What are the features of a good open water swimming location?

Steve Munatones posted a list of possible features on dailynewsofopenwaterswimming.com for a good open water swimming spot some time back.

1. Year-round conditions
2. Summer conditions
3. Abundance or absence of marine life. If marine life is known, how does the abundance or absence of sharks, dolphins, turtles, jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ war positively or negatively affect the rankings?
4. Abundance or absence of rough conditions. If rough conditions are prevalent, how does ocean swells, wind chop, large surf, strong tidal flows and currents positively or negatively affect the rankings?
5. Range or lack of range of water temperatures
6. Availability of showers
7. Availability of parking
8. Availability of lifeguards
9. Ease of bringing in kayaks, paddle boards or escort watercraft to the venue
10. Availability of food concessions
11. Proximity to medical care
12. Possible number of course layouts (out-and-back, point-to-point, along-the-shore, geometrical)
13. Clarity of the water
14. Quality of the water
15. Availability of mobile phone reception
16. Degree of natural beauty such as coral reefs, rocky shorelines, fauna, flora, sunsets, sunrises
17. Degree of man-made beauty such a resort hotels, long piers, rock jetties, breakwaters, boardwalks, skyline
18. Availability of online information, provided by webcams or sensors on piers or nautical buoys
20. Other swimmers or clubs in the area.

I wondered how these would relate to the Guillamene, my main swim location? So I went through the list:

1. Year-round conditions. Yep, it’s either cold. Or colder.
2. Summer conditions. What is summer?
3. Abundance or absence of marine life. If marine life is known, how does the abundance or absence of sharks, dolphins, turtles, jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ war positively or negatively affect the rankings? Jellies. What’s the problem? They look nice. No sharks. repeat, NO SHARKS.
4. Abundance or absence of rough conditions. If rough conditions are prevalent, how does ocean swells, wind chop, large surf, strong tidal flows and currents positively or negatively affect the rankings? Protection from direct prevailing southwesterly. But rough a lot of the time. Good training.
5. Range or lack of range of water temperatures. Yes, we certainly have a range: 4C to 15C.
6. Availability of showers. Bring your own plastic bottle.
7. Availability of parking. Wahoo! We have a score on the board. √
8. Availability of lifeguards. The one that visited on last summer called out Coast Guard Heli Rescue 117 for me after I’d been in the water about five minutes. Not missing lifeguards therefore.
9. Ease of bringing in kayaks, paddle boards or escort watercraft to the venue. Unless you consider portaging the narrow cliff steps carrying your kayak “easy”. 
10. Availability of food concessions. There was a mobile ice-cream stand there last summer. Built on a tractor. True story.
11. Proximity to medical care. Rescue 117. Coast Guard Helicopter. See Point 8 above.
12. Possible number of course layouts (out-and-back, point-to-point, along-the-shore, geometrical). According to me there are many. According to most everyone else there’s one.
13. Clarity of the water. It’s the North Atlantic. It’s rich in life, therefore it’s green and murky. To those who know, this is a good thing.  When it’s clear, it means there’s a cold north wind blowing.
14. Quality of the water. Wahoo, another one! √
15. Availability of mobile phone reception. We’re on a roll, our score is 3. √
16. Degree of natural beauty such as coral reefs, rocky shorelines, fauna, flora, sunsets, sunrises. Arms don’t fail me know. √
17. Degree of man-made beauty such a resort hotels, long piers, rock jetties, breakwaters, boardwalks, skyline. Um, we’ve got the Metalman? Half a point? √
18. Availability of online information, provided by webcams or sensors on piers or nautical buoys. Well, you’re reading it. Quarter of a point? Plus quarter for the M5 buoy? √
20. Other swimmers or clubs in the area. Uh, this website name didn’t come from nowhere. There is recreational Newtown & Guillamene Swimming Club. We’ll call that a yes though, what the hell. √

21: Steve leaves out a very important one: Tidal access. The Guillamene can be swum at all tides. Un point, as Les Francais say.

And the score from the Waterford jury is: Seven points, sept points. Out of 21.

Stay away? You must be joking. Have you seen all the pictures I posted? I’m lucky to have the Guillamene for my almost private playground.

What? It's an ice-cream tractor. So? You've never seen one before? Sandycove doesn't have an ice-cream tractor!

In the Guillamene’s favour:

  • Access at all tide times.
  • Sufficiently deep water, but not too deep to scare folk.
  • Part of the local cultural heritage, all age groups congregate there, over 75 years of tradition. Now with clothes worn! Great friendly locals. Year round dippers.
  • Shelter from the prevailing winds, but not flat, ideal if you want want to be a real open water swimmer.
  • Lovely park and picnic area around the two coves. Clean. Area very well maintained by the club.
  • Cold water. This is a GOOD THING!
  • The bay and the Copper Coast. Beautiful area. See my Project Copper posts.
  • If you see my box sitting on the wall, you can be moderately sure it’s safe for you to swim. I will also swim with anyone who asks, or take them of a sightseeing swim outwards to the caves and stacks.
  • Tourists. I don’t really know how they find it, but we get tourists from all over there. Most of them look at us in amazement. Does wonder for the ego!
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3 thoughts on “What are the features of a good open water swimming location?”

  1. A very interesting, well written post and entertaining to read. The best thing about our bay is No Jellyfish!! (well hardly any). Jellyfish are the most terrifying thing about sea swimming in Scotland.

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