim, you can swim outdoors, just as with any other outdoor activity, wild swimming is only dangerous if swimmers take unnecessary risks. Common sense and a little preparation can make it safe and fun. 

Remember that outdoor conditions – rain, wind the tides, ambient temperatures – change all the time. You will never have the same swim twice. This is why swimmers keep coming back for more, because wild swimming is never boring!

NEVER SWIM ALONE

The number one rule of swimming; always swim with a buddy, it gives you each a safety back-up and it’s more fun as a shared experience.

BE VISIBLE

Wear a bright swimming cap to make yourself visible to any boats or craft in the area. All that will be visible is your tiny head, which any wave more than a few inches will hide, and your flying arms – unless you breast stroke, in which case only your head will be visible. This is where tow-floats come in handy – much more visible to craft. 

SWIM PARALLEL & CLOSE TO SHORE

You can get back to safety more easily if you swim parallel to shore than if you swim straight out to sea or to the middle of a lake. 

Swim Failure can happen to ANY swimmer, this is when the muscles are too cold to respond to the nerve signals and the swimmer can no longer keep themselves above water. If you stay close, in depth and swim with a buddy this will not end in tragedy.

GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL WANT MORE

Your body temperature will continue to drop as you swim and in cooler temperatures (below 10’C) you may soon risk Swim Failure (mentioned above). This starts to take effect in as little as 10 minutes. Add to that, the body continues to cool after swimming for a further 20 minutes. Get out wanting more and your whole experience will be a positive one!

WATCH THE WEATHER

Don’t try to swim in very rough conditions; no matter how strong you think you are the water is always more powerful. It is very difficult to breathe or navigate in choppy water. In FOG you will lose your bearings and will not be visible to others.

BE AWARE OF THE COLD

Recent findings state that around 60% of drownings in Britain and Ireland are due to Cold Shock Response the immediate physical response to sudden cold which causes involuntary inhalation. In waters around 15’ C it can be difficult for even strong swimmers to hold their breath when suddenly immersed. It takes an inhalation of only 1.5 litres of water to drown an adult.

The solution? DO NOT jump straight in – no matter how inviting the water looks. Instead follow the ritual of seasoned outdoor swimmers; get in slowly, wet your arms and face, lower yourself in gently, swim head up at first to acclimatise and control your breathing. Then, once you are no longer gasping or out of breath you may put your head down and speed off. 

Body temperature drops extremely quickly in the water and after swimming you may experience a further drop – after drop. Be sure to have warm clothes to change into, a hat and warm drink after your swim.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS

Know your own swimming ability, how well you can function in the cold and your knowledge of currents, tides and your ability to read the conditions. If you are less confident, swim with an experienced group or buddy, stay within your depth and close to an easy exit point. 

TOW FLOAT

Tow floats are NOT life-saving devices so do not rely on them for that purpose. They do, however, make a swimmer much more visible to other water traffic. They can also be used if you need a short rest on a long swim but remember that your temperature will drop very quickly when you are inactive in the water.

Again, the most important piece of equipment is yourself; your own competence and judgement.

ESSENTIAL KIT

A SENSE OF ADVENTURE! 

All outdoor swimmers have a little rebel streak in them. Celebrate that and enjoy the exploration of new places, or old ones seen from a new perspective.

#SWIMSENSE

It seems tedious to re-iterate but use your noggin! If your gut feeling is it’s a bad idea – then it probably is. Confidence is all very well but competence is key; know your own limitations in swimming ability and your capacity to deal with the cold. Seek advice from others and start gently, enjoy building your confidence, skill and power in the water.

DESIRABLE KIT 

SWIM SUIT

Essential at popular beaches but there are plenty more places where this is optional!… 

GOGGLES

Great for seeing clearly underwater, keep your eyeballs from feeling as if they are going to freeze and generally for seeing where you are going. They have a nasty habit of steaming up, though, so prepare them beforehand (with a smear of baby shampoo then wipe dry) or a generous amount of spit may be required.

CAP

Keeps hair out of your eyes, can help to minimise water in the ears (when pulled down enough) and provides a layer of insulation (there are times when you are glad of that few millimetres of silicone). Caps come in a range of types, styles and of course colours, if sea-swimming go for bright neon’s which are more likely to be seen. Silicone caps beat latex for thickness and insulation and are less likely to tear. Neoprene hoods tend to be favoured by triathletes and some winter swimmers, they give more insulation but swimmers used to caps may find the chin strap inhibiting.

