About

The COPE Galway Swim Story

On a cold Christmas morning in 1989, a brave group of COPE Galway staff took the plunge into icy waters to raise support for their domestic abuse support service, Waterside House. Little did they know this event would evolve into one of Galway’s most cherished Christmas traditions.

Since the inaugural swim, the event has grown from strength to strength, bringing thousands of families and friends – and the occasional tourist – to Salthill Beach every year on Christmas Day. For over three decades Galwegians have demonstrated the true meaning of Christmas by raising vital funds for people who need it through the services that COPE Galway provide.

We have come a long way in the past 30 years, and not only has the Christmas Swim developed into one of our most important fundraising events, it has become a cornerstone of community camaraderie. Though the event has changed with the times, from handing out warm whiskies to the current hot chocolate alternative, and more recently adapting to a virtual alternative for Covid-19, the community spirit has not faltered, and the heart of Galway keeps shining through.

Here is a little look back over the many wonderful (and sometimes weird!) Christmases we have shared with our community.

1989

COPE Galway domestic abuse service staff braved the cold to fundraise for their clients.

Sally Long’s Pub comes on board as our very first event sponsor.

2004

2008

Set world record for largest charity Christmas Day Swim! Almost 900 people participated and over €40,000 was raised.

Attempted to smash our own record but by Christmas Day, the Big Freeze of 2010 had firmly taken a hold and the icy conditions meant a smaller than usual turnout. 400 swimmers still braved the extreme cold and over €25,000 was raised!

2009

2010

The Christmas Swim expanded as walkers joined in from Clifden called “The Jingle Bell Walk” for those souls not feeling brave enough to take a dip on Christmas morning. Walkers received little bells to tie to their shoes before taking to the prom for a walk and a hot beverage courtesy of Lohan’s Pub.

COPE Galway attempted another World Record! This time for the largest number of swimmers wearing a Santa hat. Just over 500 participants were needed to set the record, and the people of Galway blew the record out of the water (literally!) with almost 900 turning up on the day!

2011

2013

We celebrated the inter-generational relationship that Galwegians have with the swim. The theme ‘Family Generations @ the COPE Galway Christmas Day Swim’ invited all the family to get involved and join us at Blackrock on Christmas morning.

The launch was a year like no other, on October 28th, dozens of enthusiastic staff, volunteers and supporters of COPE Galway staged a flash mob at Blackrock diving tower to promote the big day. 

2017

2019

Celebrated the 30th anniversary of the swim by inviting COPE Galway volunteers and supporters to share their memories and experiences of the event, in a project entitled ‘Swim Stories’. The participants spoke of the sense of community and tradition they experience every year at the swim.

Due to Covid-19, it was the first time in 31 years, we couldn’t gather at Blackrock for the Christmas Swim event. Yet still, over 870 swimmers in Galway, across Ireland, the UK, USA, Canada and Australia braved the cold from where they were and raised funds for COPE Galway. The virtual 10-day ‘Swim Where You Are’ event meant people could keep their tradition alive and continue to support people in need when they need it most. Thanks to the overwhelming support from the community, we still raised over €65,000!

2020

A very sincere thank you from all here at COPE Galway

for your continued dedication and support.

Thank you for braving the cold year after

year so that others don’t have to.