The Irish Times view on sea-swimming: December dip

After the initial shock the body settles into a state of grudging, tingling acceptance, though feet and hands tell a story of the numbing cold

Swimming is now Ireland’s second participation sport involving some 9 per cent of the population. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Swimming is now Ireland’s second participation sport involving some 9 per cent of the population. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

That first toe in the sea is a reassuring surprise. The December swimmer, torn by “not today perhaps” doubts as he orshe tiptoes down the Forty Foot rock steps into Buck Mulligan’s “scrotumtightening sea”, rediscovers the reality that the cold sea is actually warmer than those northerly gusts uptop.

Another step banishes doubts. Then a gentle push outwards, a sharp intake of breath, and a brisk stroke propels the swimmer beyond the rocks towards the buoy, the daily target. In a flat sea the sense of movement through clear green water is exhilarating. And after the initial shock the body settles into a state of grudging, tingling acceptance, though feet and hands tell a story of the numbing cold.

There are the serious long-distance swimmers, and those out for a short turn, or the briefest of in-out dips, and then those who gather in circles for a chat. The young dive or jump off the rocks. These days, particularly at weekends, the numbers are summer-like, crowds defying social distancing and making regulars nervous. They are old, very old, and young, of all body shapes, local and commuting from afar. Swimming is now Ireland’s second participation sport involving some 9 per cent of the population.

In December the sea temperatures are down around 11.5 degrees, from the 13s of early November and the 15s of September. And likely to be below eight by March. Yesterday the air temperature was four degrees, chilled by northwesterlies and rain, but Tuesday, five degrees higher, windless, the most glorious swim of autumn/winter.

The numbers have been bolstered by lockdown home-working – for many this is their defiant fightback – and by the easy access provided by the new cycleway linking that other great southside bathing place, Seapoint, to Sandycove.

Reports, even in these pages, of “consternation” at the influx of dryrobe-wearing “arrivistes” are pure O’Carroll Kelly – although some complain at the space-hogging dryrobes spread out over changing benches, the bathing equivalent of manspreaders. But they are more than welcome.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.