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Swim Briefing




To download the 2020 Race Brief click here




is from 8am until 9am - Please don't leave it until the last minute to arrive for registration.  You will only add stress to yourself prior to the swim if there is a long delay.  Competitor bags and t-shirts can be collect at this time.
All our swims are run from the waters edge, find the water and you'll find us.
will be held 10 minutes before each swim start but information will be posted onsite all day.  This will include a detailed description of the course.  But all our courses are swam clockwise, with large (4ft high) buoys marking the way.  Course shapes vary from location to location due to venue shapes. You can find links to course maps on each events home page.


Swim Times will be displayed on the and our facebook page 24 hours after the swims and posted on our information boards at the lake soon after the race.  Plus a race clock will be in position for you to read. 


We aim to provide a safe and fun environment for everyone to enjoy the freedom and challenge of open water swimming. If for any reason you experience difficulties while taking part in our swims, roll onto your back an raise a hand in the air. The buoyancy of your wetsuit will keep you afloat and you will be rescued immediately by one of our kayak safety crew or our fast rescue boat, and transferred to the shore.

Brightly coloured swim caps to aid visibility while in the water are supplied and must be worn.

Kayak Safety Marshals are in place all around the course

Fast Rescue Boat is on scene manned by a qualified beach lifeguard.

Trained Aquatic Rescue & First Aid staff are on site for every event

Wetsuits are advised.

If you have an impediment or medical ailment that the saftey staff should know of you must inform them prior to the swim start.

Swim Tips

Open Water Swimming Tips
Swimming in open-water (river, lake or ocean) is very different to swimming in the clear warm waters of a swimming pool. Besides adjustments that you may need to make to your stroke technique (which we will discuss shortly), the biggest factor for most people is adjusting to this strange environment and overcoming the fear and anxiety that it often represents. The simple tips below, can help master the transition of converting yourself from an efficient pool swimmer into an effective open-water swimmer.

1. Get used to wearing your wetsuit.

Some say there can be a 10% increase in speed from a good suit but one thing that is certain is its warmer. But many new users feel that whilst they love the buoyancy and warmth,swimming in it just feels plain 'weird'.

Complaints of heavy arms and shoulders are common. The reasons for these problems boil down to one of two things:

- the fit of your wetsuit / how you put it on

- the technique that you use when swimming in your suit

Getting your suit fitted for you is absolutely essential and we'd always recommend trying a suit on first before buying it; you're taking a gamble with an online purchase.

Even with the right fitting suit, many people hurry to put their suit on before a race and so fail to put it on properly. Make sure you pull the suit as high up into  your crotch as possible and get a partner to 'shoe-horn' your shoulders in by pulling the suit on around your upper back.

Once on, a little bit of water down the neck of the suit will both prepare you for the shock of the cold and also provide a little bit of lubrication between you and the suit.

The wetsuit inevitably constrains your stroke technique somewhat. Try adapting your stroke to combat this - don't aim for a really high elbow recovery as you'll simply fatigue your shoulders by working against the material of the suit. Instead, adopt a slightly straighter arm recovery technique and swing your arms over the top. Make an effort not to force this movement…work with the suit, not against it.

If you are someone with good natural buoyancy and feel your legs/feet are too high and unbalanced in a suit then you try raising your head slightly when you swim and looking slightly further forward. This will help bring your legs down a touch and give you better balance with the suit on. This problem is more common with women as they carry their buoyancy lower down their body.

2. Overcome Anxiety

The most important aspect of the freestyle stroke technique is breathing. Pure and simple. If your breathing technique is not efficient in the pool, then you will also struggle in the open-water.

Focus on your body and your breathing. If you do struggle with your breathing and relaxation in the pool, don't see this as stopping you swimming in open water. Instead. see it as a prompt for improving your breathing.

Anxiety in open-water is normally caused by extrinsic factors in the watery environment around you - depth, cold, not being able to see far (if at all!) and having other swimmers in close proximity to you. All of these factors lead to the same physical response - holding your breath.

