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Freezebruary boys: South Dublin group embrace the challenge of sea swimming for 28 days in a row for charity

With an increase of sea swimming in Ireland in the past year, David Doyle investigates how gruelling the Freezebury challenge is during these strong weather conditions
Cian Murphy, Conor Murphy, Neville Godfrey and Derek Dunne moments before attempting the Freezebury challenge for 16 minutes on 16 February. Photo courtesy of Tom Murphy

Participants across the country have undertaken the Freezebruary challenge for the month of February, in aid of numerous charities throughout Ireland – and that means sea-swimming each day of the month.

Those opting for the more extreme version of the challenge are required to having an increase of time spent in open water, starting from one minute on 1 February, rising to 28 minutes on 28 February.

The Freezebruary Boys, four young men based in South Dublin – Cian Murphy, Conor Murphy, Derek Dunne, Neville Godfrey – are taking part in the challenge, in aid of the heart and stroke charity, Croí. 

Currently, they have raised over €12,000 for their chosen charity, with donations coming from people throughout Ireland and abroad.

“At the beginning of the month, we had to swim whilst being in the middle of a snow shower”

Neville Godfrey

“My mother died last year due to a stroke, so we agreed collectively that Croí was the charity we wanted to go with,” Godfrey says. “We have seen some of the amazing work that Croí has put in throughout the years for [those] who have suffered a stroke or heart conditions,” he continues.

When coping with the harsh circumstances for sea-swimming at this time of the year, Godfrey says the task has been “highly demanding” for the group as they have experienced a variety of weather conditions throughout February.

‘’At the beginning of the month, we had to swim whilst being in the middle of a snow shower and by mid-February, there were high gusts of winds down by the coast that made it difficult for us. We are decent swimmers and do it regularly in the summer months, so the tough conditions have only spurred us on more to face the challenge,’’ says Godfrey.

“You find out a lot about yourself when you’re staring in the face of adversity’’

Neville Godfrey

According to Swim Ireland, open water temperatures in the sea tend to dip below 10 degrees Celsius during the winter months and will not rise above that level until April at the earliest.

What about the mental benefits of sea swimming?

“Physically it is quite daunting for the body, but at the end of the day, it’s just you against the water. Each swim we’ve done has been so beneficial towards maintaining positive mental health,” Godfrey says.

The support for the campaign has exceeded the expectations of Godfrey and his three counterparts, as they expected to garner some attention but nothing close to the over 500 donors contributing to the fundraiser.

“In the beginning, we expected to raise a few hundred euro for Croí, by 6 February we had already raised €8,000. We couldn’t believe how much we raised in such a short space of time,” Godfrey says.

The Freezebruary Boys pose with the tricolour after having their ninth dip of the month. Photo courtesy of Tom Murphy

“We have the advantage of having four of us running the campaign, so we could reach out to several people through our friends and family – but it just blew up to the point where everyone in the area was donating towards the cause.

‘’People have been so generous when donating to us. People with [whom] we have no affiliation were donating hundreds. We received a donation of €200 from one individual, who then gave another €280 moments later, it’s surreal,” he continues.

The vehicle for pushing the fundraiser was their Instagram page, which gained 1,000 followers in a week. On their Instagram, they post daily updates of their experience with the difficult challenge.

Through social media, they managed to target numerous people in their community while also receiving assistance from some notable names. Some include TV presenter Laura Whitmore sharing the social media page and former rugby player and originator of the Freezebruary challenge Damien Browne, who backed the fundraiser online.

Thus far, they have raised €14,500 in donations with a target of €15,000.

You can donate towards Freezebruary Boys here

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