MEET Aine McAuley and Eimear Tangney – the dynamic duo behind the Salty Sea Sisters, a community created for adventurous women across Ireland and the UK who share a love of the outdoors. The group explore and connect through the land and the sea across both isles.
The goal of the Salty Sea Sisters is ‘‘to connect and encourage like-minded, adventurous women in their pursuit of adventure through the strength of sistership".
‘‘We are the feral ones. The undomesticated. The untamed.’’
I spoke with Aine McAuley, one half of the thrill seeking duo. When North Coast native Aine met Eimear from Co Kerry through a Facebook group, their shared common interests built the foundations for a lifelong friendship.
From there, an idea blossomed that an online forum could be used to interact with like-minded people, only with the incentive of encouraging the participants to connect in person over their shared passions.
Unbeknown to the two just how successful SSS would become, the pair began by posting on the social media platform Instagram reaching out to women who had similar interests in the outdoors. The outcome was incredible. The post gathered hundreds of comments from a wide range of women expressing their interest and sharing their hobbies. From there, the SSS has grown and expanded to an incredible Instagram following of over 24k followers.
Their large scale social media following can only be accredited to the fact that there is an enormous demand for groups such as the SSS whose core focus is on connection and promoting and supporting women in their pursuit of adventure.
As Aine describes it, ‘‘What is amazing is that we are the meeting point and everyone else creates their own magic from that.’’
‘We wanted to know how many people we knew from social media that would be interested and to give people the space to reach out, and make it totally normal to message and meet up for outdoors event.’’
‘‘We posted photos and added our friends and it grew from one friend to another.’’
As the name would suggest, sea swimming is at the forefront of what these wild women do. With sea swimming rising in popularity in recent years, its strong link to a positive mental and physical health can only be seen as a leading motivation. Its benefits include boasting your immune system, reducing stress, increased metabolism and activating your endorphins.
In spite of all its advantages, for which they are abundant, I had to ask – what is their secret and how do they take the plunge into the cold water time and time again?
‘‘Sea swimming is the most accessible, you don’t need anything. You don’t even need to be able to swim on a calm day if you’re going for a dip. It only looks crazy until you’ve done it.
"With cold water swimming, I am such a screamer. When you do it you’re vulnerable with strangers. You’re showing how you manage extreme conditions. They see a different part of yourself. You form a good connection as a result, encouraging each other. It’s a good ice-breaker. Afterwards, there is a sense of comradery – it’s an accomplishment.’’
Come join us! https://t.co/jyiXM5HF8k— Climate Craic (@ClimateCraic) May 21, 2022
A connection to people and place was formed and a respect for the environment has bloomed. Organisations such as Climate Craic and Surfers against Sewage are at forefront of highlighting the importance of the natural world and what can be done to protect it.
‘‘If we don’t have our seas to swim in or land to hike on, we don’t have life. It all connects. These organisations fight to ensure that when we swim we have safe water quality, no one wants to swim in sewage or plastic. It all comes full circle.
‘‘When people are connected to a place and the nature within that area they respect it and want to protect it.’’
The pair have created a Swim Map of Ireland and the UK which can be found on their website. The Swim Map of Ireland includes over 140 locations across the island, all of which are ‘‘adventures waiting to happen.’’ At present, the map is being updated to include over 300 locations in total.
Salty Sea Sisters is all about connection.
‘‘In a time where we are on our phones and things are expensive, if you are able to find something close to you, and it brings you joy and connection to people it’s even better. ’’
The Salty Sea Sisters’ website hosts the Tribe Finder tool which details every group in your locality in Ireland and Britain where you can find like-minded women awaiting adventure.
Home to Ulster is over 40 groups of women who mountain bike, practice yoga, hike, paddleboard, kayak, wild swim, host sunrise and sunset events, and roller skate among other activities.
Many events of which are right at your doorstep here in Belfast and the surrounding areas. In Helen’s Bay you will find Beach Yoga and Sea Swims at Sunrise and Sunset with @Salty_Yogi as well as Swimming, Walking and Hiking with the Jordanstown Lough Swimmers.
In Belfast city centre you will find roller skating events with @cibbelfast, monthly book clubs with @literaturetothetit, sunrise hikes on Cavehill with @Sunrisesocialbelfast and mountain biking with @ladieswhoshredni.
Fun is at the centre of everything SSS do. The most important part being ‘‘meeting people, not being an expert and having a go and along the way creating bonds with people".
‘‘When other people are up for fun, it makes the whole experience exciting.’’
The SSS will celebrate their second anniversary this September with a weekend of celebrations. Taking place at Fairhead on the North Coast, the event will take place between the 9th and 11th of September and will include a range of activities including a market, yoga and wild swimming. All information about the Salty Sea Sisters can be found on their website saltyseasisters.com and Instagram @saltyseasisters.
Special thanks to Oliver Hegarty for providing photographs, check out his widely talented Instagram account @islandervisual and website here.