Once a year, many of us attempt to brave the cold waters of the Irish Sea as we take part in the New Year’s Day Dips. The unusual tradition has a longstanding history Island and nationwide, with many of us choosing to do it for an adrenaline rush, or to blow away the hangover from the night before. But how do you stay in the water for longer than five seconds? Scatch that. Why would anyone want to swim in cold water, and all year round, when it’s not summer?
Well, turns out it’s no match for French teacher Carol Le Port, who has an appetite for the sport, shared her inspiration.
How long have you been sea swimming?
I started sea swimming in 1999, so it’s been more than 20 years now. At the time, I was living in Portrush in Northern Ireland as I was studying in Coleraine at the time.
However I did not do any winter swimming until the year after but I did complete my first sea swimming competition there when we had to jump from a boat near a big rock and swim back to the harbour. I just loved it!
When did you decide to start swimming in the sea.
I started to sea swim seriously when I moved to Dublin in 2000 on my own, with no job to go to. In order to make friends I decided to join Dublin swimming club, which is the oldest in the area, and there I met some lovely people, pool and sea swimmers who swam in the sea all year round without a wetsuit, so I decided to give it a go. There I met Molly Molloy who was sea swimming every day of the year and she definitely gave me some great motivation to try to swim all year round, but at that time, once a week was enough for me.
The sea, or any stretch of open water, aren’t always the warmest places to enter every year, unless it’s hot weather! What is the longest you’ve stayed in the water?
My longest swim was 2 ways Windermere, which is meant to be 21 miles but I had to swim a bit longer as it was a bit windy! It took me 12 hours 34 minutes and 54 seconds …. It was great to be supported by a Manx team there who travelled from the Isle of Man to be my kayakers escort. I was spoilt with the Manx support as I have always been. Last year I swam around the Island in stages, a distance of 122kmin 17 days, where I was accompanied by seals, dolphins and my support team, headed by Steve Watt.
Do you prefer to swim in a wetsuit or a swimsuit?
No, I have never swum with a wetsuit! When I started sea swimming in Dublin, none of my friends were wearing one so I didn’t either. My time spent swimming in cold water increased over the years. In 2017 I completed an Ice mile (this is achieved when the water temperature is below 5 degrees Celsius and must be done without a wetsuit) in Cringle reservoir for my birthday. I was lucky to have it organised for me by Nigel Hendy and verified by friends from the International Ice Swimming association. All I had to do was train and not think about the logistics of it.
Who do you swim with when out on the water?
When I arrived on the Isle of Man I was introduced to Mark Gorry by a mutual colleague. Mark also did some sea swimming challenges and from that day onwards, we decided to meet every Sunday morning at 10.30 in Port Erin for a sea swim. As the years went by, the “club” became much bigger but some things don’t change… We are still meeting at the same time.
Where is the best place place to swim around the Island?
Swimming to the Calf of Man is a special one but it needs quite a bit of organisation due to its health and safety. Niarbyl is also a great place to swim. You can explore the caves and it’s just one of the prettiest places on the Island and the water is so crystal clear!
How many New Year’s dips do you do each year?
It varies! In 2021 I did the 4 dips in the South of the Island and in 2020, I completed 20 dips around the Isle of Man with my friend Steve Watt ( we are always both up for a challenge!).