Lough Erne – Couch to 5km Challenge

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Waterways Ireland welcomes the initiative of Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge to bring their ‘Couch to 5km Swim Challenge’ to Lough Erne. A new and exciting outdoor swimming venture, the 10 week programme is designed to bring swimmers out of the pool and into the open water. The scheme will run over five fortnightly sessions from June to August 2017 and will provide swimmers with the knowledge, skills and training to ultimately complete a 5km Swim event.

Beautiful Lough Erne is the perfect location for swimmers to train or explore the many islands. The coaches are Maureen McCoy an English Channel soloist and Paul McCambridge a North Channel relay swimmer. Both Maureen and Paul will guide swimmers through from the first outdoor swim to competing in this challenging event.

The Couch to 5 Km Swim Challenge is aimed at swimmers of varied levels who wish to either start swimming outdoors or improve their fitness and speed for events. The coaches have designed a programme that will challenge each swimmer and allow them to acquire new skills, no matter what their starting point. 

The five fortnightly sessions will take place on Saturdays starting on the 3rd June and will increase in intensity with the aim of completing a 5km swim in August, 2017. There is a fee of £30 for participation. Register your interest by emailing swimfree4@gmail.com

Santa Splash 2016 – Portrush

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Portrush’s East Strand was a hive of activity when I arrived. I did wonder where I should go to register for the swim but the steady stream of people all sporting various Santa hats assured me I was at the right place. It looked as though most of Portrush had turned up, all bedecked with festive regalia besides the customary hats. One chap had an extremely smart Christmas jacket, there were many woollen jumpers and in the crowd I spied a very fetching reindeer onesie, I may have to ask Santa for one of those myself… cosy after a swim.

I followed the surging crowd and we wound our way along the prom towards the Arcadia Gallery and small beach. Up the steps facing the beach at Café 55° North the queue condensed as we all pushed our way to sign up for the swim and pop a donation in one of the many buckets. This year, the 8th of the Santa Splash, the chosen charity was the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, a local charity.

Over the past 7 years the Arcadia Bathing Club have raised several thousands of pounds for various charities. Each year they choose a charity that someone in the club has links to.

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The first Santa Splash was very low-key, just a few pals asking for sponsorship and taking a dip at the Arcadia beach. Each year the numbers grow and they have had to move to the East Strand because Arcadia beach isn’t big enough!

Little islands of discarded clothing soon formed on the sand and we crowded on the steps for a short pre-swim brief, I’m afraid I have no idea what was said but next I knew the hooter sounded and we all began to race down to the sea. Photographers braved the stampede of swimsuits and Christmas hats as several hundred charged, one aim in mind, hit the water running!

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The Santa Splash is certainly the biggest Christmas dip I have seen with a massive crowd cheering from the side lines. Once dressed the party went on at 55° North with hot food and mulled wine being served to the swimmers, music and a raffle.

Stephen, chief organiser on the day, told me a little about the ABC. Formed as it was many years ago it was recently resurrected by Stephen and several pals. “We used to have silly rules, like no over-arm strokes in the summer months. In the winter you were allowed swim front crawl to keep a bit warmer. We’ve abandoned that as now we have so many swimmers!”

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ABC swimmers meet every Sunday, 10.30am, all welcome but to get a member’s certificate and be eligible to buy their fleece you must swim a minimum of once a month for twelve consecutive months. I might just try that…I do like their swim cap!

Thanks Arcadia for a great splash see you very soon!

Supermoon Swimming

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There is something magic in a moonlight swim, with that disc gleaming pearly white.
The call of a bird across the beach, I can’t see her in this muted light
As I take off my shoes and press bare feet into the cool, damp sands,
I remember a time many moons ago, when I held my brothers hands.
Our first night swim, a Donegal beach, we begged our parents consent.
And scrambled our way down a steep sand-dune, there stood with nervous intent.
I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight but I remember that night so clear.
Adventure, excitement, the cold and damp, all tinged with an escence of fear.
Now forty years on and again I stand, as wavelets caress the shore
Silver threads dance that are soon to be lost, as the waves retreat once more.
As I cast my clothes in a heap on the sand, my skin glows a milky white
And I step into the water, a silver-tipped grey, under pearlescent moonlight.

Neil Shawcross

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©Paul McCambridge – MAC Visual Media –  Renown Irish Artist Neil Shawcross takes his weekly dip in Strangford Lough, over 40 yrs he has kept this ritual

 

Words by Maureen McCoy, Photos by Paul McCambridge

Neil arrived in the café, casually dressed in jeans and a shirt, he immediately spied us across the room and approached with a smile. I was relieved as we had arrived late due to the horrendous traffic and a staff member had told us that Neil had had to go on to take his brother to the airport, but that he would be back if we would wait. Of course we would.

 

As Neil shook Paul’s hand he introduced me saying,

“This girl swam the Channel…”

 

Neil shakes my hand and seems intrigued, he pulls himself a chair as I launch into the reason we asked to meet.

“I believe you are also a keen swimmer.”

“Yes.” He confirms, “I swim in the sea every week, all year through.”

 

I explain the concept I’m working on, this diary of swims, writing how I feel during the swims and of others who swim, what they gain from it, why they do it. Is it meditative? Does it clear the mind? Is it for the health benefits?

