By Rose Barrett
For Peter Conway, now entering his third year as chair of Swim Ireland, swimming in the ocean is as natural as walking.
From Portrane, Peter now lives in Rush, along with wife Noelle – “and five adult children all in the process of flying the nest!” he says. As the crow flies, he is still only two miles from his native Portrane.
“I do most of my swimming outdoor at Tower Bay in Portrane,” he said. “I’m a member of Aer Lingus Masters swimming Club, one of the longest established swimming club in Dublin, having started there in the junior club.”
For the Chair of Swim Ireland, the next few years mark an exciting phase for swimming in Ireland.
“The choice of open water swimming around the coast is incredible. There is endless choice, evidenced by the strong communities building in Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush, Donabate, Portrane, Portmarnock, Malahide and Howth (all located within Fingal County Council).
“As you go further south, you have Seapoint, Killiney, the 40 Ft, Sandycove and Half Moon (a water polo and swimming club over on the south side of Dublin Bay).”
Swim Ireland welcomed last week’s announcement by Minister of Sport, Catherine Martin and Fáilte Ireland of a €19m investment to develop state-of-the-art facilities for outdoor water-based activities in Ireland, with notably two locations based here in Dublin.
“I sincerely hope there will be further investment and that this will be a template at national and local government levels, for the promotion and future success of outdoor swimming pursuits,” he said.
“Water sports are not just enjoyed during the summer months,” he said. “The all-weather changing facilities, secure storage and bathrooms at beaches and inland water spots will be in huge demand.”
He added: “Thousands of people have taken to the open water, with an annual increase both in the leisure and the competitive open water sector.
“The area that has seen the greatest growth is the social participation swimming section and in line with that, Swim Ireland is launching a new Swim Ireland leisure membership, ‘Me and the Water’.
‘Me and the Water’
“Swim I eland is trying to make aquatics more accessible to all, to the committed swimmer, to individuals who may not be a member of any club but want to re-embrace their love of swimming and water. We want them to connect with Me and the Water.
It only costs €12 to join for a 12-month membership. For that, swimmers will get their Swim Ireland swimming cap and they can download the App and get access to monthly competitions, partner discounts, training plans, swimming tips and information on future SI events.
The pools are safe!
“A large cohort of younger swimmers have missed the opportunity to learn to swim in the past 14 months, children who would normally have learnt to swim through schools or pool facilities and clubs,” he continued.
“We also need to provide for children who previously learnt to swim but haven’t been able to put that skill into practise, owing to Covid restrictions.”
The Swim Ireland Chair stated there was no argument re the safety of children and youth returning to swimming pools.
“It’s been convincingly proven that the environment of swimming pools is very safe against the spread of Covid. The Health Protection Surveillance Agency in Ireland (HSPC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have validated that swimming in a well-maintained chlorinated pool is safe.
“Research conducted at the Imperial College London confirms that Covid 19 is inactivated in just 30 seconds in the presence of chlorine (under the right conditions). “Furthermore, Dutch research at TU Delft University and Hellebrekers evidenced that air quality in swimming pools is close to that of outdoor air quality!”
Mature crisis response
“When we had the opportunities between lockdowns, pool management put strong protocols in place to manage members’ entrance and exit, along with the numbers attending via a pre-book system.
“Along with that proven response, Swim Ireland would really like to see swimming pools opened safely, in line with other indoor facilities.
“We need to see lessons getting back up and running, along with training for competitive club swimmers.
“We still had a very successful year last year albeit limited by Covid. Swim Ireland will run a programme of events including ‘tasters’ for those who want to consider open water swimming, to improve the competence of those who’ve already taken the first step and, subject to Covid guidelines, we will have a series of races and fun events.”
“For children who learnt to swim previously but haven’t been in water for 12 months, it’s possible they could be over confident. Safety is paramount for all our members and particularly in open water.
“Check currents, weather conditions, rip tides and water temperatures. Never, ever swim alone; wear a brightly coloured cap and use a toe float.
“Please, log onto meandthwater.ie, and our social media pages on FB and Ins. E: [email protected].
“We see tens of thousands of people setting out on a new swimming journey. We’d like to join them on the journey and we’d like them to join with us on our journey,” said Conway.