Owen O'Keefe

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Owen O'Keefe during his 26.4 km swim from Cappoquin to Youghal in August 2012. (Photograph: Donal Buckley)

Owen Thomas O'Keefe (born 1993, Cork) is a renowned open water swimmer from Fermoy, Ireland and is among the most well-known swimmers of Sandycove Island. He has been swimming for his local club, Fermoy SC, from a young age and is also a member of Sandycove Island Swim Club and the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA). Outside of swimming, O'Keefe is a full-time student of University College Cork where he is studying for a BSc in Ecology.



Marathon Swimming Career

O'Keefe completed his first marathon swim on 28 August 2008 when he became the second person to swim from Crosshaven to Blackrock. At 15 years of age, he completed the 18 km swim in 5 hours 37 minutes. Since then, he has completed many other marathon swims including the English Channel and numerous unprecedented swims in Ireland and Great Britain. He completed a crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar on 22 July 2010 in 3 hours 52 minutes to complete his second Oceans Seven swim. O'Keefe also holds the Round Jersey Solo record for the fastest swim by a male, set on 24 July 2013 in a time of 9 hours 35 minutes. The previous record was 9 hours 51 minutes, set by Nick Adams (UK) in 2010. The current record for the fastest solo swim is 9 hours 32 minutes, held by Julie Galloway (USA).

English Channel Swims

O'Keefe is the youngest Irish swimmer to have completed an English Channel solo crossing. He completed his crossing on 21 September 2009, aged 16 years, in a time of 10 hours 19 minutes. This remained the fastest Irish crossing of the English Channel until Tom Healy's 9 hour 51 minute swim on 7 September 2012.

He was a member of the the English Channel 2-way relay team called Crosóige Mara, which also included Maeve Ryan, Eoin O'Riordan, Caitlin Desmond, Lynne Lynch, and Carol Cashell. They swam under the escort of Michael Oram of the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation on 13 July 2013. The first leg took the team 10:18:59 exactly, which is just one second faster than O'Keefe's solo swim time for the same crossing, and the second leg took 10:10:01 exactly. The total time of 20:29:00 was a new Irish 2-way relay record by over 40 minutes. Through the swim, the team raised €13,250 for the Down Syndrome Ireland charity and advocacy group.

In 2012, O'Keefe also played the role of crew on a number of English Channel crossings. These included Trent Grimsey's world record swim of 6 hours 55 minutes.

Unprecedented Swims

Since taking up open water swimming as a sport, O'Keefe has completed a number of unprecedented swims. All of these swims have yet to be repeated by other swimmers. They include:

River Blackwater

O'Keefe was first introduced to open water swimming in the River Blackwater in his hometown of Fermoy. His grandfather, Tom Baker, has been a regular swimmer in the river since the 1960s and passed on his enthusiasm for swimming and for the outdoors to O'Keefe. Since his English Channel solo swim in 2009, O'Keefe has completed a number of notable marathon swims on the river. These swims include:

Since 2007, he has been organising the annual Blackwater Swim in Fermoy. This event was renamed the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim in 2009 to honour the memory of Martin Duggan a local boy who drowned tragically in the river on 12 July 2007, aged 14 years. Currently, this is the only open water swimming event on the River Blackwater.

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