An 82-year-old islander who swam around Ireland for charity has described his Man of the Year award by a worldwide open swimming association as an honour.
Paddy Conaghan began a sea-water swim adventure around the country in late 2021, stopping at numerous beaches and piers each day and sleeping in his customised van. Starting and finishing on his native Arainn Mhor island off the coast of Co. Donegal, he raised more than €104,000 for charity.
The feat has now resulted in him receiving the Man of the Year award from the World Open Water Swimming Association, an American-based organisation which recognises the achievements of open water swimmers from around the world.
Paddy was named as the winner at an event in San Francisco and according to WOWSA: “The awards celebrate individuals and offerings that embody the spirit of open water swimming and have positively impacted the community, showcasing their determination, fortitude, and sense of adventure. Over 143 nominations were evaluated by the 94 members of the WOWSA Awards Voting Academy and narrowed down to 10 finalists in each category, hailing from 23 different countries."
More than 11,400 public votes were cast
Of Paddy’s first place finish, it said: “The 81-year-old completed a non-contiguous charity swim around Ireland, raising over €104,400, starting and finishing on Arranmore Island, swimming more than 300 times during the stage swim.”
Now 82, Paddy has since embarked on another circumnavigation of the country, and said of his award: "I feel honoured to be sure with all the famous names in it but I got plenty votes around the country and met a lot of people.”
As for the likelihood of winning a global award, he said “not really”, but added: "I just took off last year around the ports and harbours and the beaches of Ireland just carried it on and things just took off from there.”
Paddy finished ahead of South African Lewis Pugh, who swam 123.42 km on a 16-day stage swim from Tiran Island in Saudi Arabia to Hurghada in Egypt to effect change in the marine environment, and Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who won a string of medals at the 2022 FINA World Championships.
Paddy wasn’t the only Irish winner, with Cork Distance Week (Distance Training Week), a marathon swimming preparation camp designed and led by International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator Ned Denison, winning service or product of the year. Based in Sandycove Island, it aims to help participants achieve their marathon swimming and channel swimming goals.
Paddy’s first fundraiser was for Gemma’s Legacy of Hope and his latest Ducking and Driving Around Ireland adventure is raising funds for Accessible Counselling Tullamore, Lisheens House West Cork Suicide Prevention Service, RNLI, Mindspace Mayo and PIPS Suicide Prevention Ireland and has already exceeded its target.
Paddy hopes to complete his latest tour around the Irish coast and return to Arranmore in March.