Every day it gets that bit more noticeable that we have reached winter. It is the start of rainy days, coming home from work in the dark and craving nothing more than a warm cup of tea by the fire to warm up from the cold outside.
So why is it that five NUI Galway students are encouraging the local community to join them for a sunrise swim every morning in November at the well-known Blackrock diving tower in Salthill, Galway?
I talked to two of the organisers, Eoin Hernon and Charlie Clarke, to get to the root of this.
Swimming for a cause
Eoin says: “Different students run the event every year. Basically, it's every morning in the month of November, just trying to get people down to Blackrock and get into the sea to start the day wisely. And in the meantime, raising money for a good cause.”
The event was called Coldvember by the founding members four years ago. Over the past number of years, money was always raised for a mental health charity, but this year’s organisers have decided to go down a different route.
The five students are trying to raise funds and awareness for the Galway Rape Crisis Centre, a charity that is doing important work for survivors of sexual abuse and violence.
Charlie explains: “It’s been a matter that's been really pressing in social media these days. It's obviously always been a huge issue. But you are seeing all this stuff coming through, like Sarah Everard and the needle spiking incident.
“As students we have lots of friends that are young women, and we've heard stories, whether it's something bad has happened, or just someone being weird in the club. It affects literally everybody and it puts everybody at risk and on edge. It was just a charity that we know everybody could resonate with.”
Every year, Coldvember tries to raise more money than they did the year before.
Eoin says: “Last year, [the organisers] were very successful and they raised just over €15,000. So this year, the goal is €20,000. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll raise a good sum of that.”
A sense of community
The event creates a real sense of togetherness between the many facets of the local Galway community.
Charlie says: “You'll get people from very different walks of life. My favourite thing is going down and seeing a little old lady that goes every day, she's like, 90 years old, she's never been sick. And she says, ‘I swear it’s the sea.’
“Then you get students that are coming or just people before work. All different walks of life, everybody from the community. It really brings a sense of togetherness and as if you're going through the cold weather together, the cold mornings, getting up early, but everybody just leaves feeling so positive.”
Eoin adds: “Once you get in the water, it’s as if you totally reset, as if you flick a switch and everything just feels so much better.”
By now, Coldvember is an integral part of the Galwegian calendar.
Cold water safety
With the cold winter temperatures, it is vital that participants are aware of the risks of cold water shock and hypothermia.
Although you should not stand around in the cold wind too long, enter the water steadily and keep on splashing your face and torso with water to avoid your body going into shock.
It is important to stay warm immediately before and after getting into the water. Put on warm clothes as soon as you get out of the water and try to warm up by doing exercises such as a brisk walk or jumping jacks.
There are trained lifeguards in the Coldvember crew that will be able to assist anyone, should the need arise.
Coldvember is a good opportunity to become immersed in the Galway community and the organisers have tried to make the event as inclusive as possible.
They will be wearing Coldvember branded beanies and fleece jumpers and are welcoming participants to approach them.
Charlie says: “If people are going down by themselves or they need someone to mind their stuff, or they want to have a chat over coffee with someone, then we'll be noticeable.”
Of course, the main aim of the event is to raise money for charity. The Coldvember facilitators are selling beanies and will have a bucket for cash donations on site every morning.
The main method of donation is through the iDonate link which can be found here. More information and daily updates can be found on the Instagram page coldvember_nuig or on the Coldvember Facebook page.