Holding your breath immediately increases the anxiety further, things start to feel out of control and you may even feel a sense of panic. For many their race is off to a very bad start - or even finishes there and then. Focus instead on intrinsic factors that you can control, for instance breathing, hand entry and smooth strokes. At the race start, block out everything that's happening around you - all those things can take care of themselves. Instead, just focus on yourself, the starter and your first 'sight'.

If you do start to panic during the race then just pause or flip over onto your back for a few seconds. Take a few deep easy breaths, recompose yourself and keep those deep easy breaths going when you start swimming again.

Everyone feels some anxiety in open water, even great swimmers - it's normal. So believe in yourself, you can beat it.

3. Swimming Straight

Sighting techniques are needed to navigate accurately around the swim course. No matter how good your sighting technique, it always costs energy or speed to sight whilst swimming. This is because when you lift your head, your bum and legs want to sink.  But not swimming straight means swimmer further! So you need to find the balance that best suits you.  Only practise will do that.

Find the balance -
1) sighting creates extra drag and slows you down
2) if you're not swimming straight you are wasting lots of
energy (and speed) constantly changing direction.

Breathing to one side in training can cause problems. To swim straight you need a symmetrical stroke and the natural way to become symmetrical is with bilateral breathing. Maybe that's not what you wanted to hear if you find bilateral a challenge but that's the truth. Spend time developing your bilateral breathing in the pool and it will have a massive benefit on your speed in open-water.

4. Master the Art of Sighting

When sighting, raise your head as little as possible to see ahead. Sighting - lifting your eyes out of the water to see where you are going - is very important to navigate accurately around a swim course.

You may think that sighting is as simple as lifting your head to look forward and  see where you are going but it needs a great deal of skill and technique to do it well. The world's best triathletes and open-water swimmers can sight without disrupting the rhythm of their stroke or their body position in the water, and this is key.

Time your sighting just before you're going to take a breath. So if you're about to breathe to your left, lift your eyes out of the water just before by pressing down lightly on the water with your lead arm (in this case it'll be your right). Only lift up enough to get your
eyes just out of the water. Then turn your head to the left to breathe, as you do so, letting it drop down into the water to a normal position.

By keeping a low head position when sighting and then breathing to the side you can keep normal body rotation in your stroke. This helps keep the rhythm of your stroke going and your speed up.

It should be a fluid, rhythmic part of the stroke as opposed to 3 separate movements.  There's a good chance you won't see exactly where you need to be going with one look forward - but don't panic if you don't see much first time. Over several strokes build up a picture in your mind of what you are looking at and where you are going. It will gradually become clearer and clearer as you progress forward. It does depend on water conditions and visibility but normally you'd look to sight about every 9 strokes.

Do your homework in advance of the race and know the layout of the course. Most importantly, be familiar with large immovable objects on the horizon to sight and know how they line up with the course buoys round the course. For instance, the first buoy may be 500m from the start and it's unlikely you'll be able to see it in the melee of the race start. So, knowing a large tree/ building/ hill on the horizon and where it lines up with the first buoy will help ENORMOUSLY. Sight on it instead of the buoy and you'll hit the target in no time.

Make no mistake, efficient sighting technique and the ability to swim straight can make a huge difference to your swim time. In a race no-one wants to swim any further than they have to! Time spent in the water is the best way to master it.

5. Advanced sighting techniques involve using your environment.

Sighting is not just off the buoys, once you've seen the buoy take note of
anything large behind it. For example trees, hills, houses, the sun! etc.
If a mountain is in the same direction as the buoy you are aiming for, use
it. If its bigger it'll be easier to spot and therefore you'll spend less
time with your head in the air.

You can also use side references, such as in Glendalough where the cliffs
run parallel with you. So if you take note of it on your breathes you can
use it to stay heading the direction you want.

