Rachel (a qualified level 2 open water coach) and her team of qualified coaches, instructors and lifeguards are at hand to help teach swimming, give advice on technique, provide tips for triathlons, build swim fitness and not forgetting the leisurely swimmers who would like to get to a cave or two.
Let’s dive in!
When did you set up Couch2Cave?
I used to go for a dip in the Pier every day in Tramore close to our home. In the summer of 2019, a few women (whose children I had taught to swim in Splashworld) approached me and asked me for swim tips. Week by week, the number of women coming for tips grew and the social element that came with it was fantastic—each brought their own flask and deckchair for the chat afterwards.
By the end of the summer, we decided as a group to continue swimming lessons in a pool rather than wait until the following summer to start again. I contacted a few pools and was able to hire Newtown School pool for an hour and ran women-only swim groups. This expanded over the course of the winter to hubbies, partners, friends… So I then created a men-only group and a mixed group.
What gave you the idea for it?
I got so much satisfaction seeing adults overcome their fears and anxieties and then learning to swim—I really wanted to take it to the next step. By the end of the first winter of pool swimming, someone mentioned that she was delighted to get off her couch every week to come swimming. Another person queried whether it would ever be possible to get to a cave as it was something on their bucket list. So, the name Couch2Cave was born!
It has been a massive success…why do you think that is?
People love meeting swimmers of similar ability and getting a chance to explore our beautiful coastline, all while having the reassurance of qualified instructors and lifeguards beside them on their stand-up paddle boards. The ethos of the group is to have fun, push yourself a little out of your comfort zone and not take ourselves too seriously. Couch2Cave has evolved into a little community. Swimmers are now spotting other Couch2Cave swimmers by their swim hats, hoodies, robes, etc. and I have started noticing a nod and a wave acknowledging each other. That’s fantastic to see.
What are your plans for the future with Couch2Cave?
If I was to listen to my hubby Mark, I would be expanding globally! But right now, I am happy to help more people learn to swim locally and help them get past their fears. It would be fantastic to go on a little swim holiday around Ireland, checking out other venues.
A good friend of mine refuses to swim front crawl for me and is looking for me to start an easy breaststroke group. That is up my sleeve for now!
Tell me a little about the classes—you offer sessions for beginners, intermediate and advanced? What can people expect?
The Beginners class starts with the basics—floating, handling a wetsuit for the first time and treading water to venturing out over their depth…with each group progressing to the next level—being new to deep water and starting to build swim fitness. And then to the next group which is swimming anywhere between 500 metres to 1 km, building distance to about 2 km within the hour. You’ll learn open-water technique, sighting, drafting, triathlon tips and relaxing while sightseeing—this is all part of the session.
What do you need to join the class?
A wetsuit is strongly recommended and a towfloat is compulsory. I always carry spares in my car for people to borrow or buy. You’ll also need a swim hat and goggles. To date I have been giving out Couch2Cave swim hats to those new to joining. I need a description of each swimmer’s ability. Whether you’re a beginner, how many lengths can you swim in a pool, are you comfortable/competent in the open water and what distance per hour can you swim. Once I have that information, I can recommend the options available.
Does it run all year?
Yes. During the winter months, I run a few pool swimming sessions for different abilities each week. You can sign up for 10-week blocks at a time—I run three a year. I am fortunate enough to be able to offer swimmers the flexibility of jumping into a different group of similar ability if they miss a session during the 10-week block.
The sessions cover technique, skills and drills, distance and swim fit building. And a bit of fun diving and tumbling. The winter pool swimming starts in late September and the three blocks brings us right up to late May…in perfect time for sea swimming. If you want to swim any sort of distance in the summer, the further you can swim, the more caves you can get to – it is important to work towards that fitness during the winter months in the pool with me.
What’s the best and the toughest thing about running your own business?
Seeing the new friendships formed, hearing the chats and giggles from different groups and receiving texts/emails/cards about how it is helping people with their mental health is enough for me to keep continuing for as long as possible.
The tough part is juggling the hours with my home and family life, but I am aware that this is part and parcel of being a mum and self employed…as many others do. I am thankful that my family are very much involved in what I do and are always supportive of it. I have had to take my husband Mark and my dad off the golf course on the odd occasion to help!
You also have merchandise—what’s on offer and how can someone buy it?
Currently I have dry robes in pink or grey with fleece on the inside. I have hoodies, swim hats and cozy knitted hats with a fleece band for winter. I have T-shirts on the way and a few other ideas in the works. I have a website being developed at the moment so it will be possible to purchase the Couch2Cave merchandise on that…but for now if you contact me on 086-604-1300 or email@example.com. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram.
Where are 5 of your favourite places to sea swim in Waterford?
The Pier in Tramore is where I grew up swimming and made so many friends so it would be remiss of me not to mention there. But as far as fabulous and beautiful swim spots, the Copper Coast has around 15 to 20 places that I try and get to over the course of the summer. I love Ballymacaw, Newtown Cove/Metalman, Kilmurrin, Trá na mBo, Ballydwan—the list is endless.
Tough one, but out of those 5, what’s your number one and why?
I love the Newtown Cove to Metalman swim on a calm day. My dad always brought us out to the caves exploring as kids and fishing for mackerel, so I have very fond memories of exploring the caves out there.
Outside of Waterford or even Ireland, where is the most stunning place you’ve swam?
At the end of the summer, I’m heading to Croatia on my first ever swim holiday with a great group of fun girls that I have met through Couch2Cave…so ask me after that!
Aside from swimming, what do you like to do in your downtime?
I dabbled a bit painting with my dad during the pandemic and learned very quickly to give it up again! In the good ole days I loved to get stuck into a really good book, but now meeting mates for a walk/cuppa/chats is all I need.