A Journey into Open Water Swimming and becoming a Chunky Dunker…

Today’s guest writer is Julie Currie… A bit of a legend around these parts Julie can be found either in ‘Robin’s Nest’ a fine eatery in Donaghadee or in the ocean… with what little time there is left Julie child minds and occasionally gets a outing on the bike in… Take it away Julie:

When I was eleven, my Dad took up the job of Postmaster and we moved to a glorious Victorian building that housed the Portrush Post Office and 2 floors of living space above.  What an exciting time for a wee girl, moving from a suburban semi to this wonderful home and, even better, to the coast!

I was the envy of my P7 classmates in Ballymena; they thought I would spend every day in Barry’s. However, it wasn’t Barry’s that made Portrush for me, it was the amazing beaches. Those were the hot, hot summers of the 70s and I spent each and every day in the sea only going home to get fed and go to bed. Wonderful memories…


Fast forward a few decades…

After years living inland, circumstances led me to Donaghadee and a Victorian terraced house reminiscent of my old Post Office home with its high ceilings, marble fireplaces and draughts!! Even better it overlooked the sea and I had found my dream home.

I awoke to a sea view every morning and gazed out last thing at night. I sat at my window and watched her on stormy nights when the wind was raging and the waves were threatening to engulf the lighthouse. Conversely when the sun was shining and the wind was still, I enjoyed the beautiful blue calm bay. I took my kids, and latterly my childminded kids, to the slipway where they spent many an hour swimming, crab lining, poking in rock pools and enjoying the sea in the same way I did as a youngster.  I, however, had grown up and wouldn’t contemplate putting my toe in the icy waters…no way!

The odd time I chatted to a guy called Martin who, in the last few years had started going in daily with a couple of friends and relatives. He tried to persuade me on several occasions to go in, “Go on, you’d really enjoy it, it’s addictive”, he’d say. “Not in a thousand years!” I’d reply. But secretly I was fascinated, could I do it? Would I really enjoy it as much as Martin said I would? I was tempted but also scared.

One Thursday morning (July 2016) I was looking out my window, the sun was shining and the sea was flat calm; it was now or never. “I’m going to do it”, I said to my husband. I put on my swimming costume before I could change my mind and high-tailed it down to the slipway. Gordon came running after me in complete bemusement with camera in hand, ready to capture this momentous occasion.

I swam to the triangle and back three times and thought I was going to die but I felt so invigorated! Three days later I spotted Martin and his fellow chunky dunkers (as I now realised they were known) going in and decided to join them. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the 20 months since that initial dip I have achieved a great many things, I have swam every month of the year (in a swimsuit) in temperatures ranging from 5.8 – 16 degrees, I have swam a mile in the sea, I entered the Tom Blower memorial swim and got a medal, I jumped off Kelly’s Steps and became a Kelly’s Hero. However, these achievements are minor really compared to the real reason why I swim as often as I can with the Chunky Dunkers. I have met and become friends with an amazing and diverse group of people, I get to eat cake on a regular basis and I never get out of the sea with anything but a smile on my face.  I am so glad I took the plunge on that beautiful , sunny morning; it has truly been a life-changing experience.

I would end with encouraging you to try it, as Martin would say, ”Go on, you’d really enjoy it, it’s addictive”.


Julie Currie bio: I’m 54 years old. I feel truly blessed to have a wonderful family, close friends, my faith and my health. I love travelling and sampling the local food though nothing beats driving down Union Street and seeing Donaghadee’s wonderful bay when I get home.

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