High Tide’s Gentle Sea Swimming Group is marking its’ first anniversary this week with more than 100 people who have joined the group since it was set up.
Open Water Swimming Specialist Joe Kennelly developed the “gentle” swimming concept last year, and began facilitating classes for people who wanted to nurture a relationship with their body and the water.
Speaking to SIN News, he said: “Last year I was out for a swim when I noticed a lady getting into a bit of trouble in the water. I went to help her, and thankfully she was alright. The following week she came to visit me at work to thank me and told me she started sea swimming to help herself cope with difficulties she was facing in her life.
“She didn’t know where to begin, didn’t even own a pair of goggles or a cap, and she didn’t have any knowledge of the sea. So, I told her I’d coach a swimming lesson for her, and that’s where it all started.”
The group classes were born after Mr. Kennelly realised he wanted to help other people find “comfort, solace and self-fulfillment” in the water.
The classes at the Big Beach in Salthill now welcome a crowd of all ages and swimming abilities, and help people to explore the “beauty” of the water, swim lightly, and spend time together as a group.
Mr. Kennelly is passionate about the mental health benefits from sea swimming, citing that you can leave your personal stresses at the shore.
He said: “The way that the brain reacts when you get in the water is invigorating, and that is what is so special about it. The adrenaline rush is great for your mental health. Great friendships have been made over the last year too, and we had a party after our last class with lots of cake and coffee to mark the special day.”
Originally from West Clare, Mr. Kennelly has been swimming every day for 40 years ever since his father brought him swimming for the first time.
He said: “We are all equal once you put on your bathing suit. Social class, race, weight, your wealth or your background don’t matter anymore. We are all the same.”