CHANGING TOWEL

Keeps you decent on busy beaches and provides something of a windbreak. There are many on the market and budget is your only limitation – I still love my trusty hand-crafted version, modelled on the ones mum made for my brothers and me when we were small.

HOT WATER BOTTLE

Part of my essential winter kit, either already filled with my socks tucked inside the cover (heavenly!) or a spare flask of hot water ready to fill it when I get out. 

FLASK OF HOT BEVERAGE

Smooth, creamy and indulgent hot chocolate is a popular choice but any warm drink is a great way to warm up after a swim. Most will accompany this with a sweet snack.

THERMAL UNDIES

Not the most flattering but they are simply great. 

VERY WARM BOOTS

For after the swim, especially winter swims, a fleece-lined boot you can pull on is oh so nice – I’ve been known to stuff disposable hand warmers into my socks too!

BEST REASONS TO SWIM OUTDOORS

“Going swimming” now means a day trip to the beach or lake or mountains with a warm-up drink and scone after, or better still the pub where you can cosy up to the fire sipping Guinness. (Let us hope those times return!)

Boosts the immune system; this is not yet backed up by medical evidence but any year-round swimmer will tell you when they swim through the winter they simply don’t get a cold. (Since time of writing there has been increased research into health benefits of cold water swimming.)

Feel good factor – undoubtedly the best reason for doing it is that it’s fun!

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

Still to come

Tips for Winter Swimming

Tips for Night Swimming

Tips for Front Crawl 

Seasonal Swims of 2016

 

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Please email us your Seasonal Swims and we’ll add them to our list swimfree4@gmail.com

Wildswim.wordpress.com does not organise any of these swims, we have simply collated a list for general interest … please remember that all swimmers swim at their own risk …

LOUGH HYNE LAPPERS … Every Sunday throughout the winter, 11.30am … meet for swims, all welcome, Lough Hyne, Co Cork

https://www.facebook.com/LoughHyneLappers/

12 SWIMS OF CHRISTMAS … Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers … Check out the Chunky Dunkers Facebook page, these are not organised events and all swimmers swim at their own risk…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/319941478354115/?fref=nf

FREEZING FOR A REASON … Special Olympics Polar Plunge …

3rd December:

Titanic Quarter, Belfast 11am  /  Forty Foot, Dublin 1pm  /  Clougherhead Beach, Co Louth 1pm  /  Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford 1pm

10th December:

Ringaskiddy, Cork 12n  /  Salthill Promenade, Galway 1pm  /  Rathmullan, Donegal 1.30pm

Registration: £15 / €15 plus additional fundraising requested, see link below. 

Special Olympics Ireland Polar Plunge 2016

TURKEY SWIMS 2016 … throughout December, Co Cork …

Sunday 27 Nov, 2.30pm Sandycove

Sat 3rd Dec 12.30 Myrtleville

Sat 10th Dec 12.30 Sandycove

Sat 17th Dec 11.00am Myrtleville

Sun 18th Dec 10.00am Sandycove

https://sandycoveswimmers.com/2016/10/15/turkey-swims-2016/

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SANTA SPLASH … 18th December 1.30pm … Arcadia Beach / East Strand Portrush

Swimming costume & a Santa Hat … £5 minimum donation to Children’s Heartbeat Trust

Arcadia Bathing Club every Sunday 10.30am … All swims at your own risk.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=arcadia%20bathing%20club

PIER TO PIER … Christmas Eve 9.30am … Carlingford, Co Louth

https://www.facebook.com/events/1131397306928279/

Registration at 8.45am

Any enquiries or to help out with this event
Contact Jennifer: +353863983403 loudyank@gmail.com

OPERATION FREEZE KNEES … Christmas Day 12noon…. Portstewart Strand and all donations go to the Coleraine Hospice Support Group.

CHRISTMAS DAY SWIM … 11.30am … Newcastle Harbour, Co Down… Donations in aid of Motor Neurone Disease.

