Two keen swimmers embark on an adventure to produce a book that bubbles up Ireland's best swimming spots.
Writer Brendan Mac Evilly, pictured left, and actor/producer Michael O’Reilly, pictured right, met 18 months ago while working at the Irish Writers Centre. At some point they realized they both shared a love of coastal swimming and decided to use their combined talents to collaborate on a book that has set them off on an adventure together to highlight sea swimming from Dublin to Donegal. As described on their At Swim Kickstarter page, they are “two foolhardy travelers set out to uncover some of Ireland’s finest swimming spots – be it cove, pier, rock face, tidal pool or cliff edge.” As of this writing, the Kickstarter has been successfully funded, they are on their journey, and the book is scheduled to ship November 2015. We decided to ask them some questions about their ambitious — and enviable — athletic and artistic journey.
Are you both life-long swimmers?
Mac Evilly: We have both swum in the sea from an early age — Brendan along with his family in Kerry on summer holidays and Michael in ‘The Captains’ in Skerries with his father and brothers. It’s always been part of our lives. When you learn to swim early in life you have that skill forever, and while we have been busy with other interests, we are forever returning to the sea for that unmistakable invigoration.
Is the water warm or cold?
I don’t know if it’s because we are in the sea every day but it doesn’t take as much out of us as it did early on. I think we are acclimatizing to 7 and 8 degrees — about 44ºF. In fact I’d go as far as to say at certain times it’s almost balmy.
What is the best place you’ve swum so far?
I think swimming with the Wexford Masters off Baginbun beach was an absolute treat- the people involved were gracious with their time and information also they shared their Wagon Wheel biscuits and hot flask of tea afterwards. Brendan truly enjoyed the serenity of Hawk Cliff — Vico Baths in Dublin.
What hazards have you encountered? Sand in the camera? Dangerous conditions?
Sharp rocks underfoot, hidden seaweed, and Weaver fish, you stand on them and they insert a fine needle in your foot that can be painful and difficult to remove.
Have you left your family and friends behind to do this?
Yes, we both have a great many friends supporting our efforts. You need that input, those words of encouragement before you head off on any adventure. And our families are delighted that we are producing a book on the subject of swimming-something everybody can relate too.
Is anyone else traveling with you or just you two?
We are traveling on our own but we have asked friends and family members to joins us for a day or a weekend in particular location.. As much to share the experience as well as to buy us fish and chips and 99’s.
What’s your best tip for swimming in the sea?
Local knowledge, we try and contact fellow enthusiast before attempting a swim in unknown waters. There can be rip tides and undertow so gaining any insider info is vital. We also believe you should swim with a buddy or club. I know people like to swim alone but our preference is for company. Keep an eye out for each other.
How many of the places you are going are beaches vs. just finding a pier or the like?
We don’t want this to be a beach book, We are on the search for any place that people gather to meet the sea, So we will be checking out piers — Wicklow Pier is mighty — rock pools, inlets, coves and any place where it is safe for entry.
What was the most inspiring moment so far?
Having a seal pop its curious head up within metres of our swim path. Those long whiskers and deep brown eyes. I was thrilled, then nervous and then thrilled again. And what is a coastline or a beautiful beach without people? The good folk who use the sea are a level headed and inclusive group, who are very willing to take time out and discuss other spots and swims.
Most unexpected spot so far?
Maybe Magheramore in Wicklow, watching a surfing class be given to a bunch of energetic kids late in the evening as their parents watched on from the shore. Not like screaming parents at a football match, but calm and rosy cheeked.
And Meenogahane in North Kerry was a real treat. We wouldn’t have found it only for the local knowledge of John Edwards who runs Wild Water Adventures in Tralee and showed us around his turf. It’s a small pier with a slip into the water giving easy access, but within 200 years you have a number of rocky channels that you can swim into, with caves at the end of each, and also a small sea arch that you can swim under at most tide levels. The water is crystal clear so you can see lots of sea-life beneath the surface with only a pair of goggles.
Many thanks to Brendon for taking precious time on dry land to answer our questions. To find out more, follow @AtSwimBook on Twitter