Date: 14 March 2023

A group of sea swimming enthusiasts from Larne have marked the first birthday of their group with a special ‘celebration dip’ at Ballygally.

The Extern Embrace group is made up of local volunteers and keen outdoor swimmers who promote the benefits – both physical and mental – of cold-water therapy through dipping and swimming at locations across the East Antrim area.

Set up last year with the support of Extern the group has grown to include 55 members from a range of age groups and backgrounds. The group dips or swims several times a week at a variety of well-known spots around Larne and East Antrim including Gleno waterfall and Ballygally beach.

Members of the group gathered at Ballygally beach on Sunday, March 12th, to mark their first anniversary with a special dipping session, along with a range of celebration activities, including a talk from John Anderson from RNLI Newcastle, who is also a keen open water swimmer, as well as pebble painting and craft-making, among others.

Local woman Jacque Craig set up the group in March 2022 with the support of Extern’s Communities in Transition programme, under the guidance of Chris Millar from Streamlined Open Water Swim Coaching, and with the help of six friends who were keen open water swimmers.

“We started the group as a meet-up to help people experience the benefits of cold water therapy through cold water immersion,” she said. “Embrace has since grown into a strong community of like-minded people, with daily dips, a monthly book club, a weekly knit and natter group, and being able to take in different scenery through organised dips in various locations. The group has been a real lifeline for many people, especially following the isolation many of us felt during the Covid lockdowns.”

Jacque said the open water was where she turned to when her mental health took a turn during lockdown, as she saw the benefits of cold water exposure both mentally and physically.

“Since we founded Embrace, all of our members have seen physical and mental health benefits, including improved fitness, pain reduction, and reduced levels of anxiety/depression. Not only that, it has helped people to make new friends and feel less isolated, which is a great boost to their confidence and rewarding for us.”

The group are keen to welcome new members, of any age or ability level, even non-swimmers. Dipping sessions take place daily and at weekends, depending on the safety of sea conditions.

The word Embrace wrote in the sand

“It's all free and open to anyone who's looking to improve their mental health and well-being,” said Jacque. “Embrace champions are not only trained in a number of water safety courses, but are also trained in supporting emotional well-being and have the confidence to recognise signs and symptoms of common mental health issues.”

To find out more about the group, visit  or email [email protected]