BOXING DAY… 10.45 for 11 am plunge… Bangor – Ballyholme Yatch Club… Donations in aid of Action Medical Research – SPARKS NI

www.action.org.uk/boxing-day-swim

DARE TO DIP … New Years Day 11.00am … Crawfordsburn Beach, Co Down

https://cancerfocusni.org/events/dare-to-dip/

NEW YEARS SPLASH … AWARE-ni … Monday 2nd January 12noon for 12.30 splash… Newcastle Beach (near Sleeve Donard Hotel)

www.aware-ni.org/newyearsplash.html

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YULETIDE SWIMS 2015

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CHRISTMAS EVE SWIM at King John’s Pier, Carlingford, Co Louth.

24th December; Register 11.30am, swim starts 12noon.

CHRISTMAS DAY SWIM at Newcastle Harbour, Co Down. Raising funds for Knockevin School Dundrum.

25th December, 11.30am

XMAS MORNING SWIM  at Myrtleville Beach, Cork, 11am.

DARE TO DIP for Cancer Focus NI at Crawfordsburn, Co Down.

Registration £10.

1st January 2016; 11am. http://www.communityni.org/event/dare-dip#.Vnmq0fmLTIU

NEW YEARS DAY DIP at Brown’s Bay, Co Antrim

1st January 2016; 1pm.  http://newyeardip.weebly.com/

NEW YEAR’S DAY SPLASH for mental Health Charity AWARE, Newcastle Beach, Co Down.

1st January 2016: 10.30am

Newcastle Beach near the beach gate entrance to the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. Access is available from the beach or from the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa

The first 70 people registered will receive a free spa pass for two at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa or Culloden Estate and Spa (valued at £60)! 

Registration is £10 and that includes an AWARE t-shirt.

www.aware-ni.org/newyearsplash

If you would like to know more about AWARE or about the event please don’t hesitate to contact kieran@aware-ni.org.

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THE HERMITAGE The Mournes – Tollymore Forest Park

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THE HERMITAGE    Tollymore Forest Park       Mournes, Co. Down

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photos by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

From the car park at Tollymore Forest follow the River Trail under the impressive stone arch and follow the stream as it chatters on its way down to meet the Shimna. The first of many pools sits just below a small waterfall and bridge, pleasant for swimming with broad flat rocks on the edge.

Continue walking upstream and in a matter of minutes you come to the Hermitage, perched on the edge of the rocks, this whimsical folly leads you through tiny medieval style buildings.  The open windows look down into the miniature gorge beneath and a deep pool that curves around the rocks.  Follow the path through each room to a low, castellated wall, step over and climb down the rocks to the pool.

Allow your imagination to run wild as you swim downstream, under the turrets of the Hermitage, looking out for trolls or other dangerous creatures hiding in the crevasses! Returning upstream, the light, dapples as it breaks its way through the trees to play on the waters’ surface. As you approach the top of the pool the flow of the water increases as it spills from the river above, forced into a narrow channel. With the thrill of fast moving water bubbling past your ears, swim hard towards the fall into the melee of churning water, a natural jacuzzi, then relax and let the force sweep you back to the calm of the wide pool.

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The little row of charming buildings tends to bring out the child in each of us, the urge to duck through the low doorways and play games of knights and castles. They never fail to bring a smile to my face and it’s lovely to think of the thousands who have sheltered from the rain in them since they were built in the 1770s by James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Clanbrassil, in memory of the Marquis of Monthermer.  In those days gone by the ladies would shelter inside while the gentlemen fished for salmon in the Shimna below.

Children will love exploring the path and buildings and for a longer walk continue on up the river where there are many more pools to explore. A full day can be spent happily walking the many paths of this superb park.

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Solar Eclipse Swim 2015 – Bloody Bridge, Newcastle

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Picture by Paul McCambridge

Walking down from the car park and over the rocks towards the shore the sky began to take on an eerie deep grey.

Imagination or anticipation? Was the Solar and Lunar pull on the earth also pulling me? Not sure quite what to expect, how dark would it be? Would I see anything much at all? Would this be like a night swim? No, but it had its own special quality.

