Owen Thomas O'Keefe (born 1993 in Cork) is an 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 has a BSc (Hons) degree in Ecology from University College Cork and practices as an ecological consultant.
- He is an Honor Swimmer in the Hall of Fame – Marathon Swimming Ireland Class of 2020.
- In 2009, he was ILDSA Junior Male Swimmer of the Year
- In 2012, he received the Margaret Smith Award from the ILDSA in recognition of his individual contribution to open water swimming in Ireland
- In 2013, he was nominated for the Outsider of the Year by Outsider Magazine
Marathon Swimming Career
- O'Keefe completed his first marathon swim on 28 August 2008 when he became the second person to swim 18 km from Crosshaven to Blackrock in 2008 in 5 hours 37 minutes.
- He 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.
- He 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).
- He 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 crossing of the English Channel by a swimmer from the Republic of Ireland 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, he played the role of crew on a number of English Channel crossings, including Trent Grimsey's world record swim of 6 hours 55 minutes.
- He was the youngest Irish swimmer at the age of 16 to successfully cross the English Channel.
- He pioneered several swims and remains the only swimmer to have completed the following solo swims:
- 26 km from Cork City to Myrtleville
- 16 km around Sherkin Island
- 11.3 km to Tory Island
- 60 km from Fermoy to Youghal in 2013 in 12 hours 8 minutes
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:
- Around Lizard Point: a 7.5 km swim around Great Britain's southernmost point starting at Kynance Cove on the western side and finishing at Cadgwith on the eastern side. O'Keefe completed this swim in a time of 1 hour 59 minute on 26 July 2008. Through the swim, he raised £1,200 for the local branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). This swim was sanctioned by the British Long Distance Swimming Association.
- Cork City to Myrtleville: a 26 km current-assisted swim from "city to sea". O'Keefe completed this swim in a time of 5 hours 47 minutes on 4 July 2009. Ned Denison recorded the swim on behalf of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
- Around Sherkin Island: a challenging 16 km swim around the second largest of Carbery's Hundred Isles in West Cork. O'Keefe completed this swim with a 3 hour 58 minute effort on 31 August 2011. Lisa Cummins recorded the swim on behalf of Sandycove Island Swim Club. For this swim, O'Keefe started and finished at the village of Baltimore on the mainland rather than a point on the island, adding approximately 2 km to the shortest possible circumnavigation.
- Around Cape Clear: a an unpredictable 13.2 km swim around County Cork's only Gaeltacht island. This was one of O'Keefe's most challenging swims to date, taking him 3 hours 47 minutes to complete. The piloting skills and local knowledge of John Kearney were key to his success.
- Magheraroarty to Tory Island: a 13.7 km swim across the Tory Sound in the Donegal Gaeltacht. This crossing presents challenges to the swimmer similar to those of the Strait of Gibraltar. Under the supervision of Anne Marie Ward, O'Keefe completed the swim in a time of 4 hours 21 minutes on 17 August 2012. A number of swimmers have swum from the island to the mainland but O'Keefe is the first to have completed the crossing in the other direction and holds the record for the fastest crossing in either direction.
- Fermoy to Youghal: 60 km (current-assisted) swim down the River Blackwater from O'Keefe’s hometown of Fermoy to the sea at the town of Youghal. He completed this swim in a time of 12 hours 8 minutes on 16 August 2013. Donal Buckley acted as an Observer for this swim. No other swimmer is known to have attempted this swim before or since.
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:
- Fermoy to Ballyduff (18.6 km) in 2012
- Ballyduff to Cappoquin (15.0 km) in 2012
- Cappoquin to Youghal (26.4 km) in 2012
- Fermoy to Youghal (60.0 km) in 2013
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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