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Open Water Swimming

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Created on 16 April 2012 Last Updated on 19 June 2014
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Open water swimming in Dublin

Dublin Swimming Club was to the fore in developing and supporting open water swimming competition in Dublin: there are now over 20 sea races between June and September each year.

Race distances typically vary from just over 1km to 2km: most are around 1,600 metres (we'll call it a mile), but a few are longer. Most are circuits, but some are point to point (like the Liffey Swim); clothes are transported in these cases.

There are both team and individual prizes and the typical entry fee is €10 (more for the 'majors' like The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Swim and The Liffey Swim). Wetsuits are not permitted. The races are run on a handicap basis – you are allotted this time ahead of each race. Swimmers must be a member of a swim club and have paid up affiliation to Swim Ireland

The 2014 Leinster calendar of events is here.

Why open water swimming?

Open water swimming is one of the most accessible, enjoyable and exhilarating outdoor sports it is possible to do. It is the best way to appreciate the wonderful coastline of Dublin and its environs first hand.

Don't take our word for it - here are some quotes from our recent survey:

I absolutely loved swimming the Liffey Swim last year - it was wonderful to notice all the iconic landmarks of my city from a totally new vantage point. The camaraderie was wonderful... a really great experience.

I like it as you are swimming in beautiful places as part of a social occasion.

At the start you wonder why you are doing this, but it really is a great feeling after the race… you are on a high.

Winning for the first time in any sport at age 53 is a special memory – I walked on air for six months. My wife & son (home on hols) saw me win!

Count the first 50 strokes after that you will have forgotten how cold the water is.

Tell your mind to embrace the numbness.

Where do you swim?

Dublin has an amazing coastline with generally very clean waters. Among the race venues are:

  • Bray
    • Getting there: Dart to Bray Station, a short walk from there to the assembly point on the promenade; the race generally starts from the harbour.
  • Bull Wall, Clontarf
    • Getting there: Bus departs from Lower Abbey Street. Cars can be delayed crossing the single lane bridge to Bull Island, so give yourself plenty of time; use bus or bike if possible.
  • Howth
    • Getting there: Dart to Howth Station, from there a 10 minute walk to the start at the East Pier; the race generally finishes at nearby Balscadden beach.
  • Killiney
    • Getting there: Dart to Killiney Station, from there a 2 minute walk to the assembly point near the lifeguard hut. Car parking can be limited, particularly on sunny days. Venue for Dublin SC Swim.
  • Lough Lene
    • Getting there, take the M4 towards Mullingar . You leave this at exit 11 and get onto the R394 toward Castlepollard. After the village of Crookedwood you take a right turn for Collinstown. In Collinstown you follow the signposts for the lake which is 3 kilometres outside the town.
  • Lough Owel, Mullingar (not on calendar 2013/14)
    • Getting there: drive (or cadge a lift). Look out for a car park with picnic tables on your left a few miles after Mullingar on the N4.
  • Low Rock, Malahide
    • Getting there: Car or Bus; a 5-10 minute walk north of Portmarnock.
  • Windsurfers Pier, Dun Laoghaire
    • Getting there: Dart to Salthill/Monkstown, from there cross the bridge over the railway, turn right and then left into the car-park & picnic area.
  • Sandycove
    • Getting there: Dart to Glenageary Station – head seaward and ask anyone for directions to the 40 Foot.
  • Seapoint
    • Getting there: Dart to Salthill/Monkstown, from there a 5 minute walk heading north from Dart station to Martello Tower, cross the bridge over the railway and follow the coastal path.
  • South Wall, Ringsend
    • Getting there: easiest by car or bike. Ensure you plan your route in advance, as it can be confusing to get there.
  • Wicklow Harbour: race generally starts at the north end of the harbour, a 5 minute walk from the town centre.
    • Getting there: a particularly scenic railway trip. Plenty of car parking available nearby too.

Dublin Swimming Club cannot take responsibility for public transport timetable or route changes. The above are provided for information purposes only.

The bulk of the Dublin area races are co-ordinated by the Leinster Open Water Sea Committee. The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA), Cork Masters and other clubs organise races in other parts of the country.

Both Dublin Swimming Club's teams have been winners of the Open Water league, although the women’s team is currently doing better.

When does the season start?

Sea races usually start in in early June and finish in mid-September. A detailed calendar is made available by the Open Sea Committee shortly before the season starts.

Typical water temperatures are listed in our open water survey.

Top Tips

We hope the following tips will be helpful to novice swimmers:

  • Talk to other swimmers and ask club members for advice.
  • Train at least once a week in the pool, doing a minimum 2,000m session, in the lead up to the races.
  • Starting off, you should choose shorter distance swims, or pick days when the weather is better.
  • Ask a fellow club member to swim the race alongside you for your first race.
  • The marker buoys can be difficult to spot at times. If your eyesight is poor, consider getting prescription or other goggles which help improve your sight.
  • While wetsuits are not allowed, full body swimming suits offer some protection from jellyfish.
  • Swim straight: If you only swim an extra 3% in 1500m you have almost covered an extra 50m. Learn to look up every 6-14 strokes. 
  • Breathe bilaterally in training – it will help give you a more naturally straight stroke (even if you only breathe to one side in the sea).
  • Wear two hats (for insulation).
  • If the day is cold or windy, bring a decent hat and jacket for after the race.
  • Bring a flask of tea or warm drink. Have a sip beforehand and more afterwards.
  • Enjoy!

Open Water Videos

Check out the following from recent years:

Killiney 2012 Dublin SC race

The Liffey Swim 2013 - from the bank and in the water

Sandycove 2013 near the 40 Foot

Portmarnock 2013- wonderful beach

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Race 2012

Bull Wall 2011

South Wall 2010 - photo montage

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