For more than four years, a group of locals in Greystones, County Wicklow, have been meeting daily at sunrise to swim in the Irish Sea. On 11th May, they organised a “big” swimrise, which saw hundreds of gather at dawn to wade into the water together, including ‘The Body Coach’ Joe Wicks.
One regular swimriser is OSS Swim Champ, graphic designer and photographer Niall Meehan, known on Instagram as Niall Verso. “The swimrise group came together organically, growing from a handful of people to a loose group of up to 30: young and old, all shapes and sizes,” he says. “The glue that hold the group together is Steve and Dave Flynn, of local cafe the The Happy Pear. They bring tea and treats to the beach every morning, and enthusiastically spread the word about swimrise throughout their substantial online community – very often attracting a diverse array of visiting swimmers.
“On the 11th of May, the swimmers met at The Happy Pear café and, en masse, marched the 500m to The Cove. The date coincided with WellFest, which meant there were plenty of high profile health and wellness practitioners in town who made it out to Greystones to enjoy swimrise, including Joe Wicks, Tony Riddle and Richie Norton.
“Dryrobe sent representatives and a film crew to make a short film of the event. Collections were made for Pieta House – suicide and self-harm crisis centres with locations across Ireland – as part of their Darkness into Light campaign.”
Below, some of the event’s better-known participants share their experience, alongside Niall’s typically sublime photography. If you organise your own swimrise this weekend, be sure to hashtag the OSS on Instagram.
“I swim in the sea almost everyday of the year, unless I am away travelling. It is one of the anchor tenets of my day: it helps me connect with nature, the cold water brings me back to the present moment and, most importantly, I get to spend time with friends. There is a wonderful swimrise community, we have great craic, and it’s amazing to start the day together. The sense of community reminds you of what’s important in life.
“I think sunrise is a reminder of the beauty in every day, that heavenly golden light, you forget about anything else in the world. There is something really magical and transformative about it. There is a sense of baptism, dipping in that cold water and facing your fears. It’s something that I love and it is one of the centres of my day. It’s not just a healthy life-style, it’s life. Pretty much every morning I’ll swim in the sea, then go train, go have brekkie with my wife and kids and then take them to school. A perfect start to the day.
“We do big swimrises a number of times each year, it’s a great way to enlarge the community and bring people together to share the simple thing of swimming in the sea at sunrise”.
“This is my second ever attempt at cold water immersion in the Irish Sea. I came here in January this year. That was a really rough morning, the waves were massive, and I lasted about 45 seconds. But today was a lot calmer and I nearly cracked after about a minute. I was thinking about getting out, but someone said keep breathing and your body will start to warm, and it really did. It was a weird sensation, but my body started to warm up from the inside – my feet and hands were still very cold – but I pushed through. I lasted about five minutes – I’m quite happy with that. You feel alive when you come out, you feel all tingly, it’s a nice feeling.
“I definitely wouldn’t have got up and done it on my own, but the fact that I saw everyone else doing it and I felt that it’s a really nice thing to be a part of. I live in Richmond, there are some outdoor lidos, but I will think about going down to Brighton to friends and doing a swimrise there. It’s nice doing it at sunrise, it seems to have a bit more meaning”.
“I came to Greystones for a good dose of Vitamin C-ommunity and got hit up with some high grade Vitamin E-motional lotion to rub all over my being! Hundreds of people rocked up to the beach to experience swimrise, I’d say they all went away with a good rub of the emotional lotion too. Greystones just keeps giving.
“Through experiences like these, I, at 44, get to tick multiple wellbeing boxes – I get my physical, social and spiritual needs met. The more natural the physical, social and spiritual experience, the more I align with and connect to the macro state of wellbeing we all love talking about.”