Go BackNews

Seaside Revival presents a Sea Swimming Summer

Sea swimmers setting off at Skippingstone Beach

Date: Thursday 3 June, 2021

The Pickie to Pier Swim will return this year, along with series of sea swimming events curated by Seaside Revival. 

After a 30-year absence, the legendary Pickie to Pier Swim was resurrected as part of Open House Festival’s Seaside Revival celebrations in 2019 – to spectacular success. It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, but this year’s event will go ahead on Saturday 10th July as part the Seaside Revival summer programme, in partnership with Ballyholme Yacht Club. 

The event is open to 200 swimmers, and covers an 800m course from Skippingstone beach beside Pickie Fun park, to the RNLI slipway at Bangor Marina. Participants must be over 16 years of age and confident, experience swimmers who are capable of swimming 1000m within 30 minutes. While the emphasis is on taking part, and all participants will receive a medal, trophies will be awarded to the first male and female swimmers to exit the water at the slipway. The 2019 winners were Julie McCabe and Gary Robinson.

The route will be supported in the water by kayaks, ribs and paddleboards. And three local Spar shops – Spar Gransha Road, Spar Ballyholme and Spar Abbeyhill - are providing post-race goodie bags for all swimmers, containing snacks and a soft drink. 

"We are absolutely delighted that the Pickie to Pier Swim is back again this year as we really do want it to become a staple on Bangor’s summer calendar again,” says Seaside Revival co-ordinator, Caroline McCoubrey. “We couldn’t run the event without the help and support of so many people, including Alan Whyte and Ballyholme Yacht Club, Kevin Baird at Bangor Marina, all of the volunteers who will be manning the route on boats, kayaks and paddle boards and of course our local RNLI. And a special thanks must go to the local Spar stores who have come on board this year to provide post-race snack bags for all participants. We’re sure that gesture will go down a treat.”

Summer Swim Challenge

Sea swimming enthusiasts who don’t want to take part in the race, or who miss out on registration, can participate in Seaside Revival’s big Summer Swim Challenge. Open to all ages and all abilities, the idea behind this new initiative is to get as many people into the water as possible this summer.

“The surge in popularity that sea swimming has experienced over the past few years increased tenfold during the pandemic,” says Caroline. “These days, it’s more rare not to spot people in the water as you walk along any beach or coastal path, than it is to see them in it. As restrictions continue to ease, and gathering safely in slightly larger groups is once again allowed, we decided to create a collection of challenges to celebrate the joys of open water swimming.”

The event comprises 18 suggested challenges, at least nine of which can be completed over several weeks. The challenges range from a sunset swim, to a swim in the rain, to a swim and beach clean. There are no set distances to achieve and no special gear or equipment is required. Registration costs £5, and all participants will receive a beautiful Seaside Revival Summer Swim Challenge embroidered badge and a certificate of achievement.

“Obviously the focus of the challenge is on the beaches of North Down,” says Caroline. “However we would love it to grow beyond the Bangor area into the rest of Northern Ireland, and even beyond, so we’re encouraging people to share the information with friends and family members who live by the sea, or will be holidaying at the coast this summer.”

Online Sea Swimming History Talk

To mark the return of the Pickie to Pier swim, Seaside Revival is hosting an online talk about the history of Bangor’s most beautiful bathing spots, from Skippingstone Beach to Ballyholme Bay. Leanne Briggs from North Down Museum, will deliver a virtual tour of the iconic bathing areas, from the Victorian period right through to the 1960s when the much-loved Pickie Pool was as celebrated for entertainment and music, as it was for large swimming and diving events.

This online talk, which is supported by Bangor Historical Society and North Down Museum, will be delivered free via zoom on Wednesday 7th July at 7.30pm. 

Full information and registration details for all events can be found at the Open House Festival website.

*Pickie to Pier Swim subject to current guidelines and permissions.

Image: The 2019 race gets underway at Skippingstone Beach