It starts at low water from a sand spit. The first 500 meters is through the weeds between two islands. Rounding the first corner takes swimmers along a sandy beach. Then the trick is to sight the gap in a reef between two islands. The effects of the North Atlantic can be felt as swimmers near halfway. Now fully exposed to the western swells the lighthouse provides visual comfort. Out of the worse of it and the swimmers pick a course near to, but just off, several reef heads. Finally there is a mile long straight sprint back to the starting location.
2011 entries were swelled by the eleven school swimmers from New Zealand and their coach Graham Beaumont. It is believed to be the largest non-American foreign group ever to complete in an Irish Open Water swim. As a group the ninety swimmers range in experience and ability from: four person relay teams comprised of local swimmers, swimmers accomplishing a personal best longest distance and experienced marathon swimmers.
Vincent Kidd the proprietor of The Royal Hotel in Knightstown Valentia Island, where the after swim festivities are held, said: "Commercially this swim is one of the top three annual events on the island. Last year I participated in a successful relay team and fear that I was so happy behind the bar that I forgot to charge for half the pints I pulled!"
In 2010, 21 year old Cornelia Lyne loved the swim: "It was great to be the first local to complete the 4 mile Beginish Island swim. There will be several more going for it this year as open water swimming is catching on here in the islands."
Last year one of the experienced marathon swimmers was helping some swimmers set 2011 goals in The Royal Hotel after the swim: "Beginish is just like the 28.5 mile swim around Manhattan Island in New York – just fewer people and buildings – go for it next year."
The entries for 2011 are now closed and another record entry.