A Guide to Sea Swimming in Ireland
Thanks to Covid restrictions over the last couple of years, many of us have taken up fun new outdoor hobbies. Factor in the incredible weather we’ve been experiencing lately, and it’s no surprise that lots of people – young and old - have started sea swimming. It’s a truly enjoyable pastime that’s been shown to have lots of benefits for body and mind, particularly helping to ease anxiety and stress. At the same time, if you’re not used to stripping off and diving in, the idea of a sea swin can seem quite daunting. With that in mind, here are five important factors to bear in mind as you prepare to make a splash!
1. Pace Yourself
Though you’re probably raring to go, remember to pace yourself. Those first few minutes of being in very cold water can be intense, and you’ll probably curse yourself for even considering this as a ‘hobby’! Bear with it though. Ease yourself into the water slowly - to avoid shock - and once your body has adjusted to the cold (help it along by focusing on your breath), being in the open water really is a joyous experience. That said, don’t put yourself under any pressure to immerse yourself completely, go out of your depth or stay in longer than feels comfortable. Listen to your body and take this amazing pastime at your own pace.
2. Keep it Simple
Like any new hobby, it can be tempting to buy all the gear before you’ve established a regular routine. So, for now – hold off on that expensive wetsuit! All you need to get started is comfortable swimwear, a towel and lots of layers to wrap up in afterwards. If you reckon you’ll be in the sea frequently, swimming gloves and shoes will help keep those extremities warm while protecting feet from sharp stones on a pebbly beach. Towelled robes are also very handy for getting changed quickly – and modestly. There are lots of brands available though, so shop around before splashing the cash on a you-know-what...!
3. Think Safety First
Swimmers of all levels should exercise caution in the sea, especially along the west coast where Atlantic Ocean conditions can be quite wild. Rip currents are fast-moving belts of water that can quite literally pull your legs out from under you. Dips in the seabed meanwhile could cause you to go from comfortable waist level to out of your depth in seconds. For these reasons, you should start by choosing a beach with a lifeguard, and stay within their designated markers. It’s preferable to go for a dip with a companion too, especially if you’re new to the sea. You can spur each other on, but also keep an eye out for any potential danger. Which leads us to our next point...
4. Make Friends!
Sea swimming is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends. Why not introduce yourself to those you meet on the beach? There are lots of friendly sea swimming communities dotted around the coast; play your cards right and you might even get added to an official WhatsApp group!
5. Get to Know Your Beach
If you’re planning on regularly getting into the sea, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with your local beach's tidal rhythms. Unsurprisingly, there’s an app for that! The Sea is a handy resource that shares tidal, temperature and wind information about Ireland’s many beaches. This seven-day sea surface temperature map from Met Éireann gives an idea of how toasty (or not) the water will be during the week ahead. The Dublin Bay Buoy Twitter account meanwhile shares automated updates on east coast sea conditions, in real time. Of course, check for any weather warnings too. We’re known to experience all four seasons in one day, here on the Emerald Isle!
The most important thing to remember as you get ready for a swim is that being prepared for any surprise scenarios means you're less likely to get into difficulty. And finally, the most important advice of all – enjoy!