Gary Fitzgerald became the first person to swim the eight-mile journey from the Kish lighthouse to the Forty Foot in Dun Laoghaire last Saturday morning, completing the challenge in four hours, 30 minutes and 25 seconds.
An Irish international water polo player, 24-year-old Fitzgerald fulfilled this long-held ambition in near-perfect conditions as the overcast conditions broke at the perfect time to match the window opened for him by the Dublin Port authorities.
Speaking to GazetteSport about the swim, he said that he wanted to complete the route as a tribute to his former water-polo coach.
“It was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. My manager of my swimming and water polo club, Arthur Dunne, was a good friend of the family and we used to walk along Killiney beach. I used to say to him, I wanted to be the first person to swim out to the lighthouse.
“He said ‘when you’re old enough, we’ll do it’. He passed away a couple of years ago and when he died, I thought ‘I have to do it now’.”
Fitzgerald was supported by a two-man kayak team – which included Dublin hurler Oisin Gough – and an eight-man boat in which his father and brother along with paramedics and members of the RNLI were on hand.
Despite being a beach lifeguard in Dun Laoghaire, he admits, though, that he is not usually a fan of open sea swimming and this was his “first ever big swim” having trained by doing lengths of Killiney Beach.
To plan the challenge, he met Dublin port officials to discuss the tides and shipping lanes because nothing like this had been attempted before but everything worked out ideally on the day.
“It was a little bit of a guessing game [about the best time to do it]. It was sheer luck and there was definitely someone looking down on us on the day. The weather was so bad last week with the fog and I was worried we would have to cancel the window Dublin Port gave us. But from the time I set foot on the lighthouse and I got to the Forty Foot, the sun shone.
“Dublin Port were great; they stopped fishing vessels in front of us and so on. We were blessed because it can be calm inland and then very rough at Kish. We did hit a shoal of jellyfish where the kayaks had to go in front of me to clear a path. Luckily I didn’t get stung. I thought a few seals might come too but they didn’t.
“Looking back on the swim, it feels more like a daze. I wouldn’t be a fan of deep water. When I went onto Kish for the first time, I had my All-Ireland water polo medal which I won with Arthur Dunne. That was close to me and him so I brought it onto the lighthouse and threw it off into the sea for him.”