Also you can use chop and waves to stay on course. The wind may whip up
waves on any water surface, and these wont change in the time it takes you
to swim a race. So take note of where waves are hitting on you as you head
toward the buoy. Then keep them hitting that spot and you should stay on
course. For example, you are heading out to the first buoy and the wind and
therefore the waves are coming from your right and a little to the front.
They are hitting you on the right ear and shoulder. Keep them there, if the
waves start hitting more onto the top of your head or onto your side then
you've gone off course.

6. Pack swimming

Open water swimming in a large group is exciting and different, and it takes some time to get used to.  Being surrounded by up to 300 other swimmers is an amazing experience, but can also be intimidating, so pick your start point based on what you want. We do a floating swim start so you can choose where you'd like to be when the buzzer goes and everyone starts swimming. If you are out to 'win' then front and center is where you want to be. Its the shortest distance to the first buoy and there's fewer people in front of you to pass - buts its also the most competitive area and it means there's hundreds of swimmers behind you should you be slower than you think you are!
If you you're looking for space it can be found at the edge of the pack and the back of the pack, and by going 'wide' around the marker buoys. 
Be considerate, if you don't like being swam over then don't swim over others - there's always someone fast or stronger.
Remember the pack very quickly breaks up so you only need to plan to find your own space at the start line and rounding the marker buoys. 


I've registered, what now?

You will have received a confirmation email acknowledging your entry into the event.  All other communications will be sent by email so please make sure we have a correct email address for you.   Any race info, latest news etc will also be displayed on the race pages.

Do I need to wear a wetsuit?

We always strongly advised the use of wetsuits for safety reasons. However, swimmers will have the option to wear a wetsuit or not.

What are your rules regarding water temperature?

We dont have any!!  If you are brave enough to swim without a wetsuit in Ireland thats your choice. We do however recommend them if are new to open water.

I've never swam in open water before; can I enter an Open Water Swimmer event?

Of course, this series of events was created to provide a platform for any ability of swimmer to take to the open water. Several distances and environments are available in some of the Irelands most stunning water ways. Most people swimming this year will be taking to the open water for the first time, so don’t worry you won’t be alone…

How old do I have to be?

13 years old on the day of the event.  HOWEVER we would ask anyone between 13 and 17 to contact us as we may require you to bring your own COMPETENT kayaker that will accompany them for the swim

Is the water clean?

Each stretch of water at our venues is tested by the local county councils Environment Agency. The tests cover the microbiological quality of the water; regular samples are taken to show up any water borne nastys such as Weils Disease and Blue Green Algae that might affect the safety of our swimmers.

What happens if I get tired, cold, or I’m struggling in the water and need assistance?

At all our events we stick to water safety norms;

Safety kayaks at regular intervals,
Powerboat assistance,
Ample and Experienced medical cover on standby,
Ability to track swimmers movements in and out of the water,
Strict rules on water temperature and wet suit use.

This means you’re never out of sight and our rescue team will be on hand to assist should the need arise.

What happens if the swim is cancelled?

While we have done our up most to choose locations and venues to prevent the issue that often cause postponement or cancellation in open water swimming events, the very nature of open water swimming does mean cancellation may ensue due to unforeseen weather or unsuitable water conditions. In such cases we will firstly look to postpone the event to another date. If such a situation arises we will contact you directly by email in the days leading up to the event, please make sure your email address is correct at the time of entry. Public announcements will also be made on the website, Facebook and via the media (local and national newspapers and local radio).

I’ve entered a swim but I can’t do it now, can I have a refund? Or can my friend take my place?

We do not offer transfers between people, this is for the safety of the participant. The swimmer who entered online must register in person prior to their swim wave taking place, our team will perform an ID check, if the ID check fails then you will not be able to swim.

What lies beneath?

Ireland may have cooler water but we also have nothing that's 'going to get you'  - a fair trade we think.  Plus being in the wild is what it is all about.

When does online registration close?

All online registrations close at midsay on the Thursday before the event or sooner if the event sells out.  But if you want a t-shirt and goodie bag you must register at least seven days before the event

What do I have to do to get the free goodie bag?


