Category Archives: Lisa Cummins

Queen of Irish Open Water swimming. Twentieth person in history to complete an English Channel two-way.

Lisa at Kilfarassey.resized

Summer swimming on the Copper Coast 1 – Islands and Arches

Summer in Ireland! See for yourself.

In the middle of a horrible summer, some swims can still just be so much … fun. You don’t always need racing or swimming big distance or doing challenges. Sometimes just easy swimming with a friend can result in a truly memorable swim. Here’s a quick reminder of how stunning Kilfarassey can be for two days of summer, when all these people decide to show up on my normally almost-abandoned playground.

Kilfarassey, August 2012- it only looks like this two days a year!

A recent visit by English Channel superstar Lisa Cummins saw us doing a couple of fun swims on the Copper Coast, as my attempt to introduce this incredible swimming location to others continues. The first day we had a great swim at Kilfarassey around the playground of Burke’s Island.

I’m using the full resolution version of this as my desktop wallpaper

Swimming out, a heavy squall we’d seen approaching from the South East caught us on the flattish low-tide and resulted in one of these beautiful views of rain hammering the surface into a beaten grey/green cloth.

Shortly afterwards  the sun came out and we swam around the very low channels and reefs, having to forego a couple of options as the tide was too low. We got pulled and pushed through the main channel after watching it from outside to see if we could enter it between waves and had to pull ourselves over kelp in a few places. Lisa and Owen O’Keeffe, another recent visitor, have both commented on the thick leathery nature of the kelp (kelp/mayweed/sea hedgehog) on the Copper Coast, something I’d never thought of, so used to it am I at low tide, but it’s very different to the Japweed and Deadman’s Bootlaces seaweed more common at low tide around Sandycove Island due to the fresher nature of the water there, and if you hit a big patch of the Copper Coast kelp at low tide, you can’t swim through it, but must pull yourself over it.

Then we shot the Keyhole arch at a nice speed …

…and a great visit into the Barrel cave under the island. (I just call it the Barrel cave for no particular reason, like the names I have on some of the others, just what comes to mind).

Lisa exiting the Burke’s Island cave

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”. Lisa Cummins officially announces her 2012 swim

I have waited a long time for this official announcement and am very proud and honoured that Lisa has chosen to announce her big swim for this year.

But before we get to that …

For those of you who don’t know, Lisa Cummins was the twentieth person to swim a two-way English Channel solo in September 2009. She was the first woman to so do WITHOUT having first done a solo, and she was quite regularly told it would be impossible, by some well-known people in the marathon swimming community. Her time was an astonishing 35 hours (exactly).

I shall never forget the night in February 2009, during a charity Swimathon in Source swimming pool organised by Coach Eilís, when I heard of the plan. And the thought that I had then has never left me, of the sheer audacity of Lisa’s vision. I was completely captivated. At that time Lisa and I hadn’t become friends, she wouldn’t have known me from any other swimmer and when we greeted her in Cork Airport on her triumphant return, I was a face amongst many. I told her she was an inspiration for all and in her typical self-effacing manner for those who know her, she dismissed the notion. But I hold to this assertion, and know many agree with me.

Lisa’s two-way English Channel chart

I have maintained that Lisa’s two-way English Channel swim was one of the greatest amateur Irish sporting achievements. Ever. (For me, it’s actually the greatest). But not just that, it was a world-class swimming achievement. Suzie Dods, a well-known US marathon swimmer, said of Lisa after her swim: “Shows you what the mind can imagine, the body can do”.

To have any chance of understanding Lisa you should know that her inscription in the White Horse in Dover says; “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible“.

Lisa’s White Horse Inscription

Lisa started training seriously while we were in Dover last September and has been training hard since, regularly swimming 75,000 metre weeks and has already done many multiple hour sea swims up to eight hours, under twelve degrees Celsius, done while many of the rest of us were struggling to get four hours done. It’s not for no reason that I call her (and Finbarr) two of the world’s greatest cold water swimmers.

She is already the Queen of Irish open water swimming and her next swim attempt will further decorate that crown.

Lisa recently, by the way, submitted her Computer Science Ph.D. Thesis, completed while doing the training! It’s an open secret among the Sandycove swimmers, that I’ve found it hard (but managed) to keep for two years. You have no idea how many times I’ve asked for a guest post, but in fairness, I’ve learned so much from her, that much of what appears here comes from her indirectly.

In September 2012, Lisa will attempt a swim never previously done, crossing the Irish Sea from Wales to Ireland. She estimates it will take a minimum of 40 hours with a minimum straight-line distance of 56 miles, (excluding tides, of which she will swim through many).

She will face unknown tidal currents, cold and clouds of stinging jellyfish (Lion’s Mane, Portuguese Man O’War, and our friendly Purple Stingers).

Her crew will once again be her mother Margaret, who was bedrock of calm and control on the two-way, and who will surely get even more knitting done on the next swim.

Her many friends, supporters and admirers have no doubts about her world-class tenacity, her ability to tolerate and endure, and while doing so, to even have fun doing the impossible.

Two heroes, Lisa and Capt. Webb.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter, and her New blog for this swim is