Swimming in Ireland: Immersions in therapeutic blue space

Health Place. 2015 Sep;35:218-25. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2014.09.015.


This paper explores swimming as a healthy body-water engagement in blue space at selected outdoor Irish swimming spots. Associated theoretical underpinnings draw from non-representational theories (NRT). Taking as a starting point the idea of immersion, the paper argues for a deeper application of NRT to blue space settings. In addition, the paper reflects recent therapeutic geographies research on differential experiences of health and wellbeing linked to such immersions. Methodologically, the paper uses observer participation and swimmer's own voices to draw affective and embodied accounts from on and within water. The act of swimming as an emplaced and performed therapeutic encounter is highlighted along with a more critical discussion of contested narratives associated with risk and respect. Theoretical learning suggests the need for greater attention to the production of affect from across the life-course and a fuller articulation of the in-betweenness of theory and empirical testimonies. Swimming emerges from the study as a potentially valuable health and wellbeing resource that can be more fully harnessed to inform wider public health policy.

Keywords: Blue space; Ireland; NRT; Swimming; Therapeutic landscapes.

MeSH terms

  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Mental Health*
  • Swimming / psychology*