Women and girls are being invited to take the plunge and try sea swimming as part of the HER Outdoors week of events aimed an encouraging females to take up outdoor activities.
Leading the taster sessions in Carlingford is Chrissie O’Brien, a swimming coach who operates out of Carlingford.
"I have pool swam competitively all my life. I am qualified in teaching outdoors sports, so have spent a lot of my life on, in and around the sea. The transition for me to more open water swimming was a natural progression; combining my love of swimming and the outdoors.. happiness!”
There has been a huge surge in the numbers of people swimming in the sea since lockdown.
"I think people started looking closer to home and utilising what we have on our doorstep. Open water swimming enabled people to meet and socialise during a difficult and isolating time,” she says.
“Friendship groups formed, found support and something positive to do together throughout a stressful time.”
Naturally, she is a huge advocate of swimming.
“There’s so many benefits; both physical and mental. As Swimming is a non-weight bearing activity, its accessible to all ages and abilities. It’s inclusive in nature,” she says.
“Mentally, it hits a reset button, taking all stress away & leaving you in a clearer, happier mindset.”
She advises anyone who wants to start sea swimming to join a local open water swimming group in their area or find a qualified Open Water coach.
"Although sea swimming is wonderful, it’s very important to understand and mitigate the many risks. Speak to locals who know the swimming area for advise. Always tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back. And remember everyone is welcome, it doesn’t matter your size or shape.. we’re all equal and there for our shared love of the sea.”
While minimal equipment is needed beyond a swimsuit or wetsuit and goggles, she advises people to wear a brightly coloured swim cap and to bring a towfloat with them for visibility and safety.
“I attach a whistle onto my towfloat and encourage swim clients to do the same as an added safety measure.”
She stresses that the safety equipment is very important as swimmers need to be highly visible especially as the traffic/crafts on the water increases in the summer months.
“It’s important to know the environment you’re swimming in, the safest time to swim around the tide and the weather would also be an important consideration. Never swim alone and let someone know your swim route and when to expect you back.”
There are lots of great swimming spots around the Louth coast. “Carlingford is great and a very popular spot around high tide. Templetown blue flag beach is also beautiful and lifeguarded during the summer. Gyles Quay harbour is another popular spot.”
Chrissie is delighted to be involved with the HER Outdoors initiative.
“Having been involved with swimming from a young age, I have seen many females leave sport during their teenage years. I feel the inclusive nature of open water swimming, the friendship groups that form and numerous benefits will hopefully attract and keep more females involved.
She has been a pool teacher and coach for 20 years and began sea coaching four years years.
"I coach complete beginners to elite athletes. I am able to utilise my experience as a physiotherapist for injury prevention and rehabilitation. I love what I do and feel very lucky to be a part of each individuals swim progression.”
She believes that the benefits of sea swimming are something that those of us who are lucky enough to live by the coast should embrace.
“As Open water swimming is available to all, it’s something really positive we can do and benefit from throughout our lives.
“Wild swimming is amazing. The feeling of being in the sea, with friends and immersed in nature is priceless. The chats, craic and cake after are pretty good too!”
For HER Outdoors she is offering a session for women in open water confidence and safety on Monday August 8th from 6.30pm to 7:30pm at Templetown Beach and swim and open water safety session for teenage girls on Thursday August 11th from 11am to 12pm in Carlingford.
For booking details, see Louth Local Sports Partnership on Facebook