Some do it for charity, others simply because it’s always been part of a family tradition; whatever the reason, a Christmas Day swim always seems like a great idea… until you actually reach the edge of the water.
Nevertheless, it’s something thousands of Irish people go through with at beaches and swimming spots all over the country. Tens of thousands more turn up to show their ‘support’ — shaking their heads at the brazen bathers and laughingly shouting encouragement.
Everyone’s got their theory about how best to prepare for the plunge (usually involving tots of rum or whiskey), and the best way to regain a regular human temperature afterwards (again with the whiskey). But what’s the official advice? We got on to the folks at Water Safety Ireland — here’s what they told us…
1. If you’re organising a charity swim, make sure to give the details to your local Coast Guard unit and gardaí first.
2. Appoint a ‘safety officer’ to oversee the event, and who will have the ultimate responsibility for deciding if the swim can go ahead.
3. Don’t take a chance on running the swim if the weather deteriorates — defer it to a different day.
4. It is a fallacy that alcohol will keep you warm when entering the water; in fact it has the reverse effect and could well kill you. IWS says it “strongly recommends that no alcohol be taken either before the swim or after the swim”.
5. “Make sure you have safe access and exit points from the water”… In other words, don’t thoughtlessly throw yourself into the sea without a plan for how to get out!
6. And the final word of advice: “Swimmers’ remaining in the water for extended periods in a gesture of bravado is not acceptable. The message is ‘Get In, Get Out and Warm Up’.”
So there you have it. Settling down to some sort of turkey and ham based meal at some point in the afternoon might be advisable too…