Where do I find the swim on the day?

All our events are run from the lake shore, find the water and you'll find

 In Glendalough – we are shore side at the main viewing beach on the upper

 In Lough Key – we run from the slip way located on the right hand side of
the main car park at the Lough Key Forest Park

In Hodson Bay - we run from right in front of the Hodson Bay Hotel and just past the marina.

How do I get my race number on the day?

We work from the name you submitted online, so once you've registered
that's all we need to assign your race number and goodie bag on the day of the event. All this will happen from a registration tent beside
the shore. Registration has a time window, but you're not the only person
planning on leaving it until the last five minutes! So be warned, arrive
'just in time' like everyone else and you'll be under pressure to make the
start line, and that's not the best way to prepare for a swim.

Can I bring a friend to kayak \ SUP with me?

Some people like to bring a friend to support them from a kayak, be it
with drinks or moral support. And we have no problem with that, please come

But the kayakers need to be competent. Our safety teams are there to
provide cover for swimmers not people falling out of kayaks. Please don't
endanger swimmers by distracting our safety team from them – kayakers know
your limits!

All kayakers must have buoyancy aids and sea worthy boats. All Kayakers
need to make themselves known to the safety officer in the speed boat prior
to the race start.

All Kayakers will be seen by swimmers as a safe haven, so if a swimmer
signals you, you must provide them a floating support (even if that means
your friend swims on without you).

What is the story with the early bird deals?

There are extensive sliding early bird deals in place for all our swims. In
fact if you were to book all four events with the early bird's greatest
discount you would be getting a whole swim for free. You can see the cut
off dates and prices on the home page

Can I swim both distances on the day for one entry?

That depends on which event you are coming to. In all BUT Glendalough you
can swim both the 750m and 1.5km for the one entry. In fact we encourage it
and most swimmers will do both. There is a hour between the two swims so
plenty of time to recover for the second race.

And why not in Glendalough? We have very strict maximum numbers in
Glendalough and the swims actually fill, so in order not to disappoint
anyone we have to keep people to one entry one event.

The great 3.9km v 3.8km debate

An iron distance is named for the original Ironman branded event in Hawaii.
The first swim was in Waikiki bay as part of the Waikiki rough water swim
and that swim, from get in point to get out, was 2.6miles. So by pure
chance the distance used was 2.6miles. 2.6miles is 3.86km. Rounded up in
Hawaii to the 3.9km course now swam in the modern Kailua-Kona. We set a
Hawaiian 3.9km course

Why the water serpent logo?

Many Irish waterways (and all of our swim locations) have mystical tales of serpents and water dragons dwellings deep in the water.......

Swim Series Championship - how it works?

Open Water Swimmer Ireland Swim Series Champion
Overall Swim Series points system -
Each year the person with the accumulated best results will be awarded the title of Swim Series Champion. 
How it works -
Points are allocated to each swimmer from each swim - all distances and all events.  In Lough Key and Hodson Bay swimmer can swim both events for the one entry. In Glendalough each swim distance must be entered separately.
Maximum points of 200 for a win.

Points for each place after first is calculated by the amount of swimmers in each event. The amount of entries is divided into the 200 and the answer then subtracted from the total for the points earned.
The principle being that you are always giving maximum points for a win and then you are rewarded more points if you have beaten more entries.
Example 1 - 200 \ 20 (swimmers) = 10. 200 – 10 = 190 for 2nd place. 200 – 40 = 160 for 4th  place etc.
Example 2 – 200 \ 135 (swimmers) = 1.48. 200 – 1.48 = 198.52 for 2nd
 place. 200 - 5.92 = 194.08 for 4th place etc.
Example 3 – 200 \ 43 (swimmers) = 4.6. 200 – 4.6 = 195.5 for 2nd place. 200 – 18.4 = 181.60 for 4th place.
Maximum points over all locations is - 1400 points (if all events run)
That is 200 per every 750m and 1.5km in three lakes and 200 for the 3.9km in Glendalough.
The league leader at each event will be swimming in a different colour cap than everyone else.
The over all winner will be awarded their prize and title on the Sunday in Glendalough.
Good luck all. 

