I still feel inferior when I go swimming at Forty Foot


“It’s actually not that bad,” I gasped, as I jumped under the semi-freezing water. Because it’s not an Irish vacation unless you force yourself into semi-freezing water and tell yourself this is practically the Bahamas. There was, however, the entire Atlantic Ocean between me and the West Indies in the summer of 2021, and I was emerging not from crystal clear 30-degree waters, but from the 14-degree paradise of the Belmullet, Co Mayo tidal pool. It was a semi-sunny day, the air temperature was decidedly not bad, and the tidal pool was like heaven for our hungover heads.

“We need something like this in Dublin,” we shouted, as locals rolled their eyes and deduced we must be the gang that remained beyond on Erris Head with the 57 bottles of wine, forcing children enjoy the sheep. Even the most cautious were persuaded to enter and enjoy the healing powers of the sea, but without the plague of sand, seaweed and jellyfish.

Both ‘staycations’ and sea swimming have grown in popularity during the pandemic, and the sad lack of Belmullet tidal pools in the capital and across the country has been highlighted. The proposed white-water rafting facility for Dublin’s George’s Dock made headlines at the end of 2019, and as closures progressed it became a bigger joke before being scrapped at the end of last year.

The “best” spots are located in rich areas and the hobby of “sea swimming” carries cultural capital.

It had been argued that white-water rafting on man-made rapids would bring tourists flocking to Dublin to fill all those hotels. Whitewater rafting on man-made rapids is the last thing I want to do on a city break, when instead I might try not to be too obvious about speed through the second half of a museum so you can switch to the important activity of tasting local delicacies while people watching.

Petitions have been put in place demanding that the €25 million intended for the white-water rafting facility be diverted to build public swimming pools at George’s Dock and other locations. London offers plenty of outdoor swimming options, including heated and unheated ponds and pools, some with facilities to encourage swimmers to spend the whole day. These pools attract locals rather than tourists and such consideration is sorely lacking in Dublin, a city that seems increasingly obsessed with pumping visitors through an airport-Book-of-Kells-brewery-distillery pipeline. There is plenty to do in Dublin for tourists. And the people who live here?

As someone who semi-regularly swims in the sea in Dublin, I feel that an element of elitist control still exists. The “best” spots are in wealthy neighborhoods and the hobby of “sea swimming” carries cultural capital. I often feel out of place when I visit Sandycove or Seapoint to swim, and my extremely modest rural upbringing means my ears are finely tuned to conversations that are completely foreign to me. It’s often obvious that some of my fellow swimmers have just stumbled from their adjacent homes to swim, and my eyes gleam with envy as I rush to the car to turn on the heater.

We need more of these facilities, and we need them fast, before the steam runs out from the surge in swimming that the pandemic has encouraged.

I feel ridiculous to have an inferiority complex about something as accessible as going to the sea, especially living, like us, on an island. In 2020, at the Forty Foot bathing spot in Sandycove, signs appeared stating that “no type of Dryrobes or Dryrobes” were welcome. The sign indicates the strata that exist within those who swim, from hard nuts who have been exposed to sun, hail or shine in the past 40 years, to relatively newbies in their expensive after-swimming coats laden with coffees and seemingly endless time to chat. Nothing infuriates a former badass more than a frivolous conversation while wearing a Dryrobe, except perhaps a foreign teenager who rode across town on the Dart to access the joy of throwing himself into the sea with his friends. .

The same teenagers take to the waters at George’s Dock anyway, so why not give them a pool? We need more of these facilities, and we need them fast, before the steam runs out from the surge in swimming encouraged by the pandemic.

Invigorating dips are both ritualistic and medicinal in cold weather, and a joyous community experience when the summer sun is shining. At Belmullet, I was struck by the apparent simplicity of the operation. Yes, it obviously costs money to pay for maintenance and lifeguards at peak times, but speaking to locals, it seems pool cleaning is a voluntary effort and the facility is in use all the time. year.

There are incredible natural bathing spots at Derrynane, Kilkee, Hook Head and the many beautiful beaches along the Irish coast. But when you look at the success of Belmullet, the dive platform that stretches out into the Atlantic from Salthill, and the maze of changing spots around the Forty Foot, it’s clear there’s a lot more we could do to encourage the feeling community to go swimming. It’s actually not that bad!

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