Derry trio take plunge with Ireland’s first outdoor swimming venue

Gavin pictured with fellow coaches Mervyn Kelly and Stephen Graham. DER1514MC078
Gavin pictured with fellow coaches Mervyn Kelly and Stephen Graham. DER1514MC078

Creggan Country Park has become Ireland’s first ever accredited outdoor swimming venue.

In recent years, open water swimming has become extremely popular in England and in Scotland but local trio Gavin O’Kane, Mervyn Kelly and Stephen Graham are bringing the revolution to Derry next month.

‘Northern Velocity’ was founded by Gavin, Mervyn and Stephen and they will launch thier swim sessions at the Creggan Country Park at 6pm.

The organisation has been accredited by the National Open Water Coaching Association (NOWCA) and one of their main focuses will be to help local triathletes prepare properly for races.

“The freedom and choices from open water swimming are heavenly, you don’t need Olympian stamina to be an outdoor swimmer, we cater for absolute beginners to the most experienced looking slight technique adjustments,” said Gavin O’Kane.

Instructor, coach and several time ‘Ironman Race’ finisher, Mervyn Kelly was quick to point out the differences ‘Northern Velocity’ will be bringing when they officially launch next week.

“We have been working closely with NOWCA and in August 2013 we received the news we’d been hoping for when Creggan Country Park was accredited as the first official outdoor swimming venue in Ireland.

“Whether you’re a seasoned chlorine swimmer, triathlete or just looking for that bit of extra health and fitness, the great outdoors of Creggan Country Park could be for you,” said Mervyn.

Stephen Graham said ‘Northern Velocity’s’ main priority was safety and revealed that every member receive their own individual logging chip.

“The advantages of working with NOWCA are limitless. Our swimmers will now receive a logging chip which apart from saftey, means that we can record and analyse their complete progress.

“We have three selected swim routes that people can choose from; 750m, 350m or 100m for beginners.”

Gavin, who is orginally from Leeds, has been outdoor swimming for over 15 years and he describes it as ‘Wild Swimming’.

Gavin said the reason he’s hooked on outdoor swimming is because there is a “sense of the unknown”.

“When you look at a swimming pool you can see everything that’s there but when you’re swimming outdoors there’s a real sense of the unknown.

“Wild swimming is what I like to call it - it’s great fun and there’s nothing like it in the world but in order to take part in an outdoor swim you should be trained in how best to do it.”

Gavin explained why people need to take care when taking part in outdoor swimming.

“The Great Swim which takes place in the North of England each year has 22,000 participants and you need to have experience of swimming in that type of arena before jumping into the water.

“When taking part in an outdoor swimming race it’s common for people to be kicked and punched. There is literally thousands of other people around you but through ‘Northern Velocity’ we will be able to train you and show you how best to deal with swimming outdoors.”

Gavin said many local athletes who compete in triathlons do so without any proper outdoor swimming training.

“I think people can sometimes underestimate how important it is to be properly trained in how to swim outdoors. There are so many things to take into consideration.

“But people shouldn’t be put off - it’s a lot of fun and once you take part in your first lesson you won’t be able to stop,” he smiled.

For more information on ‘Northern Velocity’ visit their website