 

Neil thinks for a moment then looks intensely at me, smiles and says

“I do it for fun. There is perhaps an element of the rest, I’m sure there are health benefits and it’s certainly become a habit, but mostly I do it because it’s fun and I have done for forty years.”

 

It’s refreshing to hear such a simple explanation, something so in line with how I feel, it is fun, and that’s the point.

 

His face becomes more animated as he talks of his regular swims with his friend, Henry French. He clearly does love this, it’s written on his face, and he seems pleased to talk to a couple of like-minded folk who understand.

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©Paul McCambridge – MAC Visual Media – Maureen, Henry and Neil 

I think of how many of the poets and artists of the past who also enjoyed the freedom of swimming in the sea, rivers and lakes. Of course, then, that was where one bathed – swimming pools are a fairly modern phenomenon – but it seems sea swimming is now done by a growing number as simply an enjoyable thing to do. It’s not seen as a workout, performed for some future goal of health, fitness or weight loss but rather for the pleasure it brings at the time. That strikes a cord with me, being ‘in the moment’ is something I strive to be aware of and I catch glimpses of it. Swimming can be one of those glimpses, the watch is discarded time is forgotten and so, briefly, stands still. Of course later, after I dress, or perhaps it’s during that dressing, time has to catch up again and suddenly I am brought back to the fast world with a bump.

 

Neil is quite right, it is fun.

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©Paul McCambridge – MAC Visual Media – Renown Irish Artist Neil Shawcross takes his weekly dip in Strangford Lough, over 40 yrs he has kept this ritual

Since that first encounter, I have been able to meet up with Neil and Henry, Bob and Dougie many times to join them for this fresh sea dip. There is no ‘Hanging around.’ With these guys! My usual tentative, halting, walk in means I am put to shame. They will drive up, jump out of the car and nip behind the nearby wall to quickly strip into swim shorts then, with a childlike exuberance they race across to the water’s edge, walk straight in and begin to swim – no fuss.

 

I am left standing, marvelling; how do they do it? I know standing there and waiting will not make it any easier to take the plunge but for some reason I simply cannot will myself to dive straight in. Once I do stretch forward and move out into the deep water to join them my body tingles with the cold and I giggle with the joy of a swim for no other reason than pure pleasure.

 

The current is strong here so we will look at the boats moored a little way out and decide which direction to swim, the aim each time is to get in and allow the water to assist, sweeping us down towards the slipway. In the warmer weather we might take two of these trips, or begin by pressing up against the flow, working hard to gain a little ground against the strong current and then stop, lie on our backs and drift lazily back to our starting point.

 

Over-coated onlookers gaze down at us calling out; “Is it cold?” We reply; “It’s fabulous! Lovely! The water feels beautiful!” Surprise in our voices even though we do this every week, each time feels new… a tiny little adventure.

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©Paul McCambridge – MAC Visual Media –  Maureen and  Neil Shawcross 

Wild Swimming in Ireland – Book

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Order your copy of Wild Swimming in Ireland here through the security of Paypal

for the discounted price of £14.00 + postage and packaging

with the bonus of having your copy signed by both authors.

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Published by – The Collins Press

 

‘Wild Swimming in Ireland’ The Book

Our newly published ‘Wild Swimming in Ireland’ book arrived today in the post…due to hit the shelves very soon but available through pre order on Amazon…Just in time for the outdoor swimming season!…
P.S. We’ll keep you posted on the book’s official launch date and venue.
1st Wildswim Book

2016 World Record Ice Kilometre for Sabrina Wiedmer

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Words by Maureen McCoy & photos by Paul McCambridge

I first met Sabrina in September 2015 at the Copeland Islands swim, where she was the first

swimmer into Donaghadee Harbour after the choppy but fun 3km plus swim. The event that year

was in memory of my late friend, Sheena Paterson who loved the swim between the island and

harbour and I know Sheena would have been delighted that a woman won it!

Some weeks later, on a trip to sunny Dublin, Sabrina met with me at Bull Island for a swim interview.

I’d never been there before and we were lucky to be blessed with glorious weather so late in the

season. As we prepared for our dip looking across the bay towards Dublin Port and the Poolbeg

chimneys dominating the skyline, Sabrina and I chatted about her swimming history. In her native

Switzerland Sabrina was a 50m Back Stroke swimmer – quite a change to then become a long

distance Front crawl swimmer. Shoulder injuries prompted Sabrina to give up the sprint Back Stroke

but her love of swimming pushed her on and she told me how, since changing to Front Crawl, her

shoulders have been fine.

Sabrina said she tried sea swimming, and despite still being a little scared of what might be in the

sea with her, she loves it. She joked that sometimes she closes her eyes so she won’t see the fish.

Since Sabrina came to live and work in Ireland and joined the “Irish sea swimming family” she has

never looked back and continues to find new friends throughout the country.

As we carefully walked down the bank of steps into the sea we talked about the ice mile, “I don’t

know how many ice miles I actually swam before the event. I went home to Switzerland and trained

in the lake almost every day, it became easier!” Even with her record of achievements in long

distance swimming, when Sabrina applied to enter the Lake Zuric marathon event, she didn’t get in.

“I’m told people rarely get in on their first application, hopefully next year!”

Sabrina has certainly started 2016 off in a positive mode; well done, Sabrina in your latest feat of

matching the world record fastest female to swim a kilometre in 13minutes 58seconds, in water

temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius!

And the best of luck for the rest of the year!

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