Thursday 23 February 2017

No skating issue as the brave take icy plunge

Fiona Ellis and Edel O'Connell

SUB-ZERO temperatures and floating chunks of ice didn't deter hundreds of brave swimmers from taking the plunge in freezing cold seas and waterways across the country over the weekend.

Traditional St Stephen's Day and Christmas Day swims continued as usual despite the Arctic conditions, with many braving icy waters in aid of charity.

At Dundag Bay, on Killarney's Muckross Lake, more than 50 swimmers braved floating slabs of thick ice as the temperature slumped to -5C in aid of mental-health charity Aware.

Event organiser Nikki McCarthy, whose younger sister Sylvan Money took her own life seven years ago aged 26, said she wanted to do something that celebrated life.

"I just really wanted to do something for myself and my sister. This is my way of doing something in her memory," she said.

At Garryvoe Beach in east Cork, the Christmas Day swim tradition was upheld by the hardiest of men and women to raise funds for Ballycotton Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) lifeboat.

Supporters lined the seafront to cheer on the swimmers, who were being watched from the sea by three members of the local RNLI lifeboat

Meanwhile, even official warnings from Met Eireann couldn't stop the annual Christmas swim at a popular bathing spot, the Forty Foot in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Forecasters had advised people against taking part in the traditional sea swim this year due to the freezing temperatures and icy conditions on the pier.

However, eager swimmers flocked to the Forty Foot and their only complaint was that their numb feet were slipping on the icy surfaces.

Many said that this year's freezing cold dip -- which was not made any easier by the treacherous, frozen slipway -- had been the coldest they could remember.

Among those taking part were Martin Savage and his family from Tallaght, Co Dublin, who were swimming in aid of the Laura Lynn Children's Hospice Foundation in Leopardstown, Co Dublin.

"It was incredibly cold. It was my first time doing the swim and I can't feel my feet now, but it's a fantastic charity, so we are delighted we did it," Mr Savage said.

Exhilarating

Gareth O'Callaghan from Cork, who takes part every year, was raising money for SHARE -- a local charity that provides accommodation for older people.

"It was unbelievably cold, but I would have regretted it for the next 12 months if I hadn't taken the plunge," he said.

Paul McLatchie, from Dalkey, said: "The worst thing about the swim was the anticipation of it the day before. It's really exhilarating once you've done it."

Richard Boate from Ballybrack and his seven friends also swam in the freezing Dublin waters in aid of GOAL and RNLI lifeboats.

Irish Independent

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