Author: Ethan Loughrey

Healthy Oceans Healthy Minds – Back with Over 40 Free Events

Live Here Love Here, working in partnership with Belfast Harbour, is back with its annual Healthy Oceans Healthy Minds campaign.

This is the fourth year of the campaign, which offers people the opportunity to show some love to our rivers, lough and beaches while enjoying the mental-health benefits they have to offer.

This year’s campaign is set to be bigger than ever, with over 40 free events to choose from across the country. Activities kick off on Saturday 19 August with a sailing lesson at Bangor Marina. Events following will include everything from a scavenger hunt on Cranfield West Beach and tour of Exploris Aquarium, to a litter pick on the River Bann.

Lynda Surgenor, Live Here Love Here Coordinator said, “We’re excited to get this year’s campaign underway. We have a fantastic programme on offer that not only celebrate our beautiful blue spaces, but offer opportunities to improve mental and physical well-being. We urge people to seize the chance to switch off, recharge and enjoy some downtime by our waterscapes.”

Jenni Barkley, Communications and Corporate Responsibility Manager at Belfast Harbour said: “This is the third year Belfast Harbour has partnered with Live Here Love Here on such a fantastic initiative. Northern Ireland is blessed with many rich marine environments that serve communities in many ways, not least by providing healthy outlets that support our wellbeing. The Healthy Oceans Healthy Minds campaign is a really valuable initiative because it supports communities to positively engage with our waterways in a variety of different ways but also learn that by adopting better habits we can all help to protect these spectacular assets from further damage and pollution, for future generations.” 

The campaign will conclude with an opportunity to give back to our waterways through a series of beach litter-picks on 16-17 September, to coincide with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Cleanups like this are much needed, with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful’s 2021 Marine Litter Report finding an average of 762 items of litter per 100m of beach surveyed.

Be sure to sign up for an event at with limited spaces available!

The Depths of Adventure: A Resounding Success for Swim Ulster and RNIB

Northern Ireland recently hosted a collaboration between Swim Ulster and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), where visually impaired individuals experienced the joys of open water swimming in a safe and empowering environment.

RNIB joined forces with Swim Ulster to make a significant splash with their groundbreaking event, aimed at providing inexperienced blind and partially sighted people the opportunity to safely swim in open water and educating them on open water safety.

The response from the visually impaired community has been incredibly positive after the event. Úna Mulgrew from RNIB summed it up. “The response to the day was amazing from the blind and partially sighted community who loved it; knowing we had well trained, knowledgeable and passionate professionals at our sides every step of the way, made it all the more comfortable and fun.”

With the picturesque Portrush as the backdrop, participants arrived with enthusiasm and a bit of curiosity. One such participant shared their experience, “I had such a great day in Portrush. I went with the intentions of just putting my feet in the sea for a little paddle and then I was borrowing a swimsuit and wetsuit, and I was off to the sea.”

Safety was of paramount importance throughout the event. Swim Ulster staff provided a comprehensive safety talk that instilled confidence in the participants. The sense of security was palpable as Ricky, one of the instructors, stayed close at hand in the sea, making sure everyone felt safe and supported. Our participant couldn’t have agreed more, “Ricky stayed very close to me at all times in the sea which made me feel very safe. It was very relaxing, and I enjoyed it very much.”

The open water swimming sessions were not just about having fun; they are an integral part of the “Get Wet, Stay Safe campaign.” This campaign, run by Sport NI, Swim Ulster and Swim Ireland, aims to educate people on water safety. Participants received essential safety information from trained instructors on land before dipping their toes into the sea (or lake, or river!) for an hour of practice.

The success of this event shines a light on the remarkable achievements that can be accomplished when passion, inclusivity, and expertise merge. Our enthusiastic participant stated, “Thank you to Swim Ulster for making it possible for me to swim in our Northern Ireland waters for the first time. I would recommend this to many others and hope that we might get the opportunity to do it again.”

Stay tuned with, your trusted companion for all things water sports and safety. Until then, keep getting wet and staying safe!

Protecting Against Algae and Bacteria

Summer is here and everyone is making the most of it (when the weather allows!) by taking to the water, whether it be in the ocean, lake or river. It is important to remember that all water types may harbour bacteria or toxic algae (as was identified recently by NIEA). Therefore it is important to:

  • Wash your hands or apply hand sanitiser, especially before eating or drinking
  • Where possible, shower after being in the water
  • Cover cuts and scratches with a waterproof plaster/dressing as soon as possible
  • Try not to swallow the water

If you feel unwell after being in any body of water please contact your GP as soon as possible. Dog Owners should always be aware of the dangers posed by all poisonous plants and algae growing in the environment, but especially along riverbanks and in wet grassland or edges of lakes.

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend a “Get Wet Stay Safe” Event

Watersports are an exhilarating hobby that can provide you with often unforgettable experiences, but it’s crucial to prioritize safety before – in some cases, literally, diving in. That’s where “Get Wet Stay Safe” comes in. In this blog post, we will explore five compelling reasons why you should attend a “Get Wet Stay Safe” session. From the importance of water safety to the increase in lifeguard emergencies, this initiative offers valuable knowledge and skills to keep you safe while enjoying the watersports you love.