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Picture by Maureen McCoy

The sun gleamed on the water and chinks of blue sky could be seen through the darkening clouds. Here was quiet, just the surge of the water as the tide rose, spilling over the rocks, oily and heavy. Millions of tonnes of water drawing in and out. Eddies curled around the rocks creating whirlpools as the sea breathed softly. Glancing up at the cloud covered sun I got a peek at the bright disc, a little bite out of its side, then the clouds once more hid it from view. As the sky grew darker; it felt like twilight, at 9.30 in the morning, the air cooled and an involuntary shiver ran through my body.

Gingerly stepping over the rocks I made my way to the water’s edge, the scene monochrome; dark sea, black rocks and grey skies above, the horizon a dark line with that shrinking silver gleam on the water’s surface. I slid in, slowly, quietly, breathing in and out with the cold strong tide as the sea wrapped around me. Above I could glimpse the crescent sun through a light film of cloud, strange to see that shape I know so well in the moon now mimicked by the sun. As the shadow slowly moved along and the warmth and light returned, I felt connected. There I was, floating in the water just for the sake of it, no reason other than it felt good. I had immersed myself completely, my first solar eclipse, spring equinox swim.

Wrapped in my towel and sitting on the warming rocks I watched the sea lift from dark grey to light and the shimmer of silver extended again beneath the horizon.

The Twelve Swims of Christmas…

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1          Saturday 20th December – Christmas Dip!  2pm Helens Bay, Co Down. A social swim or dip. Posted on facebook; Northern Ireland Outdoor swimming.

2          Sunday 21st December – Camlough Lake, Co Armagh, Ireland Ice Swimming – training session for Ice swimmers; 10am.

3          Sunday 21st December – Santa Splash, 1pm Arcadia, Portrush, Co Antrim. Donations to Marie Curie.

4          Wednesday 24th DecemberPIER 2 PIER WINTER SWIM, Carlingford, Co Louth, 1.45pm for 2pm start. Charity donations requested.

There is no entry fee just a bucket collection on the day and all proceeds go to Carlingford Day Centre.
CONTACT JENNIFER: +353863983403 loudyank@gmail.com
This is a ‘at your own risk’ event safety boats provided and Red Cross will attend
there will be a waiver to sign…..
DISTANCE: 200M / 400M
Annual Christmas pier to pier swim in carlingford Christmas Eve assemble on King John’s Pier at 1:45 for 2pm swim across to the south pier. This annual swim has become a traditional part of the carlingford Yuletide festivities and all monies raised in the bucket collection are donated to the Carlingford Day Centre. Approximate distance between piers is 150 metres. Wetsuits are optional but HIGHLY recommended.

5          Christmas Day – Newcastle Harbour; 10.30 am. Charity donations requested. Newry and Mourne.

6          Christmas Day – Myrtleville, Co Cork.

7 + 8    On Christmas Day and New Years Day – everyone will meet on Portmarnock beach, Co Wicklow.

9          New Years Day 2015 – Ice Swim Ireland Training; 12 noon, Camlough Lake, Co Armagh.

10        New Years Day 2015 – Browns Bay, Island Magee; 1pm. Fundraising for NI Childrens Hospice. 8th Annual New Year’s Day Dip http://newyeardip.weebly.com/

If anyone knows of more swims please let us know and we’ll add them to the list…

Merry Christmas!

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BT N I Press Photographers Association – Sports Feature Picture of the Year

This image of our own Maureen McCoy ‘Winter Dip’ at Murlough Bay, Dundrum, Co Down won the Sport Feature Award at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast. The N. I. Press Photographers Association awarded Paul’s image of Mo, who trains regularly at Murlough Bay throughout the year, winter included, the prestigious accolade.

********Not for Online Use******** ©Paul McCambridge Photography Winter Swim

 

