A sea swimming experience
TAKING a dip in the
ocean is a popular activity in Inishowen. Many are
taking the plunge around our coast each day and
believe swimming in the sea offers many health
benefits. Sea water is known to be good for
the skin and has been shown to have a positive
effect on mental health.
This week the Marine Institute's Oceans of Learning
series explores the link between the ocean and our
health and wellbeing, including the benefits of sea
Niall Meehan, a designer and photographer based in
Wicklow, is also an avid year-round sea swimmer.
Niall shares why sea swimming is so important to
Photo courtesy of Niall Meehan, Sea
The Sea to Me by
I sometimes wish I listened more. If I did I
would have the perfect story to illustrate my
relationship with the sea. A few years ago I was at
an event where a very learned person was talking. It
was evening time in the middle of June — therefore I
would have been up since about 4:30am for the #swimrise.
(Mitigating circumstances right there). Learned
Person was describing a concept in 'didn't hear'
philosophy where you don't name the bird. If you
name the bird its song becomes that name and yields
the opportunity for other expression. He may well
have said something totally different, but that was
what I heard. And it sounded precisely like the sea
and me - not precise at all.
I don't ask or expect. I don't crave the glorious
summer sunrises over glassy seas. I don't spurn the
freezing February mornings with their numbing
north-easterlies. I am happy to take what it gives.
As our relationship has flourished I have come to
the realisation that I don't need to put a label on
this bird. I have realised the symbiotic
relationship between fragile human and the might of
the sea doesn't need to be any more complex than
acceptance and giving. (By the way I bags #swimbiotic).
I accept I am not a fish, a seal or even a humble
barnacle - I am a visitor in this briny world and I
play by the rules. Love and respect for the sea in
I know there are
some who describe their relationship with the sea in
spiritual terms and I get that. However for me it
evokes visceral feelings. It connects me to the
natural world in a very immediate and instinctive
way. It makes me feel alive. So while my swim buddy
on any given day may be having a spiritual
experience, I on the other hand will be wearing my
here and now t-shirt. We are though, connected by
our shared experience.
A fundamental aspect of my sea swimming experience
is the connection that I have with the people I swim
with. We are connected through friendship and the
will to support and accept each other in a
community. I have no doubt that our group - based in
Greystones, Co. Wicklow - is no different to any of
the many similar groups dotted around the country.
In fact I know it, as I have met many of them. When
I am floating about in my little patch of water I
know they are doing the same in their water, and we
are connected. Similarly the sea connects me -
digitally - to swimmers beyond my horizon. Sometimes
on a clear day as I leave my house to go swimming I
can make out the Welsh mountains and feel connected
to the swimmers in the lakes of Snowdonia. I feel
connected to Cornwall; to Scilly; to Brighton,
Walberswick, Cullercoats, Portobello, Oronsay and
Tiree - just a small sampling from our next door
My cleansing and fulfilling daily swim has now also
become a new outlet for self-expression. Through my
Sea Studio photographs I am striving to connect on
an emotional and experiential level with the viewer.
I want the viewer to experience the scene as if they
were there - not looking at a sea scape, but being
in a sea scape.
The sea to me is about connection: internally with
myself; externally locally with my community and
across the world through my citizenship of a
borderless, pan-global nation of swim tribes. It has
made my world bigger. Tap in, go for a swim,
For more information on the Marine Institute's
Oceans of Learning series, view the resources
Our Ocean: Our Health and Wellbeing on