Eastern Bay Ice Mile
CHALLENGE,  Event reviews,  EXTRA,  FEATURES,  March 2024

Eastern Bay Ice Mile 2024

Simon Griffiths went along to watch (but not participate in) this popular ice mile event in Dublin

Fergal Somerville, the man behind the Eastern Bay Invitational Ice Mile, is a participant as well as the organiser. His experience and knowledge as a swimmer is part of what makes this event so popular. Another reason is the location.

The event takes place in Clontarf Baths, a charming and historic 40m-long seawater lido in Dublin. However, my first impressions were not good. To the south, the industrial port on the other side of the bay dominates the skyline. Tall chimneys belch smoke that quickly mingles and gets lost in the clouds. The tide was out, revealing extensive mud flats, along with shopping trolleys, old car tires and other waste. But look east, out into Dublin Bay, and the view improves markedly.

Eastern Bay Ice Mile

The estuary is a haven for a wide range of sea birds. And when the tide comes in and the sun comes out, the water dazzles. More importantly, the pool is a gem. It’s practical, safe, clean and convenient – and it’s only a short distance to the centre of Dublin.

Fun and comradeship

Rain had been forecast for 2024 but we merely got drizzle, and not much of that, although the sky remained steadfastly grey. The air felt cold and damp, yet the water temperature, at 8.3 degrees, was too warm for an official ‘Ice Mile’. Luckily, Fergal and the other participants were relaxed about that. They were there for the company and comradeship and an enjoyable swim, not for records.

Fergal took his place in an outside lane in the first wave. A veteran of the North Channel and other marathon swims, this looked like a straightforward swim for him. He started at strong and steady pace that he maintained throughout, and finished his mile in 27:15. A solid swim and the fastest in his wave. He then spent the rest of the morning supporting and encouraging other swimmers along with running collections for the RNLI and a local homeless charity.

Eastern Bay Ice Mile

While this event is billed as a challenge, not a race, lap times are monitored throughout as part of the safety protocol: a swimmer who slows significantly would be pulled out. Finishing times are also recorded for personal information but most swimmers have a competitive streak and like to see the rankings. The fastest swimmer of the day was also the youngest: Jessika Robson, 18, completed her mile in 22:03, more than 3 minutes faster than anyone else. In total, 23 swimmers took part and all finished, including Phil Warren, who did the entire mile breaststroke in 36:45.

Got what it takes?

Now in its 12th year, the event attracts an eclectic and global mix of swimmers. As an invitational event, you need to demonstrate your cold water swimming credentials to take part and agree to complete acclimatisation swims. Visiting swimmers will be looked after, taken for additional swims and invited to share a Guinness or two.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, get in touch with Fergal via Facebook: facebook.com/fergal.somerville

While you’re in Dublin, check out some other swim spots. A 30-minute walk from Clontarf is the beautiful but windswept North Bull Island, which has several swim spots and dedicated swim shelters, along with a glorious beach. Or head out to Howth, walk around the headland and scramble down to one of the coves on the way. We also swam a Low Rock, in Malahide, to the north of Dublin. To the south of Dublin there several popular swimming spots including Sandycove for Forty Foot, Seapoint and Vico Baths that are accessible by train.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.