About LoneSwimmer

Welcome to the world’s most popular (non-commercial) open water swimming blog!  LoneSwimmer logo

Who? Me?

The About page of almost any blog is the most egregious self-promotion outside of a first date or a job interview. I’d suggest you stop here and go back to the rest of the site as I find myself vaguely embarassed by this page. It’s only here because people inquiring about open water swimming want to know if I can actually swim myself.

But maybe we’ll start going steady, if you can ignore the apparently relentless self-promoting bullshit of this page (please do, ignore it that is)! If you do want to get into a steady thing with me, drop your name into the Subscribe box. Then, like those other swimmer’s afflictions, Verruca or Athlete’s Foot, I’ll keep appearing, usually at the wrong time.

Let me say these two things right at the start:

1.) I consider myself an average swimmer and this site is for everyone from beginners to intermediate to expert levels. Yes, an average level swimmer can have expert levels of knowledge.

2.) It’s just a blog. I am a person and therefore both more and less than what you may imagine from a single subject blog, no matter how extensively covered. Just some guy.

Why Lone Swimmer? 

The name arose because, contrary to Open Water Rule Number One, Never Swim Alone, by necessity most of my swimming was by myself. I never imagined that a two-minute decision in the middle of a winter afternoon would lead to this blog becoming the world’s most popular open water swimming blog. Nor that I would become known far and wide as the loneswimmer. However I do not think of, nor describe myself in the third person! 

Simply I’m an open water swimmer living in the south-east of Ireland. I’ve been swimming open water for some years. You can find my name here, but it’s not important.

The idea behind LoneSwimmer.com

When I started open water swimming, I had little idea what I was doing. I’d been a surfer for years, and mistakenly thought I understood the coast and the sea. My knowledge and experience grew incrementally. I got bits of help from swimmers I met and I found a lot out the hard way by doing the wrong thing first. It struck me that there was a deficiency of knowledge about the sport. Marathon swimming came later again with another learning curve. Why not just write down what I was learning to help others on the same trajectory?

That was and remains the original idea. I do like to try out different things, so you’ll get lots of commentary, personal experience, swim reports, photography, prose, poetry, scientific analysis, some humour and even occasionally, I might get a bit … worked up.

The latter tends to happen when I think us swimmers are being taken advantage of by organisations, lied to by people or put into danger.

LoneSwimmer survived the first six months that kills most blogs. It also survived the first year, then the second, third, fourth, fifth… years. There have been almost a thousand posts, many thousands of real comments. The number of views just goes up and up. (Fun fact: Almost half a million SPAM comments for the first half million views). In early 2016 it officially 1,000,000 registered views. (Not including emails, reblogs and feeds).

I’ve even met a lot of you readers over that time.

Posting frequency varies, (I once wrote 30 swim reports in 31 days), but since mid 2014 I generally reduced posts to approximately once a week, now it’s about three times a month. This ironically seems to have resulted in yet another rise in traffic. Most countries in the world have sent repeat visitors here, the exceptions are either completely landlocked, or Myanmar and North Korea. I do believe there’s an post here somewhere which mentions my swimming exploits in North Korea.

I’m an English Channel soloist, and honestly the only title in swimming I care about is Channel Swimmer.  My aforementioned English Channel solo was described by none other than King of the English Channel Kevin Murphy as “the scariest I’ve ever been involved in” and consequently I’m a member of the entirely unofficial Force Five Club of Channel Swimmers who have encountered winds of that strength or higher during their swim.

I also like the makey-uppy term coldologist, for my writing on cold water swimming. I’ve appeared on the DNOWS 2012 and 2013 lists of Global Movers and Shakers in Open Water Swimming. I used to have a list of swims here, but it was boring so I excised it.

Dawn in the Channel – Before the Hammer of a Force Five storm

TheGreatCthulhu Spring 2011_Fitocracy Profil PicMy primary goals for this site include trying to educate swimmers about open and cold water swimming, to help anyone I can, and to make Irish Open Water Swimming, and my own glorious Copper Coast better known around the swimming world. Oh, and to have fun writing it.

