Beginners Guide to Open Water Swimming in Ireland

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SwimCamp Swimming Coach Manuela

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If you live in Dublin or somewhere by the coast in Ireland, you have probably already heard of open water swimming. Some people love to go for a swim in the sea every morning to stay healthy and happy. Are you interested to try it out for yourself? We will explain to you everything you need to know and how you can become an open water swimmer!

What is open water swimming?

Open water swimming, also called sea swimming or wild swimming, is a sports activity, where you swim outdoors in bodies of water, such as in an ocean, river or lake. The weather conditions make it harder to swim compared to in a pool. So it is more challenging but even more rewarding, if you do it on a regular basis!

Believe it or not – swimming can be a team sports. There are many swim clubs for open water swimming. They organize open water swimming events and classes that you can take part in. The benefits of a swim club are that you are never alone, so your safety is guaranteed. You also get to know people that have the same hobby as you, which makes it a lot more fun.

In Ireland, there are many stunning sea swimming spots that are now much frequented for open water swimming events, classes or just for swimming with friends. You can find open water almost anywhere in Ireland, and there are some islands around the country that are also popular for swimmers, such as Dalkey Island or Achill Island.

During the pandemic, many Irish people discovered open water swimming as their new hobby, as many indoor sports were not allowed for a long time. In Ireland many people have access to open water, especially the sea. So it is easy and convenient, as it is outdoors and probably close by.

You would most probably also enjoy it, so just try it out and go for a dip in the sea!

The advantages of open water swimming

Open water swimming might not sound appealing to you at first, but we promise that it has many advantages! There is a reason for why so many people love it.

It has great mental health benefits. The combination of exercise and the cold water makes you feel very happy, as your body produces endorphins when you get out of the water. It can help you to reduce stress after a hectic week.

Swimming in general burns many calories, but the cold water in addition makes your body work harder to stay warm. Therefore, open water swimming is a real calorie burner and boosts your metabolism! It’s also a lot more fun than any cardio workout.

Immersing yourself in freezing water on a regular basis is great for your immune system. It increases the white blood count, which are good to fight against infections. This way you can reduce getting illnesses in the long term.

The blood circulation in your body improves due to the cold water. It makes you more resistant to cold over time, clears up your skin and makes it look healthy.

Lastly, it improves your sleep because it is very exhausting. After open water swimming, your body can relax better, which makes it easier for you to sleep.

What equipment do I need for open water swimming?

There are a few things you should consider buying before starting with open water swimming to protect you from the cold.

You probably already know that the water temperatures in Ireland are low all year round. Therefore, it might be a good idea to buy a wetsuit to keep you warm. Although, it is not necessary to have a wetsuit for open water swimmers.

If you are already used to the cold weather in Ireland, then go ahead with your normal bathing suit! As a beginner, a wetsuit can help you to feel less anxious and more relaxed about swimming in the sea.

In addition, a silicone hat is recommended for warmth, as wet hair would make you feel even colder. A silicone hat in a bright colour will make you also more visible while swimming for your safety.

We can always recommend using goggles, they protect your eyes from the stingy seawater. You probably have some anyway from swimming in a pool!

Lastly, neoprene gloves and socks are optional for sea swimming. It can help you to stay warmer and feel more protected.

In the end, it is your decision what you find necessary for yourself and what you feel most comfortable with!

Can you open water swim anywhere?

Open waters are usually open to the public and therefore you can swim in any open water. It is important that you make sure that your safety is given at all times. It might be that some sea swimming spots are not safe depending on the weather. Therefore, you should do your research on the latest news about the location you want to go to. So basically, you can go swim in any open water as long as there are no warnings about it or it is not open to the public.

Sea swimming spots in Dublin, Ireland

An important aspect for open water swimmers are good sea swimming spots. We will show you a few spots around Dublin.

Theoretically, you can go open water swimming in any body of water outdoors, such as rivers, lakes and in the ocean. Dublin is an ideal place for a swim in the sea, as there are many bathing areas along the coastline.

You might have heard of forty foot before. They are rocky outcrops where you can jump into the sea from the rocks. Forty Foot is quite popular for advanced open water swimmers in Dublin, but probably not suitable for beginners.

If you are looking for a beach, we can recommend Portmanock Beach to you. You can park your car here easily and have a lot of space to take a dip. Seapoint beach is easy to reach with the DART. If you rely on public transportation, this is the beach to go to. It is made of large rocks and sand, so perfect for a swim.