  1. Prioritizing Water Safety: Water safety should be a top priority for anyone engaging in watersports. The “Get Wet Stay Safe” initiative is designed to educate participants about the potential risks involved and equip them with essential safety knowledge. By attending these events, you’ll learn vital techniques such as understanding tides, recognizing hazards, understanding cold water shock and knowing how to respond in emergency situations.
  2. Alarming Increase in Lifeguard Call Outs: Since 2020, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) and lifeguards have witnessed a concerning rise in emergencies related to water activities. Official figures demonstrate a stark increase – over 300% – in rescue operations in both the sea and our loughs. These incidents highlight the importance of being prepared and knowledgeable about water safety practices, particularly given the significant increase in recent years of local unofficial groups who meet for watersports activities. Attending a “Get Wet Stay Safe” event can help reduce the likelihood of becoming a statistic in these alarming trends.
  3. Expert-Led Instruction: Get Wet Stay Safe collaborates with well regarded local organisations such as SportNI, Swim Ulster, and Swim Ireland to provide expert-led instruction. These professionals possess a wealth of experience in their respective fields and are committed to imparting crucial water safety skills to participants. By learning from these experts, you can feel confident in your ability to handle potential risks and make informed decisions while engaging in watersports.
  4. Accessible and Free: One of the most attractive aspects of the “Get Wet Stay Safe” initiative is its accessibility and affordability. The programme is available in every council area in Northern Ireland from May until September and is completely free of charge. This inclusivity ensures that the largest possible number of people can be reached. By removing financial barriers, the programme also aims to reach a wide audience and create a safer watersports community. As an extra bonus, all participants will also receive a free Nature Valley bar to keep them going during their session!
  5. Bridge to Local Watersports Clubs: In addition to fostering water safety awareness, Get Wet Stay Safe aims to connect participants with local watersports clubs. After completing a session, attendees are encouraged to pursue their passion for watersports by joining these clubs. By facilitating this connection, the initiative not only promotes active and healthy lifestyles but also boosts membership for local watersports organizations. Supporting these clubs is essential for their sustainability and continued contribution to the community.

Attending a “Get Wet Stay Safe” event is a proactive step towards ensuring your safety and well-being while enjoying watersports activities. The initiative’s commitment to water safety education, alarming statistics regarding lifeguard call-outs, expert-led instruction, accessibility, and bridging participants to local watersports clubs make it a valuable and life-saving experience. By equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge and skills, you can confidently navigate the waters and enjoy your adventures with peace of mind. Remember, prevention is key, and your participation in “Get Wet Stay Safe” could ultimately save a life.

‘Get Wet Stay Safe’ continues to keep public safe in open water

The ‘Get Wet Stay Safe’ (GWSS) programme returns for its second year to ensure the safe use of open water spaces.

The GWSS programme is a joint initiative between Sport NI, Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, Swim Ulster, Swim Ireland, Maritime Coastguard Agency, Royal National Lifeboat Institute, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, The Outdoor Partnership and local authorities.

GWSS provides a series of training sessions in each council area on the impacts of cold water and basic safety messages for Stand Up Paddleboard and Sit On Top Kayak users as well as open water swimmers.

The second year of the programme was launched at South Lakes Leisure Centre in Craigavon where those in attendance also had the opportunity for to take part in a Get Wet Stay Safe session on the water.

Chief Executive of Sport NI, Antoinette McKeown said: “It has been brilliant to see the increase in people taking part in water sports and taking advantage of the many accessible locations on our doorsteps across Northern Ireland.

“Water sports are a great way to stay active during the summer and being outdoors has many benefits for our mental health and wellbeing but open water also has significant risks.

“We want to ensure that water sport is enjoyed but is done so safely. The Get Wet Stay Safe programme will educate users on the risks of open water and how to look after themselves to avoid situations but also how to help themselves if a problem should arise.

“The first year of this programme saw over 600 people take part in our safety sessions, equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to enjoy their time on the water safely.

“We would encourage anyone thinking of taking part in paddleboarding, kayaking or open water swimming to attend one of our sessions.”

Sessions are being held in all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland every weekend and on Wednesday evenings between May and September.

The programme is also being sponsored by Nature Valley with every attendee on a course receiving a bar.

If you are interested in attending a session, please click the GetWetNI link for a list of locations and dates:

People enjoying adventure activities (whether on water or land) in Northern Ireland are also being urged to #BeAdventureSmart, as partners come together to launch the AdventureSmart Northern Ireland campaign.

New pages on feature detailed information for popular outdoor pursuit sites including the Mournes, the Causeway Coast, the Sperrins, Strangford and the Fermanagh Lakelands.

The campaign encourages people to be AdventureSmart by asking three questions before they set off for their day:

  • Am I confident I have the KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS for the day?
  • Do I know what the WEATHER will be like?
  • Do I have the right GEAR?

The website has all the information needed to be in the know and kitted up to enjoy Northern Ireland safely.

Paul Donovan, co-lead for the AdventureSmart campaign said: “We are pleased to join forces with the Get WET Stay Safe programme in a coordinated approach to outdoor safety in Northern Ireland. This collaboration will offer well-placed opportunities to gently nudge those in search of an adventure to take responsibility for their own safety and make their good day better.

“Over 100 organisations with an interest in outdoor recreation and tourism are partners in the national campaign. We are asking campaign partners to engage in conversations with those who venture outdoors about being adventure smart, to encourage them to make their good day better by taking some simple actions to help them enjoy the hills, water, countryside and coastline safely.

“We all know, the weather changes rapidly here in Northern Ireland so encouraging people to keep a close eye on the current weather conditions and to improve their understanding of how that will affect the environment will enable them to be flexible and prepared. Everyone should set off knowing it’s ok to choose a more suitable location or make plans for another day instead.”

For further information, please contact: Paul Donovan ( or Emma Edwards-Jones, (

To access the information on the adventuresmart website, please visit:

Flow into the next adventure

Future opportunities to get into watersports

This project has been funded by:

with support from the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of watersports in Northern Ireland

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