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A Swimmer's Story: Sharks, Speedos and why I really miss the water

He's travelled all over the world, but Pól O Conghaile says learning to swim has been his most fulfilling journey. From his first frightening foray into the pool to swimming with sharks and learning to freedive, he explains why those lessons matter now more than ever

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Taking the plunge: Pól in the water in Milos, Greece

Taking the plunge: Pól in the water in Milos, Greece

In the swim: Pól Ó Conghaile on his travels

In the swim: Pól Ó Conghaile on his travels

Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawai'i. Photo: Deposit

Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawai'i. Photo: Deposit

Deep dive: Pól with freediver Feargus Callagy in Egypt's Red Sea

Deep dive: Pól with freediver Feargus Callagy in Egypt's Red Sea

Into the blue: Pól (back right) swimming with manta ray at Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives

Into the blue: Pól (back right) swimming with manta ray at Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives

Swim Why we Love the Water

Swim Why we Love the Water

Wild Swimming in Ireland

Wild Swimming in Ireland

Blue Mind

Blue Mind

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Taking the plunge: Pól in the water in Milos, Greece

'How can you tell if there are sharks?"

Visitors to Hawai'i want to know lots of things. Which bar does the best mai tai? How can we see volcanoes? Where's Barack Obama's favourite plate lunch place?

But swimmers and surfers have another concern. Hawai'i is shark heaven, with some 40 species cruising its islands - from blacktips to hammerheads. Most steer well clear of humans (and we are, of course, a far bigger threat to them). But still, unplanned encounters are best avoided.