With multiple record-holder Evan Morrison, I’m co-founder of the Marathon Swimmers Federation at marathonswimmers.org,  which hosts the Marathon Swimmers Forum for marathon swimmers and aspirants. The MSF also holds the Annual Global Marathon Swimming Awards. With Evan, Elaine Howley and Andrew Malinak, we have also released the first ever Global Rules of Marathon Swimming.

In an independent poll of marathon swimmers in the spring of 2013, marathonswimmers.org was selected as the favourite site for open water information and loneswimmer.com came joint second. In 2014 SportForBusiness.com selected LoneSwimmer second on its list of essential Irish sports blogs:  “Perhaps most importantly he writes with passion and can be a thorn in the side of authorities.  Entertaining, well written and making the swimming environment better.” I’ve twice been co-nominated (2012 & 2014) for the WOWSA (World Open Water Swimming Association) Offering of the year category, the first time with Evan and the second time with Sam Krohn. LoneSwimmer.com has also been repeatedly selected as a Finalist in multiple categories in the Blog Awards Ireland awards, and was the winner of the 2012 Best Irish Sports and Recreation Blog and then astonishingly, once again won that category in 2014 winning twice for the two times the site has been entered.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Ireland's Copper Coast - All this is mine

Ireland’s Copper Coast – All this is mine

Ice Mile Rebel LogoIn winter 2014, on my third attempt I became an Ice Mile swimmer, though, since I am very critical of the governing organisation the IISA, I prefer the term Ice Mile Rebel. 😉

I am proud that in July 2014, mere weeks after finishing my Ice Mile series, the IISA moved to improve its rules and started to address some of the safety and rules deficits that I’ve outlined. But I believe there is much further to go.

There is no such thing as a Soloist. We’re all in this together: swimmers, volunteers, friends, family, me and you.

Most of everything about open water that I know, I’ve learned the hard way, by doing it and getting it wrong. Where I haven’t learned something directly through experience, I’ve tried to learn from experts and some of the world’s great marathon swimmers. What I write here is therefore that of a practitioner rather than an observer.

If you wish to contact me privately, please use the contact form below. There’s also my Twitter account and my Flickr photostream.

Open water swimming is an individual expression of freedom which hurts no-one (else) and does no environmental damage. It’s also meant to be fun.

If there’s any motto or lesson here it’s simply this:                  

Seek Freedom. Have Fun.

{All original writing on this website; Copyright Donal Buckley, 2009 to …2099. No writing or images or other content may be used without express prior consent of the author.}


 Who Dares Swims©

I’m an Open Water swimmer living in the South-East of Ireland. I’ve been swimming Open Water for 4 years, mainly on the South-East & South coasts. I’ve completed an English Channel Double Relay, as part of a 5-person team, where we set a National record. I don’t have lifetime of pool swimming behind me and almost everything about Open Water that I know, I’ve learned the hard way. When I started I found it hard to gather useful information, and I always remember that. Mostly therefore, I’ll write about what I know and have experienced, rather than what others say. Your mileage may vary. You may have conflicting opinions. I’m heading back to the English Channel this year for a solo attempt. This blog is intended to help raise money for charity. Remember, for open-water, it’s all about the mind, not the speed.

59 thoughts on “About LoneSwimmer

  1. Thank you for this site-I am a new open water swimmer completing my second winter safely because of this website. I swim now in a protected cove on Long Island Sound in Connecticut USA. I am thinking of moving to a place that has access to the Connecticut River and I want to learn the particulars about open water river swimming. I know that some of components-like cold water swimming-are the same, but I am concerned about the currents that I am told are 3-4 miles an hour on a calm day, and any other issues that make river swimming different from the sea. Would you direct me to information on this?
    Thank you-


    • Hi Henry. Great to hear I have been of help to you, that why I do this. This is my favourite type of comment and makes a lot of it worthwhile, so much appreciated.

      I wrote a series of articles some years back called Hazards and Features, looking at each type of open water swimming location. This is the one about lakes and rivers. Hope there is something useful there for you.


  2. Hi Donal, Mark from Brisbane, Australia here. I’m reaching out because I’d love to share my ideas with you and your audience.

