Mammy Banter’s new cold water dipping group is making ‘Waves’ across the North West

Cold water swimming or dipping really came into its own during the pandemic, with people becoming aware of its many positive physical and mental health benefits.

By Laura Glenn
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 1:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 1:05 pm
Derry's Mickey Doherty joins the ladies from the "Waves" cold water swim group organised by "Mammy Banter.'Serena Terry, for the New Year's swim at Lisfannon Beach. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2152GS – 022
Derry's Mickey Doherty joins the ladies from the "Waves" cold water swim group organised by "Mammy Banter.'Serena Terry, for the New Year's swim at Lisfannon Beach. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2152GS – 022

One of those who has been converted to the practice in recent times is Serena Terry, known to many as ‘Mammy Banter,’ who loved it so much she set up her own group, called ‘Waves’.

Despite the fact it is only up and running a few weeks, the group is going from strength to strength with more and more people joining the dips at beaches including Leenan, Dunree and Benone, each week.

Serena revealed she began cold water dipping in December, after being ‘mad to do’ it for a while, but ‘wasn’t sure where to start’. “I asked for help on my Instagram and was told there were groups already active which was amazing. One lady in particular, Noeleen Farren reached out to me and invited me down to Ludden for a dip with her. She told me what I needed to bring and on the day coached me through my breathing and kept me calm, it was an incredible experience and I’m so thankful to her.”

Serena soon found that there were many incredible benefits and outlined how, personally, she gets ‘peace’ from it.

“My life is hectic and I suffer from anxiety so to find something holistic that takes away all the noise for the few minutes that you’re in the water is amazing. You also feel incredibly calm afterwards, like you can take on anything. There have been loads of studies done proving that it increases levels of dopamine and seratonin as well as boosting your immune system and reducing inflammation.

“I feel overall just more at peace with the craziness that life throws at us.”

She admitted that many people approach the practise with a bit of trepidation but are soon converted.

“We’ve had people say that they don’t ever go in the sea, not even in the summer with their kids, and here they are in the middle of the winter braving baltic sea temperatures. It’s amazing what people can achieve in a group with the right support.”

Along with the many positives of the sea itself, numerous friendships have been formed.

Serena disclosed how this aspect was one of the main reasons she set it up.

“It’s a community, a social activity now where people have come on their own and now made friends with others from Derry, Inishowen and the North Coast.

“There are of course benefits for mental health scientifically from cold water therapy, and pairing that with a social aspect and getting people out of their houses and meeting new people can help our mental health even more, especially in the times we’re in.

“I’m like a proud mammy watching people form friendships, we even have our own cheerleader Ruth Mc Philips, who’s down at nearly every dip with her daughter Aoibhinn, taking pics and cheering everyone on. It’s incredible.”

Serena highlighted how you don’t even need to be able to swim to join the group.

“We walk into the water slowly controlling our breathing as we step. We stop at hip level then on the count of three we bend our knees and let the water come to shoulder level, all while controlling your breathing.

“Underneath the water you’ll continue to move your arms and legs but after about 10 seconds you’re able to actually have a chat or just enjoy the euphoria that comes with that cold rush.”

She added how she feels so ‘blessed’ that her Mammy Banter account allows her to ‘do good things,’ especially when it comes to talking about mental health, raising awareness or setting up communities like this.

“I’ve been choked up so many times down at the water seeing people’s reactions and watching them do something they never thought they could do, it’s hard to explain, but so unbelievably rewarding.

“Waves in the near future will be more than just cold water dipping, we’re going to also incorporate in some hikes, walks and other activities that get people socialising and feeling alive.

“Waves can come in water form yes, but they can also be present in the form of energy and good vibes, that to me is what this is all about.” She added: “I don’t feel like it’s ‘my community’ it’s everyone’s community to the point that the newcomers I coached on the first day are now coaching other newcomers and the beat goes on.

“We have a buddy-up system every time newcomers join and it’s worked so well. I was just lucky enough to have a large platform to connect the dots and give it a start.”