Maureen McCoy is very pleased with the recent production of her book Wild Swimming in Ireland. Together with award winning photographer Paul McCambridge, Maureen has chosen 50 of the top rivers, lakes and sea destinations in Ireland and compiled them into a beautiful book, a must have for any open water swimmer. sportswomen.ie caught up with Maureen to find out more about the book and the woman behind it.
“I have always been a swimmer, I was brought up in a swimming family, my mother was an outdoor swimmer and my grandfather was a competitive swimmer. As a child, myself and my brothers were involved with lifesaving and kayaking but swimming was my real love. My mum and myself used to take the dog for a walk down at the beach and we would just get in for a swim, with the dog swimming along side us.”
A lot of happy memories for Maureen growing up in her native Down.
Women have been particularly inspiring to Maureen in her swimming life. When she was 10 she remembers seeing the Ester Williams movie, Dangerous When Wet. A swimmer and a Hollywood star, in the movie, Williams swims the English Channel. Maureen remembers turning to her mother after watching it and saying “I am going to do that one day.”
It took a few more years for Maureen to fulfil her dream but she kept that dream with her from the age of 10 hoping one day to make it a reality.
Maureen joined her local swimming club around the age of 11 but she hated galas and didn’t stay in the club for long. While competitive pool swimming may have not been for Maureen she did turn to competitive life saving which she enjoyed. She became a life guard and a swim teacher which she does to this day.
Maureen has a holistic approach to swimming, for her enjoyment is key. Maureen loves the mixture swimming can offer, whether it is life saving, water polo, open water, it’s not all about going down the competitive line.
Maureen trains in the pool but she enjoys the open water most. She describes it “as a different beast, it is so much freer, it is you against the world, submerged in the world. For people who don’t swim I equate it to like going for a walk up the mountains, yes it’s cold, yes it’s wet and it’s challenging but there is a real beauty to it, that is the appeal.”
As mentioned earlier Maureen fulfilled her Channel dream and swam the English Channel in 2009, just after her fortieth birthday. It took her 14 hours to cross and after 10 hours she did throw a bit of a strop and asked herself “What am I doing this for” but she had trained hard and long and wasn’t going to stop there.
“To do marathon swimming is very lonely, you go inside your own head and you learn a lot about yourself, about your own strengths and weaknesses. It’s very inspiring and it makes you stronger, you know what you can achieve when you have done something physically and gone through the mental anguish.”
Maureen’s Channel training and swim was an amazing journey for her and she was very motivated for it. Her mum who was obviously a key figure while growing up, died when Maureen was only 17 but she knew her mum would have been so proud of her. Her aunt, her mum’s sister, was very encouraging and the whole process of feeling strong physically and mentally, was a wonderful thing for Maureen. At times it felt surreal for Maureen, she couldn’t believe she was actually doing it, she had dreamt about it for so long.
Now that the long swims are over, Maureen enjoys the shorter swims where a 10km is long enough to know you have had a challenge but not long enough to really hurt !
With one project over, Maureen changed her attention to another.
Inspired by Kate Rew’s “Wild Swim”, a wild journey across Great Britain, Maureen thought she could have her own wild journey and discover the great water swims across Ireland. With a newly discovered flair for writing Maureen started to compile her top swims in Ireland. It became a labour of love and with the keen photographic eye of Paul McCambridge, Wild Swimming in Ireland became a reality. It took the best part of 3 years to do with a real focus to finish it in 2015. Selecting 50 places was probably the most difficult part !
Wild Swimming in Ireland is well worth the purchase and is a great map of the many great swims we have around our country. Maureen’s top 3 swims are Carrick-a-Rede, Co. Antrim, Pollacapull, Co. Mayo and Glanmore Lake, Beara Peninsula, see what are your top swims.
If you would like to read more about Maureen McCoy check out her website here.