FREE Watersport Safety Sessions to help people ‘Get Wet…Stay Safe’
A new initiative to help the people of Northern Ireland stay safe on the water has just been launched called ‘Get Wet…Stay Safe’. The project is offering FREE safety sessions in 3 watersports – Stand Up Paddleboarding, Sit-on-Top Kayaking & Open Water Swimming and will be available in each council area across Northern Ireland.
So if you’ve recently bought a stand up paddleboard or sit on top kayak or just want to experience the many benefits ofopen water swimming and are not quite sure what to do these sessions are a must for you.
Participants don’t need to have any previous experience or equipment though booking in advance is essential.
The aim of the sessions are to explore and equip people with the necessary skills, knowledge and decision making to safely participate in eachwatersport more independently.They can expect to learn suitable weather forecasts, local tidal information/river level information, how to find out the best places to access the water and how to develop their personal performance skills.
The Stand Up Paddleboarding & Sit-on-Top Kayaking sessions start on Wednesday 8th June and will run throughout the summer until September on a Wednesday and Friday evening at 7pm and Saturday and Sunday morning at 10am. See list of sessions below.
Always wanted to have a go at watersports but didn’t know how to get involved?
Get Wet NI is the perfect way to try something for the first time and see if it’s for you.
During May Watersports clubs throughout Northern Ireland will be opening their doors to members of the public to have a go and try out a whole range of watersports including canoeing, sailing, water skiing and wake boarding, rowing, angling, stand up paddle boarding and diving. No prior experience or specialist equipment required there really is no excuse not to give it a try!
The campaign kicks off with a weekend of water based outdoor activity taster events all over Northern Ireland during the weekend of 6th and 7th May with further opportunities to have a go on a range of Taster events throughout the month of May. These events will be closely followed by a series of follow up training events throughout the summer to encourage participants to continue in their chosen watersport.
SportNI is one of the leading organisations behind the initiative and their Outdoor Recreation Development Officer, Mike McClure commented “Get Wet NI is a wonderful way for people to experience the fantastic watersports opportunities here in Northern Ireland and hopefully by taking part in this campaign it will help develop favourite past-times that participants will take part in for many years to come”.
Waterways Ireland, who are part funding the project are looking forward to welcoming new users onto their waterways trying out new experiences, Sharon Lavin from the organisation explained, “‘Get Wet NI’ is a fantastic opportunity for people to experience the great natural water resources we have here in Northern Ireland. The Erne System and Lower Bann waterways, which will be used for some of the events, are simply stunning and an opportunity to explore these particularly scenic areas from the water should not be missed.”
‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign to protect Irish Waterways launched by Leave No Trace Ireland and Partners
A new initiative to raise awareness about the spread of harmful invasive plant species and the impact of litter on Irish waterways has been launched by Leave No Trace Ireland in partnership with Waterways Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Sport Ireland, Canoeing Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the Marine Institute, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign’ aims to raise awareness about biosecurity and the impacts of litter and is calling on the public to play their part in protecting Ireland’s waterways.
Launching the campaign, Padraic Creedon, Ecologist with Leave No Trace Ireland said biosecurity is all about reducing the risk of introducing or spreading invasive species and harmful disease in rural and urban environments.
“Ireland is facing an increased threat of invasive alien species in and on its waterways. These are non-native species that have been introduced by human intervention, outside their natural range that can threaten our native wildlife, cause damage to our environment, economy and human health. Water Soldier, (Stratiotes aloides), chub and pink salmon are just some of the species threatening Ireland’s waterways.”
John McDonagh, Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland added: “Waterways Ireland is delighted to partner on this important campaign with Leave No Trace Ireland. Our inland waterways are rich ecological and heritage corridors, enjoyed by a variety of recreational users. The introduction or spread of invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic, is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity and can seriously disrupt people’s enjoyment of the waterways. We would strongly urge our users to adopt the Check, Clean, Dry approach so we can all work together to preserve this valuable resource for current and future generations.”
Malcolm Noonan TD, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, also expressed his support for the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign’. The Minister noted that tackling invasive alien species is vital to our efforts to halt biodiversity loss and that the Programme for Government provides for development of a new National Invasive Species Management Plan.
“Invasive species are a serious threat to our biodiversity, and I fully support the efforts of Leave No Trace and their partners in this new campaign to raise awareness about Check Clean Dry protocols. I’m delighted to see my Department’s strong engagement in this initiative through Waterways Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and hope that it will help to improve vital biosecurity measures all over this island’s waterways. Through the British Irish Council, the NPWS also engages with counterparts in Great Britain to encourage water users on both sides of the Irish Sea to apply these simple but effective measures.”