    Please keep this comment private. 🙂

    You see, as an Aussie I always enjoyed swimming (and really anything to do with water), and I am sure my idea for a blog would resonate with your audience. I’ve been following our Olympic team closely for ages, as since I got kids, I lost loads of free time I spent doing whatever the hell I wanted…

    But I digress, here is my idea:

    Working Title: Swimming culture in Australia

    And it’s not just swimming, we love all water sports (all sports too really!). Though, in the article I’d focus on why Australia seems to have so many top swimmers, both male (Ian Thorpe and controversial Jeff Huegill for example), and even more female swimmers that make significant results (like Stephanie Rice, Melanie Schlanger, etc).

    Australia has extremely strong swimmers and a culture that cultivates them, and this holds true even after all the controversy surrounding the toxic environments that the Olympic team had to suffer in London 2012, amounting to the worst medal tally in the last two decades (and it was still 10 medals!)

    Anyways, when a country considers 10 medals for swimmers a bad result, it certainly knows how to cultivate the culture of swimming, and that is something I intend to explore within this article.

    Alternatively, I could share the full story of how to keep the pool safe, even during winter.

    We Aussies are nuts for water surfaces, and many (or even most) of us own pools, thus some laws concerning pool safety had to be introduced.

    I’d talk about it in detail, if you think your audience might benefit from reading such an article.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mark,

      All previous guest articles on loneswimmer.com have all come by me requesting the article from the author. In every case I’ve known the author or at least their reputation. However, I don’t know you.

      Also, loneswimmer.com is about open water swimming, which you don’t mention at all. Due to its popularity loneswimmer is a magnet for attempted spam. Why would I classify this request as anything other than slightly more sophisticated spam?


  3. Hi Phil, Yes I remember. Happy new year to year. I’ll keep this comment on private.

    You are a full forum member which means you can start any discussion you like, and you don’t need to clear with us. That certainly sounds like a subject that is interesting (in a worrying way for you obviously) and hopefully something that someone might have more experience with or knowledge of and that will inform more of us. Please go ahead. – Donal


  4. Hello Donel…This is my first visit. I linked to you via Marathon Swimmers Forum. Anyway, Thank you for the first installment of your series about the DN controversy. I’ve been following the Forum thread, so it really helps to have this overview, integration and perspective. I’m looking forward to parts 2 & 3. All the best. RLM

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I also felt that there was something ‘off’ about Diana’s swim but not being that experienced in OW swimming decided not to comment. Looking forward to seeing Part 2 & 3 as I’ve always found your posts/articles very insightful and honest.


    • Thanks Roger, You too. We were back again for Sylvain swim, and I just got home after his success. I guess there’s still a slight chance for Otto if you can make it back for the last tide? If not, I hope we meet again soon, and that Lisa will bring back some great stories from SA.

      Hey, can I ask two questions: Do you train with a heart rate monitor all the time and how do you plan that? And will you write a guest post for the blog, on any open water swimming subject of your choice, but preferably something from down your side? (Technically three questions yes!)


      • Yes Donel, I always train with a Heart Rate monitor it gives me a very good indication of my weeks work. I concentrate on the exertion figure that it gives for each workout. Most importantly the total exertion for the week. I have around 4,500 Kms downloaded and logged. Going into my next swim I go back a year and look at the months preceding the last same swim and check that I’ve put “The Work In” sort of also gives you piece of mind that you have done the work.
        My training is taken from the book Swimming Fastest and based on the training cycles and recommended % mileage to be swum in the various heart rate zones.
        I resorted to this when my coach relocated from the complex and I have no faith in the replacement. So I train on my own with a lane dedicated to me ( Thanks to the Owners ) But I do get lonely sometimes after months of being alone..
        Sure can do a post for the site, what would you prefer something on the types of swims in SA or on experiences from the swims that I have done here, maybe a mix of swim description and how I experienced it ?


  6. Thank you for your response on my muscle problem. I have another one for you. I have already posted this but its not shown on my computer so I will try again.

