Growing up in Kilkee in the '70's there was a local woman who used to swim in the sea every day, Winter and Summer, rain, hail or snow. I remember watching her from the sea wall thinking she was mad. Little did I know then.
I didn't learn to swim properly till I moved to Limerick. I used to find the pain of jumping in the river for the Christmas day swim excruciating. I used to cheat by having a cold bath before the swim to make it more bearable.
I became interested in seeing how long the open water swimming season could be extended beyond the traditional end date of September 1st, as if someone turned off the immersion on that date and outdoor swimming became impossible.
On my own I had managed to get as far as 5 minutes in the sea in mid-November. Then I met John Ryan.
Together we decided to see how long we could keep on swimming out doors into the Winter. Others joined in. We quickly discovered that getting in as often as possible, even for a short time was key and to shorten the time in the water as the temperature dropped. A couple of weeks without a swim meant losing acclimatisation and a tough few swims before it was regained.
We discovered others who had been swimming outdoors throughout Winter for a few years in Armagh at the 1k National Championships and in Lough Dan for the Ice Mile challenge, a four year adventure for me finally ending successfully in Clontarf baths in 2'C in 2019. In between was the World Ice Swimming Championships in Burghuasen in Germany in 2017 where the Irish team was one of the largest. One of the most memorable swims for me was the frosty day in early January we did the Big Bay swim from Byrnes' Cove to Newfy in Kilkee. It wasn't the longest and it certainly wasn't the coldest but the sense of achievement was huge.
Over the years the group has gotten bigger and more diverse and the post swim giggles have gotten louder with the newcomers taking to it like penguins to water.
Why do we do it ? 'Tis cheaper than drugs' as one of the group says.
Pearse (AKA Mr. Pink)