The new campaign is asking anyone who goes out on the water to help in reducing the risk of spreading invasive species and disease by following the Check, Clean, Dry principles.
CHECK boats, equipment, clothing and footwear for any plant or animal material, including seeds, spores and soil. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
CLEAN and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any plants and animals, leave them at the water body where you found them.
DRY all equipment and clothing for at least 48 hours – some species can live for many days or weeks in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere. (NOTE : If complete drying is not possible then disinfect everything).
Information and updates on the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign will be available on Leave No Trace Ireland’s and its partners’ social media channels, and through Leave No Trace Ireland’s website where you can learn more about biosecurity.
How to be a water baby!
I’ve always been drawn to the water. Growing up in Portstewart it’s something that you can’t ignore. Family beach days and running into the waves, often leaving me soaked to the core but with a massive smile on my face. As I’ve gotten older and tried new watersports activities, that delight at being totally soaked isn’t always there, but the smile is just as big. Watersports offer the opportunity to experience the sea (or pool) in a di erent way, through di erent activities; sailing, sea swimming, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, wakeboarding, freediving, and kayaking and so on. Each one activity brings a new lease of exhilaration. They also offer their own unique challenges and rewards. Females are one of the most underrepresented groups in watersports but a recent campaign from SportNI and Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland called ‘Get Wet NI’ is attempting to get more women involved. It’s a great opportunity to try a new sport, meet some new people and learn new skill at clubs all across Northern Ireland. My own experiences of watersports will hopefully help give you an idea of what might be right for you and a taste of what to expect when you’re on (or in!) the water.
I sailed for a short period when I was younger, and I really enjoyed how chilled it was once you learnt the ropes (literally). During lockdown a friend and I were able to jump into a 2 person dingy and sailed across West Bay in Portrush one blustery Friday afternoon. Thankfully, she’s an experienced sailor so I was in safe hands. I didn’t remember everything, but it has given me the bug again and I’m planning to head along to some of the upcoming taster courses. Sailing is a great example of something you can drop for a while and come back to, you can do it with friends and there are sailing clubs all over the country to give you a hand. It’s also one of the most popular activities in the GetWet NI campaign. There are events taking place in Newcastle, East Antrim and more planned in other areas throughout July.
Surfing was always something I thought I could do. It can be intimidating for females in the water especially with the ‘surfer dudes’ dominating the waves and making it look so easy. Thankfully, the north coast has its own Girls Only Surf Club, ‘Gutsy Girls’. It operates through Longline Surf School in Benone and was the perfect way to grasp the skills in a female only environment – much easier than trying to figure it out on your own. Dan and Rebecca are the perfect coaches and make it such an enjoyable experience – so much so, I bought my own board and can now head out into the waves when I want.
Open Water Swimming/Dipping
Last year when COVID-19 took over the world, it ignited a newfound appreciation of the sea for many people. “What can we do that isn’t walking?” was a frequently asked question. The answer for many, was sea swimming. Last June a friend and I decided to try it and, despite the sun shining, the water was baltic, a proper shock to the system. Still, we enjoyed it so much that we immediately started plotting our next dip. We decided that we would go in every day during June, adding one minute extra in the water each day, so by the 30th of June, we were swimming (treading water) for 30 minutes. If you’re not a con dent swimmer, you don’t have to go in through the waves – more often than not we went in at the ‘wee beach’ in Portrush harbour which is more sheltered. If the weather is bad, just give it a miss that day. Probably the biggest obstacle to getting into the water is the thought of the cold, so do what you can to keep yourself warm – wear a wetsuit and a hat to keep your head warm, take a bottle of hot water to pour on your hands and feet when you get out. There’s now a huge community of dipping clubs and sea swimming groups that you can join because going in on your own isn’t as fun and it’s always safer to go with a group.
Just get started. You don’t need all the gear to have an idea – mostly you’ll need a swimming costume and a towel to get going, the clubs/ providers will be able to lend you the rest if it’s needed. Build up your confidence – start with short sessions or in a group with like-minded people and build up your time and experience. It gets easier! Drag a friend with you if you can – the more the merrier. A good friend will listen to your experiences, a best friend will share them with you – even if it does involve the occasional “why am I doing this?” There are taster events for lots of different watersports activities happening all over Northern Ireland throughout the summer! Better still, they’re being offered for free or at a reduced rate and are a great way to try something new – particularly as we come out of over a year and a half of being extremely limited in our activities. For a full listing of events, head to www.getwetni.com to see what is on offer near you.
Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland neither have, nor assume, any responsibility for the accuracy or the completeness of the event information supplied or the service and level of care afforded by any of the clubs and associations listed on this website.