These are only a few great locations around Dublin for open water swimmers. Maybe ask some locals about their favourite spot to swim.

Is it safe to go open water swimming in Ireland?

To ensure your safety as an open water swimmer, there are a few things you should consider. Before going to the sea swimming spot, you should check out the latest news about weather warnings or if some spots are too dangerous to swim, due to the weather.

You should always practice water safety by making sure there is a lifeguard or other people swimming close by. Our advice is to never go alone for an open water swim, always bring a friend so that you are on the safe side. You should also be a good pool swimmer before starting open water swimming. This will give you the necessary skills you need to go swimming outdoors in more dangerous waters.

Sea swimming can also be a team sports. If you join a club, you don’t have to worry about water safety, as there are many people swimming with you and coaches that can help you out.

Before going open water swimming for the first time, you should be aware of rip currents. They are belts of water that are travelling quickly offshore. If you get into such a current, you should swim parallel to the shore until you get out of it. Otherwise, you can get attention from anyone on the beach to help you out.

Look at the signs at the beach, they will indicate whether it is safe to swim. In general, if you make sure that you never go swimming alone in water bodies outdoors, then you will be safe.

When is open water swimming season in Ireland?

The open water swimming season in Ireland is usually in the summer months, as the water temperature reaches its maximum of 16 °C.

If you want to go swimming in the winter months, but don’t appreciate the colder water, you have the alternative of going swimming in indoor pools. The pool is of course not as exciting as sea swimming, but it is the next best option.

Although, if you don’t mind the cold, you can go swimming in the Irish Sea all year round! Nobody will keep you from doing so. Just make sure that you don’t get too cold and that you are not alone.

How does open water swimming compare to swimming in a pool?

There are many differences between open water swimming and pool swimming. For some swimmers, one might be more preferable than the other.

The biggest difference of the two is obviously the water temperature. In a pool the temperature is typically between 26 °C and 28 °C, which is a pleasant temperature. The maximum temperature of the Irish ocean in summer is around 16 °C, so at least 10 degrees colder!

Most sea swimmers get used to the cold water and appreciate the positive effects it has. The cold water has many positive impacts on your body, as explained before. You cannot get all these benefits when going swimming in a pool. The low water temperature also means that you burn more calories than when you swim in a pool. The body is trying to stay warm and therefore burns many calories.

It is usually easier to swim in a pool, because you can go there whenever you want to as long as it is open. It doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter, you can always go. An open water swimmer needs to check the weather, the temperature and if there are any warnings. Therefore, you are more restricted when you are able to go.

Lastly, an open water swimmer needs more equipment due to the water conditions. You don’t have to get all the equipment, but in most cases it makes sense to have a wetsuit and goggles. Sometimes you even require neoprene gloves and socks to stay warm.

The trend of open water swimming is rising in Ireland, people love it! Due to covid restrictions, the Irish found their way to open water swimming. If you are unsure, whether you want to become an open water swimmer, we suggest you to take part in a course and find out!

Can you go open water swimming with a cold?

Exercising while having a cold is generally not a good idea, as your body needs to rest and recover. Your cold can get worse after exercising. Therefore, we would not recommend you to swim while having a cold. It is better to get the rest you need first and then have fun later, when you are healthy again!

Where do you practice open water swimming?

Before starting with open water swimming, you should be comfortable swimming in the pool. As an open water swimmer, it is important to be a strong swimmer. This is the first step to practice for, if you are not yet a strong swimmer.

Then you can already start swimming in open water. It is simply learning by doing to become a great open water swimmer! Our advice is to get a coach for this step, either for private lessons or in a small group with people that have a similar level as you.

How to start with sea swimming as a beginner

Being interested in sea swimming is one thing, but it is not always to start something new. That’s no problem, we can help you with that! SwimCamp offers open water clinics for kids who know how to swim in a pool but are keen on sea swimming.

If you are an adult, you can join our adult series! We make sure to have open water swimmers of the same skill level in the classes, so you can learn better. This is also a great way to make new friends who have the same interest as you!

There are limited spots in our classes, as we try to have a low swimmer to coach ratio. So you can learn a lot about open water swimming in a short amount of time.

Join the trend in Ireland and become an open water swimmer, we promise that it’s a lot of fun!

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