Irish people, unlike Australians, know beaches aren’t meant to be beautiful


I refused to swim on an Irish beach for the first two years of my life here. For an Australian, going to the Irish Sea is like being handed a pint of Guinness two-thirds of foam in an Oirish pub with Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl on repeat and Wild Mountain Thyme on TV. Symbolically close but experimentally, it’s miles away. It all serves only as a reminder of how you miss the real thing at home.

My best friend has been cuddling me in the sea for about a year now. Getting closer and closer to the seaside gently during “walks”. Promising me an ice cream with a patient hand outstretched in the same maneuver I once saw it use to coax a stray cat from behind our trash cans with some ham.

Our first trip to the Seapoint in Dublin just added to the growing list in my head titled “Crazy things Irish people seem to enjoy”.

I watched children with chattering teeth and blue lips cling to the metal poles on the railing in the water. Their parents watched while wearing these towel ponchos that upset some posh people and delight others. There were no changing rooms, so everyone was doing the “PE Class Special” – the non-erotic reverse striptease of trying to slide a lycra swimsuit over creepy legs, with only an old towel and a determined hold between you and all evil.

No one seemed to be having a good time. I volunteered to “watch out for bags.”

“Aren’t you coming in?” My friend asks me.

– It’s raining, I say.

“Of course it’s hot rain.”

Pause. (Hot rain, have you already?)

“The water is frozen. This woman looks miserable.

“But think how good you’ll feel when you go out.”

If the best part of an activity is the feeling you get when you stop doing it, then why do it. There is something very unsettling about being purposefully uncomfortable and calling it craic.

I wanted to go home. In white sand. In the changing rooms. Under the sun. With palm trees. To be able to surf without a wetsuit. To the pubs that serve you without shoes and shirtless, straight out of the beach.

I looked with pity on everyone on the damp concrete in their special little bathing shoes that stop their feet being cut by cruel pebbles. Poor animals, they don’t know there’s a better way, I thought.

But the longer I hung around, the more I realized I was wrong. Australian beaches are mostly meant to show off. On Bondi, everyone is tanned, laser treated, and wears tiny pieces of spandex causing thrush. For a beach where sewage drains into the ocean, he has severe notions. It is a place to be seen. I have friends who stop eating at 5 p.m. the night before to go to the beach. “I want my stomach to be flat for the photos.”

Influencers are confident enough in Sydney to shoot TikTok twerking videos without making fun of the audience. On that gray, clear day at Dublin’s Seapoint, I watched a man strip topless and play with his tripod (to put it mildly) before filming himself doing yoga. Then I heard a “will you be okay?” ” at the right time. of a sane woman in a tracksuit walking a dog. I knew then that I was finally among my people.

The Irish know that beaches are not the place to look good. They are for fun not cool. Photography: Cyril Byrne

Brianna Parkins:

Brianna Parkins: “For an Australian, going to the Irish Sea is like receiving a pint of Guinness two-thirds foam.” Photography: Dara Mac Donail

The Irish know that beaches are not the place to look good. They are for fun not cool. They’re meant to fumble around without looking sexy under a towel, laughing as your panties stick to your wet legs as you unsuccessfully try to pull them up. They’re for sticky chins and 99s. They’re for convincing everyone on shore that “it’s beautiful once you walk in” as you wave your purple arms. The beach is for everyone.

It really is the great equalizer, the sea. It is the one place where people who would never pass each other spread beach towels next to each other. Old and young. Irish and immigrant (me!). Rich and poor. In Ireland, you can’t buy the beach. The rich can’t afford to go to a VIP section of the ocean. They may live near one of them, but they always emerge from the same shore, pulling their swimsuits out of their stockings like the rest of us. Last week, in a bathing spot in south Dublin, a small heat drew everyone from the city in cars, bikes and on the Dart to the seaside.

Inexplicably confident older men at Speedos took to the sun next to a group of Brazilians still wearing their hoodies with their boardshorts. Teenage girls in bikinis with complicated suspenders hid behind each other in embarrassment. I remembered what it was like at that age. My friends (and some of the nastiest members of my family) nominated me as chair of the Itty-Bitty Titty committee.

I hid under oversized T-shirts. The tragedy is that if I still had the body I had, I would wear a bikini all over the place. In stores, at work, on TV. All over.

Next to the girls, a group of older ladies have just returned from their swim. I watched them come out of the water and wipe their simple pieces. “Now!” they told no one and everyone, as they took off swim caps and picked up pre-made tea thermos. Their ease with their body makes me look forward to growing old. They know where they are now and I would like some of that, thank you. I decide that I too will one day be a woman swimming in the sea.

” You come home ? My crazy friend asks.

“Jesus Christ no, but maybe next time.”

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