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:


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.

Wednesday 8th June – South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon – Stand Up Paddleboarding

Friday 10th June – Ballygally Beach, Larne – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Saturday 11th June – Carnlough – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Sunday 12th June – Ballygally Beach, Larne – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Wednesday 15th June – Downpatrick – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Friday 17th June – Dungannon – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Saturday 18th June – Dungannon – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Sunday 19th June – Ballyronan Marina, Magherafelt – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Wednesday 22nd June – Ballyholme, Bangor – Stand Up Paddleboarding

Friday 24th June – Jordanstown Loughshore, Newtownabbey – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Saturday 25th June – Jordanstown Loughshore, Newtownabbey – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Sunday 26th June – Antrim – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking

Wednesday 6th July – Kinnego Marina, Lurgan – Stand Up Paddleboarding

Friday 8th July – Enniskillen – Stand Up Paddleboarding and Sit-on-Top Kayaking


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.

My Advice?
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 to see what is on offer near you.

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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