When you sit down to write a story, you never know where it’s going to wind up.
Sitting at the desk in my apartment on Waterloo Road in Dublin, I wanted to write a story about the side of the Irish capital people seemed to be missing. Whenever I encountered fellow Americans (or any foreigners) in Dublin, it was always in the very center of the city or in the pubs. I never saw them while hiking to the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain or strolling along the coastline — even though all of these things are easily accessible to the city center.
This was in 2010. I sat down and wrote a story about Dublin’s other wild side — not the late night partying of Temple Bar — but the great outdoors. I wrote about renting bikes in Phoenix Park, going for a walk along the pier in Dun Laoghaire. I also wrote about the swimming holes along the coastline in Dublin where it is tradition to swim naked. This became the heart of the article that was published this weekend in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The first time I approached the Forty Foot, it was a grey, windy afternoon. I expected to find a couple swimmers, maybe some young, brave men in wetsuits. As I started to hear the water crashing onto rocks, I saw swimmers, over a dozen of them. Some I could just see their heads bobbing out at sea, others were floating on their backs looking up at the sky. Then one man emerged from the changing hut, and in no particular hurry, walked — completely naked — to the water’s edge.
On a different, much warmer and sunnier day, I made my first trek to the swimming hole on Vico Road. It was one of those perfect Dublin days that are fleeting but wonderful nonetheless. This spot is more hidden than the Forty Foot, and requires a short hike down a cliff to reach. As we wound back and forth towards the ocean, families with kids wrapped in towels climbed back to the street above, a puppy was panting hard, trying to keep up with his new owners.
On this day, the sea looked inviting. My friends went for a swim, but I didn’t dare. I dipped my feet in, but the temperature was still too cold to seduce me to take the plunge.
These moments seem incredibly everyday, somewhat boring to the residents of the neighborhood. To them, it’s just a daily swim. For me, it was where a story began.
Photo Credit: Ronan Dillon me&him&you