Just to say a big sincere thank you to all the people who sent good wishes on my 80th. Birthday last month, not least of all the ILDSA committee who had arranged a super party in Pier 36 in Donaghadee.
A completely unexpected surprise was seeing my good and long time friends Margaret Smith from England and the Blair family from Scotland
who had come over especially for the day, a lovely extra bonus. Others included a nice meal, balloons, a super birthday cake with a swimmer and lighthouse on top, a beautiful certificate of Hon. Life membership to the ILDSA, plus personal gifts and cards.
Thank you to everybody who gave tributes on Facebook, many thanks indeed for your kind words, and for those people who sent me cards in the post, very much appreciated.
Looking forward to (although not too quickly ) the big 90 !
Thank you again to everybody.
Very Sincerely, Billy Wallace.
The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association was formed in 1966 when open water swimming was relatively unknown in Ireland. None the less, in the following year the association held it's first season of events in both Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland and since then, over the decades has increased greatly in size and stature and is now known to all governing bodies worldwide and has an international reputation that is "Second to none".
The ILDSA now organise over 20 events annually ranging from the shorter "Starter swims" like the 1k West Bay swim in Portrush to the 17k and 25k official Irish Championships at Lough Erne., (These longer swims are used by many people as preparation for marathon swims such as the English Channel and the North Channel.)
Over the years the sport has grown tremendously all over Ireland and the ILDSA has been paramount in this success by offering advice on cold water swimming, training methods and also by offering encouragement and support to both beginners and seasoned marathon swimmers alike
For its promotion and services to open water swimming the ILDSA was admitted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in America in 1996 and received a special diploma for its work over many years. Two members of the Association have also been admitted to IMSHOF for their achievements.
Anne Marie Ward from Donegal became the 1st Irish women swimmer to swim from Ireland to Scotland. This was Anne Marie’s 4th North Channel attempt and as a result of her perseverance and her determination Anne Marie was selected and awarded the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the year. Such an amazing accolade for any swimmer and the first time it was awarded to an Irish swimmer. Anne Marie travelled to New York in June where she presented her challenges and journey in the North Channel to a swimming audience at Columbia University. She was then honoured and awarded at the United Nations building to an audience including the International Marathon Swimming hall Of Fame.
In 2012 Steve Redmond from Ballydehob in Co Cork became the first swimmer in the world to the complete the notoriously difficult "Oceans 7" series of swims. (The North Channel, The Cook Strait, The Molokai Channel, The English Channel, The Catalina Channel, The Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar). For his efforts Steve was voted the World Open Water Swimming Man of the year in 2012.
Then in 2013 Newry man Padraig mallon was awarded the World Open Water Swimming Association's Man of the year for completing (In the same year!) an official ice swim, the English Channel and the North Channel while Nuala Moore from Dingle became one of only 5 women in the world to complete a 1000m ice swim inside the the Arctic Circle.
Not only that but both Nuala and Anne Marie Ward were part of the Bering Strait Relay team that won "Performance of the Year" at the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Assocition Awards!
Swimmers from all over the world have come to Ireland to take part in events here and Irish swimmers have taken part in International events in the UK, America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South Africa competing favourably with the Worlds best.
Open water swimming has now grown and matured into one of the worlds leading sports and is now part of the Olympic Games. Our own Chris Byran, from Ennis is now competing at the highest level of the 10km and 5km open water world rankings.
The ILDSA has a strong and dedicated administration and support team, representatives in the four provinces, and good local organisers.
The ILDSA will move into the future and continue to be a strong and influential body for open water swimming. We now look forward to celebrating our Golden Jubilee Anniversary in 2016 and we hope you will join us.
Billy Wallace, ILDSA President.