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FROM A TO SEA: Books, bonnets and Dublin dips | #3

June 23rd, 2022 8:00 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Steve Redmond at the launch of his book Fastnet: the Final Challenge. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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Siobhan Cronin is The Southern Star's editor. She's also an avid sea swimmer and in her regular blog 'From A to Sea' she documents her sea swimming journey. So get the wetsuit on, dive in and join her on her aquatic adventures

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SO we’re well into June now and the swimming gear routine has mimicked our everyday clothes. I’ve packed away the thick-ribbed booties and gloves for another few months, and out came my light socks and gloves, and I can get away with just one silicone cap, as opposed to two.

Let’s just say my super duper black neoprene bonnet is definitely at the back of the closet til November or December at the earliest.

But despite the recent warm spell, you will rarely get me ditching the gear altogether.

I took a trip to the famous 40ft in Dublin last weekend – or should that be Forty Foot? I’m never quite sure.

Siobhán getting into the famous 40ft swimming area in Dublin.

Anyway I hadn’t been there for about 20 years, and my god, but it’s a popular spot now. It was a few days before Bloomsday so we had to negotiate a throng of men dressed as dandy Joyce outside the Martello tower – and that was after driving around for 20 minutes to get parking.

We really don’t appreciate what we have in West Cork, folks!

When we landed at the dressing area, it was packed with all sorts of swimmers – dippers, divers, families, girl gangs, teenage boy daredevils – and us.

But, in fairness, there was a great Sunday morning atmosphere and you couldn’t help but pick up on the energy.

Me and my buddy Dee, who I am trying to convert to more regular dips, carried up the blue tub and out came the never ending supply of accessories – including the must-have Fog Off to keep our goggles clear.

A lovely young South African man beside me was fascinated with how long we were taking to actually get in the water, especially when he emerged after his own swim and found us still in the same spot, discussing the merits of the easiest way to get sticky wetsuits off (IN the water, of course!).

Much to his amusement, we eventually took the plunge – and found ourselves the only wet-suited duo in a sea of chatty south Dubliners, who all appeared to be more into the conversation that any actual activity.

We didn’t want to show them up, of course, so we duly bobbed about too, and my Apple watch confirmed what I suspected – after 30 minutes in the water, I had gone – yes zero kms in total!!

Still, it was a very enjoyable experience if a little overcrowded for my liking.

Leaving later, a group of male cyclists admonished me because they hadn’t anticipated my good deed of pulling over to let them pass and they, bizarrely, almost collided with me.

I guess they are not used to such niceties in the capital!

I couldn’t wait to return to the huge variety of swimming spots in West Cork, the space, the clear blue seas and the expectation of civility on the roads, but as luck would have it, I was struck down with 'The Covid,' so it’s going to be the longest gap for me without a swim since lockdown, as isolation requires a minimum of seven days in quarantine, followed by three days of supreme caution!

I busied myself finishing off Steve Redmond’s excellent book, which he launched recently on his Fastnet swim. For those of you who don’t know our local hero, Ballydehob-based Steve was the first man to swim seven notorious ocean channels, and not happy with that, in 2020 he became the first man to swim from Baltimore to the Fastnet – and back! A feat of 44km.

Steve pictured with Noel Browne at the launch of his book Fastnet The Final Challenge. (Photo: Anne Minihane).

As well as being a supreme endurance swimmer, he is also one of the most gentle and polite men I have ever interviewed. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, he can add ‘accomplished writer’ to his arsenal of skillsets.

For anyone with even a passing interest in swimming, the sea, or any endurance sport, his book is a page-turner. It’s not just about the Fastnet swim.

It’s about each of the Seven Oceans swims that he completed to get there. And he didn’t achieve them all in the first attempt, either, as tides and conditions have such a major part to play in their success, or otherwise.

And it’s not just about swimming – it’s about personal relationships and testing them, facing your demons, and pushing your body, and most of all, gratitude for what we can achieve when we focus. I can highly recommend it.

And you can read my recent interview with him here.

And here’s a podcast interview he graciously gave me after the Fastnet challenge in 2020:

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