Graduates Go to the Beach…

 

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Words by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Graduates Go to the Beach…

The blue waters of Lisburn pool may have seemed a little quiet last Thursday evening (14th June), the dwindling numbers were not due to a lack of enthusiasm though. No, a bunch of intrepid Graduates had in fact ventured outdoors.

Buoyed by the memory of previous such outings, a select few of us swapped the pool and instead headed to the beach at Ballyhornan.

After such a stormy Wednesday night and Thursday morning many feared the cancelation email would pop into their inbox. Do they not know their coach by now?

No wimping out!

Our little band of happy swimmers ready for their quest.

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Disclaimer: Had weather been truly bad, I assure you, I would have abandoned the swim in favour of the pub.

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Despite the inclement day, the evening brightened and the wind eased. When we met at the beach at 6pm there was even a return of the sunshine we have grown accustomed to.

Soon the motley mad intrepid crew tootled their way to the water’s edge…

 

The Sea was crisp and fresh. Squeals of delight as we entered! Yes really, it WAS delight, NO ONE said it was FREEZING.

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With a few acclimatisation practices we got underway – a short tester swim parallel to shore allowed us to settle our breathing and establish our beautifully relaxed and powerful strokes.

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As our little party elegantly cruised along the bay we saw Terns swoop down to lift Fry from the water a little further out before soaring back up into the blue(ish) skies.

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The briefest of squalls of rain allowed us to enjoy the magical experience and triggered a tuneful adaptation of a popular song: “We’re just Swimmin’ in the rain… what a Glor-ious feel-ing…”

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As the skies cleared we retired from the water to later re-group at the Cuan in Strangford for a well-earned meal. Already planning next year’s outing!

 

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Well done all with a special commendation to Adam and James, Waterpolo players who braved the elements sans wetsuit.

 

 

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Footnote: No Graduates were harmed during this adventure, all took part of their own volition. There was absolutely no intimidation, coercion or threats – coaches Mo and Paul deny any responsibility if anyone says otherwise.

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Salthill, Galway – Boards and Ice Bucket Challenges

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

The wind whistles through the metal rails flanking the boards. The waves wash the concrete structure and a queue weaves its way up the steps, spilling out onto the top board. Squealing youths launch themselves into the air, legs kicking as they approach the water, to land with a great splash. A rush of sea water and bubbles as they each claw their way up to the surface, gasp for breath against the cold and exhilaration, then, shaking the sea from their hair, race back to the steps and climb to the high board again.

Mere minutes from Galway City along the Salthill promenade is where you will find these famous diving boards and this traditional sea bathing area. The yellow walls of Salthill, built at various angles to create shelter from the wind, invite one into the inner sanctum where white painted benches, strewn with towels and little mounds of clothing, run the length of each wall. A community of sea-swimmers thrives here, coming from all walks of life.

Early morning sees the business folk taking a dip before their commute. Mid-morning and the retirees club share swims, stories and cups of tea and after school and throughout the summer, the youths congregate.

Following the traditions of past generations, the high boards have become a rite of passage. On the last day of school the leavers flock here in uniform to storm the sea, a release before exams begin. Encouraged and guided by the veteran divers, they progress from the lower and middle boards. Finally making their way up to the double-sided high platform. Egged on by each other and the older divers, they gain confidence, throwing themselves, twisting and somersaulting, towards the ocean.

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Now taking the ice-bucket challenge to new heights, a group of teenage girls arrived. Each clutched a small white bucket, pink fluted pinnies worn over their swimsuits. They giggled as they milled on the steps, each pushing another forward, none wanting to be the first, while the on-lookers smiled in amusement. They nervously followed the stream of boys up onto the high platform. The boys shouted as they leapt while the girls, one by one, edged to the front of the board, looking back for re-assurance, then, with courage plucked, a deep breath and a scream, stepped out.

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Squeals of delight as they re-surfaced, the girls joined the boys again in the race back to the top.

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Salthill; Sea Swimming area and Boards

Easy to find along the promenade and show-cased around the world in film, including Brendan Gleesons “The Guard”, the area is a hive of activity.  Bicycle parking and toilets.

Flanked by banks of steps, the near-side bathing area forms an amphitheatre above the sea stage, behind the double-ended boards soar up.

Seamus Heaney wrote several poems in this area and along the promenade you can find quotations of his scribed on the sea wall.