    Dropped in on Thursday 11 degrees. Painful shins, I had this last year. Then when neck goes in very painful neck. After a few minutes the pain goes away. As the water temperature drops the pain will stay, but if the water temp rises back to 11 degrees I get no pain. The pain feels as though its in the bones. Can you explain?
    Regards Garry

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for the reply on the thigh problem, interesting. Here’s another one. When it’s cold like this morning, 11degrees the shin bones hurt. After a few minutes they are fine. When the neck goes in same thing the neck bones really hurt. After awhile this stops but I have to lift the upper body out of the water to stop the pain. As it gets colder I will adjust, because when the water goes up to 11 degrees on a nice winters day there is no pain in the shins or neck.
    Have you had this? Regards Garry


  8. Enjoying your blog. Have a question. I have been outdoor swimming for over a year and I have swam in single figure temperatures. I have just done a 6 mile swim and towards the end the inside of both legs at the top became very painful and I found it hard to keep my legs up. The water was at 16 degrees, so I don’t think it was the cold. I have been trying to improve my stroke by being stream lined by keeping my legs up. Is this why these muscles hurt? In the pool they get to relax on the turns. When I got out of the river Dee after 6 miles, I had no after shock, I got dressed and walked around. The day after a good nights sleep I had no leg problems. Any advice. Regards Garry


    • Thanks Gary. I’ve seen and experienced that cramp/pain you are talking about. It does seem to me to be temperature related. I’ve had it at a very precise temperature, that isn’t very cold but certainly isn’t warm. I struggled with it a couple of times during Channel training, it happens around 11 degrees for me and at about 90 minutes plus swimming. I even know of one Channel swim that wasn’t successful because of it. This is going to sound insane, but after having it a couple of times, I took an Ibuprofen, which helped relax those muscles and I felt fine otherwise. You can probably partially address it by pulling your thighs up to your chest during stops, but I found that was a very short term solution, lasting only for a few minutes. I have even found myself also punching my thighs during feeds on long stops to try to loosen the muscles. Only the ‘Bufen actually worked as a solution for me.


  9. Hi Donal
    We are a bunch of swimmers from Wicklow town who swim all year round. There are about 12 of us. We meet every saturday and Sunday. We are in Dunmore east on 27 September for two days for a bit of a get togeather, and we were wondering if you could recommend any places for us to swim? Maybe you would like to join us?

    We love the site!




    • Hi Brendan,

      You can swim in Dunmore, from the beach over to the rocks of the outer harbour and back, or just travel the few miles over to Tramore and swim at the Guillamenes, which is one of the best swimming locations in the country and where I do most of my swimming. I have no idea right now if I’ll be free then, drop me a line closer to the day. Donal


  10. Love the blog – really identify with it. Headding to waterford with wife for a few days tomorrow and hoping for the 5K route from Annestown. Having taken up OW a year ago from a rowing background I love it. Taking on Galway Bay (13Km) later in the summer and would love some pointers on amount of training volume & tidal strategy


    • Thanks Robert. I’m not sure what 5k around Annestown you mean unless you are looping. East to Kilfarassey is 3k, west to Boatstrand is 3k (and you need to be careful). Further on to Kilmurrin is 4k and I’d advise against it unless you know the area well and have the experience, as there can be strong currents around and past Dunabrattin Head.

      For Galway Bay, my initial thought would be to be doing 20 to 25k per week for at least two months beforehand. You have plenty of time so it’s a case of timing against slack and south flowing tide. A peremptory look at charts would indicate leaving at or after three hours and thirty minutes before high tide at Dublin (three hour before Dover high) The charts are based of Dover High Water with Dublin as a secondary reference. You could check accuracy against what sailors in Galway Yacht Club say, or check with the previous Galway Bay swim organisers.


  11. Donal,

    Damnfastswimmer here from Fitocracy. I just committed to swimming the 8 Bridges in 2016 (family and previous engagements prevent an earlier attempt.) and wanted to invite you to do it that year too!

    contact me to keep in touch.


    • Hi. I approved your application on marathonswimmers.org (I’m a co-founder/admin), the user name seemed obvious.

      I know Dave (Barra) the organiser but I’m afraid 8 Bridges is (and likely to stay) out of my price range. Dave reached out to us last year in the hope of bumping up numbers from our club, but with travel from Ireland & accommodation it’s prohibitively expensive for most of us.

      Best of luck, stay in touch, here or the forum.


  12. Hi Donal, Just came across your blog, excellent stuff. I am the wife of an open water swimmer and want to buy him a safety aid for swimming alone, so was thinking of one of those lifeguard floats that he could attach to himself in case he gets in trouble. Would you recommend it?


