Wild Swimming Microadventure Challenge
I first encountered the idea of ‘Microadventures’ listening to the Rough Guide’s podcast, A Rough Guide to Anywhere. They had National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year, Alistair Humphreys, on as a guest for their sixth episode. I instantly loved the idea of mini adventures which are cheap, don’t take a lot of time and are fun.
A Microadventure is an easy way for people with limited time to still experience a little bit of adventure. If you want to read more about Humphreys’ concept, you could check out his website or buy his book ‘Microadventures’. I was having a read of the website and felt inspired. But what should I do? Start small or big? I could bivvy out on Black Mountain over looking Belfast or cycle the 16mile long North Down Coastal Path, maybe take a swim in one of NI’s many beautiful beaches. That last one sounds good…
I like to swim but don’t go to the leisure centre very often (if at all) and generally don’t swim outdoors at home except on boating holidays or for the odd jump in and out for New Year’s Day. Northern Ireland and Ireland have some beautiful beaches, rivers and lakes and I only know some of them from one perspective – the land. I decided to challenge myself to wild swim more whilst discovering more of Ireland’s scenic coastline and rivers. Starting this July, as a Microadventure challenge I will Wild Swim in a different stretch of water at least once a month for a year. To get me started, and as seeing as it’s summer, I thought I’d get a couple of swims in this month.
Whiterocks Beach, Portrush
This Blue Flag beach was the perfect place to start my challenge. Its golden sands run straight into tall imposing cliffs, just off Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. Under Dunluce Castle I had two fellow adventurers. The beach is a haven for water sports such as swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding, but today we were surfing and body boarding. Some fellow beach goers were braving the waves in swim suits but we opted for wetsuits. I don’t know how I’m going to do this in the winter!
Susi, Me and Patricia (Whiterocks, Portrush)
For it being such a sunny day, there was actually some pretty decent surf. I am rubbish surfer so I spent most of my time falling off but the body boarding was amazing fun. The moment you feel yourself catching a wave all those falls are worth it! The exhilaration wears off quickly though when you realise every single other person in the water is a great on a board.
I’ll never be an expert surfer, I will definitely surf again though. Fingers crossed I’ll stay on a bit longer next time!
Gorge Walking, Isle of Man
I know I said Ireland but this is a bit of a bonus. I was away with St. Anne’s Scout Group on our annual summer camp to the Isle of Man. I thought this would be a good opportunity to expand on my wild swimming and join the Scouts for a spot of Gorge Walking.
Gorge Walking, Isle of Man
We were fitted with wetsuits at The Venture Centre and jumped on the transport to the river. I didn’t get its name. We split into two groups and my group went up stream. To be honest it wasn’t that extreme (it is for children after all) but it was made good craic by the quality of the instructors. They had a variety of different games and challenges for most sections of the river. We had a good laugh seeing who could run the farthest into the water, trying to swim against the current on faster flowing sections, climbing waterfalls, completing trust falls into bottomless pools and crawling behind the ‘Iron Curtain’.
St. Anne’s Scouts tackling a difficult section of the gorge as a team
If you happen to be on the Isle of Man, perhaps as part of your own Microadventure, Gorge Walking with the Venture Centre is definitely something you should look into.
Lough Allen, Co. Leitrim
I spent four days in Leitrim assessing the participants of Scouting Ireland’s Venture Challenge. The challenge is a five day expedition which teams of two Ventures must cover a minimum distance of 100km on a strict budget whilst keeping a detailed log and completing their own projects. Not so much a ‘Microadventure’ but full scale adventure for these teenagers. Assessment is serious business as I needed to be sure that a minimum standard was maintained all the while remembering that the participants are children trying their best.
Lough Allen, Leitrim
I spent the first two days studying maps and log books, counting kms and adding up budgets but my mind was on the beautiful Lough Allen whose shores were no more than 50m from where I was sitting. Finally at around 8pm on the second day, I got the chance to swim.
This was probably my first actual ‘wild swim’, not surfing or gorge walking, just swimming. After a bit of toe dipping, I discovered the water was actually quite warm despite the late hour! I struggled a little bit on the rocks climbing down a jetty so decided walking straight down the slipway was the best course of action. In front of me lay a sort of floating quay, maybe 20m away. I thought if I could swim to it and back that would be a good start.
The floating quay, my target!
As I waded into the water, I wasn’t wrong before, it really was quite warm. To my left lay a bank of reeds and rushes, I was a bit nervous of going out that way for fear of what may lay beneath the peaty brown water. And to my right was the open waters of the lough.
Swimming in the lough was very exciting, I’m an OK swimmer. That’s one of the reasons I’ve undertaken this Microadventure challenge, to improve. I enjoyed the swim out to the quay. When I arrived I clambered up and got my breath back enjoying the end of the July day’s sun. After a while I jumped back in and swam the length of the floating quay.
Enjoying the last rays of sunset
I was enjoying myself. Warm water, a blue sky and an imminent sunset. I had been in about 10 minutes and was treading water, taking in my surroundings. I hadn’t realised I had floated closer to the reeds and my foot sank into the muddy bottom, I didn’t like that! Don’t make fun of me, I’m new to this! I decided that was enough for my first wild swim and made my way back to the slipway to get dry.
I can’t wait to see where my wild swim Microadeventure takes me in August.
If you have any favourite swimming spots you think I should investigate for my Microadventure year of wild swimming, leave a comment or get in touch on social media. Don’t forget to send photos!