Here is the place to meet swimmers and find out about the local history, people will share with you the hidden beaches and will recommend the entertainment spots in the city.

Creggan Country Park – Derry / Londonderry City / Stroke City

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Up on a hill overlooking Derry City lies Creggan Country park, the site of an old reservoir which is now used for water-sports and fishing. As I crested the hill I got my first glimpse of an interesting building, slate walls and a green roof lifted my hopes that this could be an oasis in the midst of residential housing.

A crowd was milling at the entrance and I joined them to introduce myself to Mervyn, one of the Northern Velocity coaches. With changing rooms and showers above the gated lake this is not a wild swimming area, but it does provide a safe training zone for those wishing to venture into the open water. The water quickly becomes deep and each of the wet-suited swimmers scanned their micro-chipped armbands as they made their way in to swim the 1km loop, with the swimmers content to swim at their own pace a couple of kayaks paddled out as safety craft.

The advantage of Creggan is that it is compact and swimmers are always visible from the slipway, marker buoys form a loop that never sees the swimmer too far from the shoreline. Beside the concrete jetty new swimmers can slip into deep water yet be coached from the side before venturing out into the main body of the lake for their first lap. This is the opportunity, for some the first time, to experience the lack of visibility in lake swimming. The shock of colder water – (some swimmers will never again say an indoor pool is cold!) and the feeling of exposure in a much larger expanse of water than previously experienced.

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Ranks of inflatables and kayaks moored up create a separate area for these test swims and the large zorbing balls and great green and white climbing pyramid show this site is well used by young and old.

If you want a play session for yourself and the kids, check out the Country Parks activity program and if you want a safe, well-marked training area they can give all the times when swimmers are welcome.

Creggan is a NOWCA listed lake – (National Open Water Coaching Association)

THE “SLOUGH” – DUNSEVERICK – NORTH ANTRIM COAST

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

Early evening and nearing the end of a super day exploring the North Coast, the weather was glorious, the warmest day we’d had in weeks.  The evening sun lit up the grassy field as we parked the car on the roadside behind many other cars and climbed over the stile to follow the path down to the Slough.

On the far side of the inlet, nestled on the small patches of sand between large rocks were a couple of extended family groups, with children ranging in ages from a very vocal two year old to teenage.  With wind-breaks pegged into the sand and folding chairs set up, they had been there for the whole day.  Another family picked their way across the rocks, barefoot and in wetsuits to jump from the lower ledges, gaining confidence to later try the high rocks on the opposite side.

As we got closer and the whole of the Slough came into view, a bright pink li-lo starkly contrasted with the teal-green deep water.  Drifting on this was young man, long hair tied back calling instructions to his friends on the rocks.  Another then threw down a large rubber ring and took a great leap from on high to land in the centre.  We all laughed and clapped at his display.

Kealan and I headed to these high rocks.  Kealan jumped first and as I stepped forward I felt a twinge of nerves.  My cautious nature made me hesitate and assess the depth, judge the distance I would need to jump out to clear the rock walls and my heart beat faster as I realised there was no turning back.  3-2-1- jump!  I think I might have squealed a little!  My feet hit the water and I pulled my arms in close to my body, as soon as I was underwater I opened my arms and used a breast stroke kick to stop myself from hitting the bottom.  I needn’t have bothered, wearing my wetsuit I was so buoyant that I popped up again like a cork and bobbed about in the gentle ebb and flow of the inlet.  Barefoot I climbed back up the rocks for a second go.  Then it was time to lose the wetsuit.  The black rocks were warm with the sun beating on them all day and after a few more jumps, and Kealan somersaulting a couple of times, I felt a dive was in order.  Nothing spectacular, just a clean straight dive, start low and work up to one of the higher rocks.

I tested myself on a low rock, ever cautious of the depth, and executed a passable straight dive, next step, a little higher.  The higher I went the more respect I felt for cliff divers, I would never be brave enough for that.  A couple more dives and then I thought I should quit while I was ahead and embarrassment free, maybe with some diving practice I’ll return brave enough to resurrect my somersault, I don’t promise anything though.

I warmed myself on the black rocks as the groups of people began to disperse and we agreed that a long days swimming and exploring now warranted a good feed, the evening sun still strong as we dressed.

Slough at Dunseverick

A lovely inlet with varying levels to plunge from which should satisfy most age ranges.