    • Hi Fiona. I wouldn’t recommend those specifically, I worry that they could lead to someone relying on them and stopping which will cause someone to get cold quickly and possibly get in more trouble. But this is a very personal judgement based on our cold Irish water. There are inflatable tow-aids that swimmers can pull behind but I’ve not seen them used in these waters.


    • Excellent Sara. With the Channel I think it’s important to take actual steps towards doing it, good slots are now two to three years out anyway. Every Channel Soloist knows the world is full of people who “dream” of it, but never do any more than that.


  13. Hi Donal, Kathleen told me about your blog, I must say I am very impressed by your achievements, fair play to ya.. I also think you blog is very interesting, well documented and love the pics, well done…Slainte, Breda


  14. Hi there Donal.tnx for blogging ,I’ve been keeping an eye on u page.i live on the east cost and I’d like some private conv,with u if possible only. About training and maybe some tips.
    Good luck and God bles


  15. Thanks for blogging and inspiring! I am scared of the ocean and swimming in it, but face that fear every time I jump in (with a wetsuit though, and preferrably in warm water, if I can find it here in Norway). Keep up the good work 🙂


  16. Hi Donal,
    Great to meet you on the Pa’raic memorial trip last weekend which was a big one to remember.
    As mentioned, if you can spare a moment, I should love to have one or two of the photos you took and especially the group going into the water at Cap Gris Nez
    All Best


    • Thanks Jean. You should also check out my friend Karen’s stuff. She’s also a social science researcher, she’s the first researcher working on our tiny minority sport of Channel swimming. Here is her first paper on the subject, and here’s her blog.


  17. Donal I enjoy what you write and consult it for my own open water training. It’s obviously well thought out and not to judgement or open to new ideas. Nice meeting you in New York at MIMS 2012 this summer. Good luck on all your swims and adventures.


  18. I look forward to coming back and reading more of your blog. I’m squeamish about swimming in the sea alone. Today I had a good swim because it was calm and lots of people on the beach. If I’m alone, I never go more than about 25 metres from shore, and swim horizontal to land. Am I a wimp, or just cautious? Wish I had someone who liked to paddle to go with me. 🙂


  19. Hey Donal,

    Love the website. I’ve only came across it in the last few months but now pop in regularly for a read, keep up the inspiring writings!

    As you can probably guess I’am a open water swimmer like yourself and I would really appreciate your opinion on a question I have.

    Previously I would have only been a occasional bather, however since last August my career situation has changed, such that I now swim daily at Salthill Galway.
    I wouldn’t class myself as a great swimmer with regards distance.
    Basically I swim daily for all the many other joy’s of open water swimming that I’am sure you are aware of.

    Any how, whenever there is any bit of chop at Salthill, I find catching breaths of air when swimming much more difficult than on clam flat water days, I seem to end up swallowing many litres of salt brine!.

    Aside from getting stroke correction lessons, which I plan to in the future.
    Could you give me your opinion on swimming with a snorkel and mask.
    Any advice on what I should look for in the line this type of swimming aid?

    The cold temperature of the open water, is something that I have found myself fairly well able to cope with. (For your interest: I sometimes take temperature readings the lowest reading I have got so far were 2.5 Degrees Celsius on 24th and25th of December.) However the rougher sea states, greatly reduce my distance swam and enjoyment. Salthill isn’t a particularly challenging place to swim regards currents and such. I am quite a physically fit guy, and know the range of my swimming ability but the whole mouthful’s of sea water is limiting the conditions I can enjoy swimming in.

    So I’d really appreciate your opinion on going the snorkel route.

    Kind regards,
    Kev Costello.


  20. Hey I love all the quotes on the site! Very inspiring!

    Some people think they need a god to get them through when all others need is a few quotes!


  21. Donal,
    Congratulations on completing your solo crossing an amazing acomplishment by anyones standards, thanks for all your tips coaching and encouragement over the last few years that has made me a far better swimmer.
    Live the dream!!


    • Thanks John. No rest I’m afraid. I had an hour swim afterwards to get back to the boat. Pretty physically damaged from the boat collisions. prognosis from the physio last night is good though. Should be recovered in a few weeks.


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