Terms and conditions of entry

Open Water Swimmer Ltd, (OWS)

1. Swimming can be strenuous and you must make sure you are in good health. If you have any medical conditions that could be adversely affected by exercise, particularly a heart condition, or if you are in any doubt about your health, you must get clearance from your doctor before participating. For swimmers under the age of 16, a parent or guardian’s consent is required.
2. Open Water Swimmers are nationwide events to be hosted in open water venues around Ireland between June and the end of September.
3. Entrant agrees to be bound by these Terms and Conditions of entry to the Event.
4. Applicants must apply to participate in the Event by completing an online registration form (“Registration”).
5. Applications will be accepted or refused by OWS in their absolute discretion and all decisions of OWS are final. All successful applicants will be notified by way of online confirmation. The completion of Registration as set out above, the payment of the Registration Fee and the receipt of online confirmation (“Entry Confirmation”) shall give the Applicant a right to participate in the Event, subject always to these Terms and Conditions and any rules and Terms and Conditions of the venue.
6. Places for the Event are limited and therefore applications are subject to availability. Applications are processed on a first-come first-served basis in accordance with the rules set out in these Terms and Conditions, or at the sole discretion of OWS.
7. OWS ltd. shall not be responsible for technical, hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed, incomplete, garbled or delayed computer/internet transmissions or other errors or malfunctions of any kind which may prevent communications to and from any of them which may prevent receipt by the Event Organisers of a registration.
8. The payment of the Registration Fee entitles the Entrant to;
* Participate in the Event
* Entry to the relent venue on the day of the OWS session
9. No refunds shall be provided should a Participant fail to take part in the Event, for any other reason save in exceptional circumstances as determined by OWS in their absolute discretion, which shall not include, without limitation, oversight of diary commitments, not acknowledging the full Event scheduling or holidays.
10. If at any time it is discovered that any Entrant should have been ineligible or if the Entrant’s proposed participation in the Event should have been refused or rejected for any reason, OWS reserves the right to disqualify an entrant from the Event and/or to refuse such entry at any time. OWS shall not be liable in any way whatsoever to any Entrant as a result of any such disqualification or refusal.
11. The Events will be held between June and September (or such other dates as the organisers shall determine) at venues across Ireland. Entrants must arrive at the relevant venue at least 60 minutes prior to their session start time.
12. OWS reserves the right to change the format of the Event or to cancel the Event, in whole or in part, without notice or liability to the Entrant. OWS shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any changes to the time, date and/or venues hosting the Event.
13. The Event Organisers will not be liable in any to the Participant in any way for any failure and accuracy of the technology of the timing on the day of the Event.
14. Participants in the Event must adhere at all times to the rules and regulations of the host venue whilst at that venue for the purposes of their participation in the Event. Participants are required to behave responsibly, reasonably and professionally at all times whilst participating in the Event including without limitation refraining from behaviour that may offend standards of public morality or decency or which may be illegal.
16. OWS shall have the irrevocable, exclusive right and licence throughout the world (and, Entrant hereby irrevocably grants OWS such exclusive right and licence) to interview and/or photograph and/or film the Entrant at the Event (or subsequent to the Event as OWS may reasonably require) and to the unlimited use in all current and future media (including without limitation, print, audio, audio visual, virtual media, Internet, mobile telephony and related or successor technologies, CD-ROM and/or DVD) of the Entrant’s name, likeness and image or facsimile image, signature, voice, video and film portrayals and other means of identification of the Entrant, and any biographical or other information or data related to the Entrant (including race times and results), in connection with the production, advertisement, marketing, promotion or sale of the Event and/or the promotion, marketing or advertisement of the Open Water Swimmer Ireland brand.
17. All data provided by Entrants to the Event shall be stored, processed and used in accordance with the Privacy Policy and relevant Data Protection Law and these Terms and Conditions.
