Super-fit adventurer takes the Christmas plunge
HUNDREDS of brave souls will be plunging into the icy seas for the traditional Christmas Day swim.
But few will be spending as much time in the freezing water as superhuman Matt Loughrey, who is preparing for a punishing four-hour swim to a deserted island.
Last summer, the Westport, Co Mayo-based adventurer pushed his body to the limit by completing a year-long charity challenge of scaling Croagh Patrick for 365 days.
And last September the 32-year-old adrenaline junkie kicked off an even more gruelling 12-month challenge by attempting to swim to as many of the 365 islands in Clew Bay as possible.
Yesterday, super-fit Matt said he had no intention of putting his feet up tomorrow, as he embarks on a daunting Christmas swim in aid of diabetic facilities for Galway University Hospital.
But he admitted he finds his latest challenge even harder than his last one, which saw him make it to the top of Croagh Patrick every day for a year and raise €30,000 for St Vincent de Paul.
He said: "I'm well into it at this stage and have swam to 21 islands. I'm averaging about two to three islands a week. It's logistically impossible to do one a day, because it takes a lot of planning and I have to be a lot more careful.
"I have to take account of the weather and tides before deciding which island to target. And because I'm a lot more exposed on water, there is more scope for things to go wrong.
"It's also more mentally demanding than Croagh Patrick was and I've got to take measures when in the water not to succumb to exhaustion or pressure.
"On the plus side, my legs are getting a rest, which was the opposite when I was going up Croagh Patrick every day."
Matt added: "This is all upper-body work, so it's different physically and before I started I had to put on more weight and really build up my upper-body strength."
Tireless Matt, who moved from the UK to Westport to work as a tour guide eight years ago, has spent up to nine hours in the water since beginning his challenge to reach some of the bay's more remote outposts.
But he says he can't think of a better way to spend Christmas than in the icy Atlantic waters.
"It's tough, but it's a great feeling once you've done it. I'll be in the water for up to four hours tomorrow, but it'll work up a great appetite for my Christmas dinner."