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Thinking of partaking in a Christmas swim? Here are the dos and don'ts

“Get in, get out, warm up.”
Dec 24th 2016, 8:30 PM 21,575 12

EVERY CHRISTMAS DAY, hundreds head to the sea in nothing but their swim gear or underwear in aid of charity.

These people, some donning Christmas hats or Santa beards, plunge themselves in cold water for the ‘high’ they get from cold water; and the stimulation it gives to your senses.

(There are of course, the few who are averse to the experience and do it because their family dragged them along.)

Cold winter waters can cause “cold shock” and hypothermia can set in within minutes, overwhelming the fittest of swimmers.

Many participants will not have swum since the summer and the temperature of the water has now dropped considerably (at this time of year will be below ten degrees).

25/12/2013 Forty Foot Christmas Day Swims Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

For those of you thinking of taking part this year, here’s some advice on how to prepare.


  • Ensure that you have safe access and egress with appropriate shallow shelving or ladders as appropriate
  • Elderly people should be mindful that steps leading into the water might be dangerous due to the increased growth of algae in wintertime
  • Ensure organisers of swims on Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day or New Year’s Day that they provide comprehensive details of each event to the Irish Coast Guard and local gardaí
  • Each event should have a Safety Officer appointed, who will advise those concerned on safety and have the ultimate responsibility for making decisions in relation to the swim being on or off on the day
  • Make use of any nearby rescue equipment such as a ringbuoy and in the event of an emergency call the emergency services on 999 or 112.


  • Don’t continue with the swim if sea conditions deteriorate – do not take a chance and postpone it for another day. If you see a person in difficulties do not attempt a rescue for which you are not trained
  • Don’t take alcohol before the swim. It is a fallacy that alcohol will keep you warm when entering the water; in fact it has the reverse effect and could kill you.
  • 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”.

Let’s be safe out there…

Read: ‘One of the worst infestations of Portuguese Man-of-War in over 100 years’

Read: “Tens of thousands” expected to protest water charges (and the government’s Apple decision)

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Gráinne Ní Aodha


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