18. Entrant acknowledges that participation in the Event involves physical activities and inherent risks and dangers of accidents, personal and bodily injury (including death) and property loss or damage. By completing and submitting a registration form, the Entrant acknowledges and confirms that, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, he or she is healthy and fit to swim, understands and has considered and evaluated the nature, scope and extent of the risks involved, and has voluntarily and freely chosen to participate in the Event entirely at his or her own risk.
19. Save in circumstances where any personal injury or death is caused by the negligence of OWS, OWS holds no liability for any loss or liability of any kind in contract, tort or otherwise howsoever arising out of the Entrant’s participation in the Event or in relation to any services provided pursuant to such participation, to the extent permissible by law.
20. The participant acknowledges that personal information (including medical information entered on registration OR collected by event medical staff during or after the event) can be stored, used and disclosed by OWS in connection with the organisation and administration of the event and for the compilation of anonymised statistical information. The participant acknowledges that if they become ill during or after the event and/or received medical attention or treatment from event medical provider, or any doctor or hospital, they authorise such persons to provide their details (including details of medical treatment) to the Event Organisers or others authorised by the Event Organiser, subject to maintaining appropriate Medical Confidentiality.
21. OWS does not intends to provide any insurance, whether life or medical or liability, for any illness, accident, injury, death, loss or damage that may arise in connection with the attendance at, and/or participation in the Event by each Entrant. Entrant is advised to obtain such insurance themselves if required or desired.
22. The Participant acknowledges and agrees that:
1. Subject to clause 23, the Participant shall:
2. fully indemnify and keep OWS fully indemnified from and against all liabilities, claims, actions, proceedings, loss, damage, costs or expenses suffered or incurred by the Participant; and
3. irrevocably indemnify and hold harmless, and reimburse OWS from and for any sum, costs or expenses (including legal and professional fees) incurred, payable or paid by OWS to any person (including the Participant’s insurers) in connection with any accident, loss, damage or injury (including death) arising out of the Participant’s attendance at, participation in, or training for the Event.
4. Subject to clause 23, OWS shall not be responsible for any losses the Participant suffers as a result of OWS breach unless such losses were reasonably foreseeable to both the Participant and the Event Organisers as at the date of the Participant’s registration for the Event. For the avoidance of doubt, OWS will not be liable to the Participant in contract, tort (including, without limitation, negligence) or otherwise in connection with the Event for loss of revenues, profits, contracts, business or anticipated savings or loss of data; or goodwill or reputation; or any special or indirect or consequential losses; for any personal injury to or death of the Participant;
23. Entrant hereby acknowledges that it is a strict condition of participation in the Event that all mandatory fields within an Entrant’s profile are complete and correct at all times, including without limitation, gender, first name, surname, date of birth, contact address, medical condition information, and emergency contact details. Entrant hereby acknowledges and agrees that this information is required by OWS in order to properly and safely administer and conduct the Event, and OWS reserves the right to refuse Entrant entry to the Event in circumstances where Entrant either requests the suppression of such mandatory information from its Entrant’s profile, or OWS believes Entrant has provided false or incomplete information.
24. Entrant must adhere to all instructions given by the Event officials at all times during the Event.
25. It is the Entrant’s responsibility to ensure a suitable, well-fitting wetsuit is worn. OWS reserve the right to eject Entrant’s from the event if they are wearing an ill fitting wetsuit.
26. Entrants are prohibited from using any of the following items in the Event: 26.1 Flippers/fins 26.2 Hand paddles 26.3 Snorkels 26.4 Personal audio equipment 26.5 Any other floatation device or swimming aid which could potentially affect the safety of other swimmers, as determined by OWS.
27. If any provision in these Terms and Conditions, whether in full or in part, is held to be invalid or unenforceable, all other remaining provisions (in full or in part) shall continue to be valid and enforceable.
28. This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with Irish Law and each of the parties irrevocably submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of Ireland.
29. OWS reserve the right to amend these terms and conditions at any time.

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