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CARRICK-A-REDE Rope Bridge

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Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

The sun was high as we arrived mid-day at Larrybane Bay, Paul, his son Kealan and I.   As we walked down the path and got our first view of the bay my breath was almost taken away.  The white cliffs, reminiscent of Dover, then the rocky shoreline similar to a Croatian coast and the tall grass-topped and sheer cliff islands rising out of the sea, like something straight out of a movie shot in Thailand.  Who would believe we had such a place in Ireland.

The bay curves around providing a great coastal scramble with caves breaking up the tall white cliffs and in places the most perfect white rounded pebbles you could ever hope to find.  Wading out into the shallow bay though, the rocks give way to a clear sandy floor.

We struck out on the one kilometre swim straight across to Carrick-a-rede Island. Looking down through the emerald green water to the sand deep below unbroken by any sea-weed or rocks, I felt I could be in any exotic location in the world.  The tide, still on its way out left shallow water under the bridge, so shallow that we could walk through.  Occasionally dipping into deeper patches as we waded under, it felt like walking through a fair-ground fun house, up, then down, then up again.  As the water got deeper again we swam on between the towering cliffs of the island and the shore, people high above us carefully picking their way across the rope bridge.

As I rounded the corner it seemed I was swimming into the “Lost World” with great Jurassic black cliffs soaring above.  Exploring these rocks and the clear water below was a joy and we spent a long time breast-stroking and gazing up, almost expectant of a prehistoric creature to swoop down at any moment.

The tiny Fisherman’s cottage on the island had a fresh coat of white-wash and the steep steps leading down to the waters edge with the old winch broken and rusting, showed the remnants of the old Salmon Fishery here in times past.  The sun was still strong as we made our way back under the bridge and out across Larry Bane Bay for that second kilometre swim back through those emerald waters.

A good two kilometre round trip for the strong and confident swimmer. 

Follow the signs to Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, a National Trust site, which is worth a visit to cross the Bridge and get an impressive view of the coastal cliffs from the island.

From the car park, follow the road down to the overspill car park in the Quarry.  Here you can park and follow the track on foot to the shore.

This is an advanced swim for the experienced open water swimmer.  Although not difficult it requires knowledge of the swimmers limitations and of the local tides.

It is wise to avoid the bay on the Sheep Island side of Larry Bane as here the currents are much stronger and the eddies and tides can be powerful.

CRAIGAVON BALANCING LAKES CO ARMAGH

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

Tuesday had been a wet day with only a few breaks in the heavy rain showers but come 7pm, the sun was venturing out and it promised to be a reasonably warm evening.  I arrived early at the North Lake and introduced myself to the other early birds.  With the air warm and muggy I was sure the water would be warm too.

The small band grew as more and more arrived and I was introduced as their ‘guest’ swimmer.  We stepped into the lake and soon got into an easy front crawl.

A kayaker went on ahead to negotiate us around the heaviest patches of weeds.  At times we almost had to crawl over this wiry, prickly stuff, pulling lumps of it out as it caught on wrists and watches.  A few short patches of this were the only thing that would mar a very pleasant swim.  With the evening sun breaking through the grey clouds, the tall reeds, their feathery heads stretching high above the waters edge, the scene had a dreamlike quality.

As we returned to the shore on our third lap, the rain started and quickly became a downpour.  I lifted my head and swam head up, fascinated by the drops hitting the surface so hard that they bounced back up forming thousands of what looked like pawns from a chess set – repeatedly formed and broken.  Finally the rain began to ease and we tried vainly to seek shelter as we dressed under a tree.  One swimmer said he’d been quite surprised to look back and see “a nudey person behind me!”  So used to the black arms of wetsuits, a bare arm was easily spotted.

 Tuna Triathlon Club now use the South lake on a Monday evening at 7.00pm from the sports centre.

 I swam as their guest but the club website does ask for all swimmers to be members, wear their wetsuit and have completed at least a 1500m continuous swim in the pool.

Check out www.tunatriathlon.org for club information.

Lurgan Masters Swim Club also use the lake on a Sunday evening at 6:30pm, with 200m/400m/750m/1km courses marked out. LMSC ask that swimmers have membership of either Swim Ireland/ILDSA/Triathlon Ireland for Insurance reasons

http://www.lurganmastersswimclub.com 

See map below for entry point. 

©PAUL MCCAMBRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY Picture By Paul McCambridge Tel 07711167277