Bloody Bridge River Rock Pools

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

“You don’t actually get in and swim, do you?” This is often the incredulous question we are asked when we inform others of our intentions to venture out for a winter swim. Quickly followed by exaggerated shivers and a look that relays considerable concern for our mental stability, you know that look. If you’re the swimmer, you’ve received it and if you’ve not yet tried a REALLY cold swim, then you’ve probably given it to someone who has. Check the mirror, it may be on your face now…
Still, if you’re reading this, you’re curious – Yes, it hurts. Yes, it takes ones’ breath away and yes, it IS amazing. Your skin tingles, the sharp intake of breath as you enter the water, the thoughts that you can’t do it and then the realization that you can and, what’s more, you are going to. Okay, so it’s pride that takes over, someone else has gone first, you can’t turn back now and lose face, so you grit your teeth, clench and unclench your hands take a deep breath and… wait… just another moments’ preparation, delay, before the inevitable.
Shocking cold wraps your neck, pain cuts across your cheeks and every muscle in your back tightens. But as you try a few fast, uneven strokes you find that you can cope, those tight muscles may protest but they don’t tear, when you lift your face out of the water the pain in your sinuses eases and you feel the first flush of euphoria.
You tell yourself, “Next time I’ll get straight in, none of this faffing and going slowly, it doesn’t make it any warmer!”
I tell myself this every time, yet every time I go through the same routine! Still, I love it!

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https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zAlsBPgoneWo.kfcXMbNGLOqA

 

 

Christmas Day Dip 2013, Newcastle Co. Down

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photographs by Paul McCambridge

Cries of “Happy Christmas!” mixed with “I’m cold already and I haven’t even got in yet!” greeted me as I arrived at Newcastle harbour where the crowd in various stages of undress milled about in anticipation.

11.30am Christmas morning, in Santa hats, Christmas dresses and bright swim-suits and all in festive spirit, giggling nervously and rubbing hands, we made our way down the slipway and huddled together for a group photo. The RNLI crew shouted their support from a rib sitting just outside the harbour as around 30 people braved the sea.  Swimming and wading, holding hands and trying to keep hats from falling into the brine, laughs and grimaces against the cold and the age-old calls echoed around the harbour-

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“I can’t feel my hands!”

“My toes hurt!”

And; “Don’t you feel so – ALIVE!” –

Does that feeling of vitality and newness ever wear off?  Seeing the mix of generations, teenagers, parents and grandparents makes me think, no, it mustn’t. It’s why pockets of people all around the country do this daily, weekly, year after year.

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I joined Kathleen and her granddaughters, Rachel and Emma, holding hands as we picked our way over the rocks trying not to stub our toes. When we reached the sand, Emma lifted each foot and pulled off her flip flops, turned and threw them back to the shore. As she did, Rachel leaned forward and started a swift head-up front crawl out towards the buoy, Emma quickly followed. We each swam out around the buoy and back, then met again in the shallows and joined hands to make our way safely out.

Dressed and some hugging hot-water bottles, we squeezed into the RNLI station for tea, coffee and mince pies, a chance to catch up and for organizer Kathleen to thank everyone for raising funds for this years’ charity in aid of Motor Neuron Disease. Soon we parted, with cheeks glowing, to head home for the rest of the days’ festivities. A lovely start to Christmas Day!

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zDJSgtJazNy8.k0eHJBPSQHO8

MURLOUGH BEACH – Newcastle

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Twilight swim at Murlough
Words by Maureen McCoy
Photography by Paul McCambridge
As I stood and looked out on the evening calm the air stirred and breathed in my ear, everything was still. A gentle sigh as the Sea swept across the sand and clouds drifted low on the Mournes in a smoky evening sky as the last few dogs and their walkers left the beach.
With the lights beginning to twinkle on in Newcastle I walked to the waters’ edge. Toes numb as sharp pins pricked my calves, my knees felt the pain of cold then my thighs raised in goose-bumps as I walked on, glad there were no waves to shock my still warm and dry upper body. I dipped my hands in, oh the shiver as I gently lifted the water and smoothed it down my arms, more boldly passing it over my shoulders and the back of my neck. I grit my teeth and dipped under, bouncing up again quickly – the air warmer than the chill sea.  Again a dip under and this time remaining submerged I took a few strokes, my back tightening in protest against the cold, the skin pulling taut across my muscles, but yet I was able to swim, even the icy cold across my face did not deter. I was glad of the two caps pulled down well over my ears and tight to the rim of my goggles. The seal was good and no water leaked in, yet I could not help but shiver at the thought that some of that icy brine could seep its way under my cap and creep into my ear.
I ran from the water and jogged up the beach, my body warmed and I felt revitalized, alive, almost glowing.  The ridges of sand were hard underfoot and I kept on my toes, splashing through the shallow puddles left by the low tide, warm now but soon to be swamped by the returning sea.
Dressed again I walked back through the dunes as the dim light seeped away.