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Prevailing In All Conditions

February 7th 2021

Causeway Coast

Charity AWARE

Swim Distances over the past 3 nights

Feb 4th 1.46km

Feb 5th 1.40km

Feb 6th 1.29km

THANK YOU FOR CONTINUALLY SHARING AND DONATING. Donations now over the £8000 mark!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/al-mennie


AWARE https://aware-ni.org/



People keep asking if its much easier to swim when there is no surf. Well it is and it isn't. But, its not that simple. Is it easier to get into a good swim stroke?, well yes, but swim technique is only a small part of swimming through the surf in the darkness.


I've found the relatively flat surf nights to be much more difficult to navigate through in the dark than heavy surf nights. The water is much blacker, there is no froth on the surface from the broken waves to pick up any light at all. Any waves are on top of me before I know it. In fact I am in a constant grip of what's coming next when its super calm and black. I know the Atlantic well enough to know to never drop my guard completely. These dark calmer nights are very spooky and often feel mysterious. I wonder what lies below the dark surface as I force my hand into it for another swim stroke, I wonder will my legs catch something that is suspended in the blackness below me. My mind often runs wild, thinking about everything from seals to trees to dead things lurking below the water. Since I started the swims I've seen a couple of dead seal pups, a duck and not far from where I swim a dead pig, all washed up by the tide.


Some nights I do little swimming and more ducking and diving as waves smash around me. Getting into a proper swim stroke on those nights can be almost impossible for any longer than a few seconds at a time. Most of the time I'm on high alert. The sound of surf is filling the air, only the biggest waves breaking the hardest overcome the constant chaos in the air of white water and white noise all around me in the dark. But, those elements distract me from other elements. So, in reality there are never any perfect conditions to swim through darkness. I find I make a plan, then adapt to the conditions and the elements as I go. I always get the swim done, it just rarely goes to plan as I originally set out but I always get it done. I may need to fight a current for longer than expected, I may find there is no current, I may find the current is with me all the way. Most of the time, I cant tell in advance and worrying or over thinking it before I go out there is pretty much a waste of energy. Like the past few nights I haven't been sleeping properly, worrying about things I can't change, a total waste of energy. I eventually accepted them and I'm back on track.


I tend to check the charts, the tide etc and make a judgement call on where and when to swim based on them that give me the most optimal conditions in line with elements that are much bigger than me and beyond my control. Then once I'm out there, I bring in decades of experience to adapt to what is really going on. No chart, prediction system or weather forecast is ever exact, they are predictions, nothing else. So, being so rigid to base my plans wholly on what someone else or a computer is telling me is going to happen would be absolutely stupid. I'm the one in the water, I must trust my judgement over everything else that is available but take everything else on board to varying degrees and be dynamic enough to pick and choose what is relevant to each and every section of each and every swim.


I'm swimming over a distance that means it is impossible to predict what the conditions will be at every sand bank, every waterfall run off, every stream. No one knows that but me. I just don't know until I'm in there. Sometimes a swim distance that often takes about 20 minutes can take less, sometimes much more. So, in the dark I'm trusting my self, my experience and my ability to make good calls over and over again to get the swims complete every time, chipping away at the bigger picture of 100km.


Please if you are reading these blogs, use what I am doing to stay motivated. Keep active, get outdoors if you can and if you cant, open a window at the very least. The outdoors and exercise are great distractions from the world we are living through at the minute. I found a great resource that I think might be of interest to anyone who for some reason maybe cant get outdoors at the minute. Its called BBC Soundscape and you can listen to all sorts of sounds from the outdoors. Take a listen, it might be of use and or help during these times. https://canvas-story.bbcrewind.co.uk/soundscapesforwellbeing/


Remember to look at yourself and those around you for signs that may be of concern. Here is a link to some of the things to look out for on the AWARE website....


https://aware-ni.org/helping-someone-with-depression





Info - I am swimming a total of 100km through the darkness, in the darkest and coldest months of the year off the North Coast of Ireland. My aim...to inspire those who may be struggling in dark times to keep going. I also aim to raise awareness and funds for the depression Charity Aware. We all face dark times in life at some point and it can be extremely overwhelming.


Safety - Please don't think that because I am doing this that you too should do this or something similar. I am very experienced in the sea with knowledge that is only gained through many years of exposure to the sea in all her moods. I have a safety and location system in place including continual contact with people on land every time I swim.

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