Swimming has long been a popular sport in Orkney, with swimming clubs in both Kirkwall and Stromness pre-dating the building of indoor swimming pools. Up until the late 1960s, swimming lessons and competitions were bracing affairs, taking place on the beaches at Scapa and Warebeth, and in the basins of both mainland town harbours. Indeed, swimming was so well supported that the two swimming pools on the Orkney mainland were built largely by public subscription, with the pool in Stromness opening in 1969, and a pool at the Kirkwall Grammar School following a few years later. The swimming clubs moved indoors, and two busy, successful, and fiercely competitive swimming clubs ran in parallel in Stromness and Kirkwall, producing swimmers of national, and international calibre in the 1970s and 80s, with the likes of Karen Hourston and Jimmy Poke representing Orkney in Scotland and abroad.
The two clubs affiliated together as “Orkney Amateur Swimming Club” with our National Governing Body, the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association (now Scottish Swimming) in the mid-1970s, but continued to run as separate clubs locally until relatively recently. Now fully integrated as a single organisation, Orkney Amateur Swimming Club (OASC) continues to thrive as an entirely volunteer-run, community organisation with a current membership of 121 swimmers aged between 7 and 20 years, 18 masters swimmers and over 80 adult volunteers. A weekly programme of training sessions in different squads aims to provide swimmers with fun, fitness and preparation for competitive swimming at a level appropriate to the age and ability of each swimmer.
Orkney’s swimmers have been involved in the Island Games since it’s inception in 1985, with considerable medal success in the early years of the games. The most recent games in Gotland in 2017 saw Orkney swimmers again almost reaching the podium at this prestigious International event, signaling a renaissance in Orkney swimming, due to the hard work and dedication of the swimmers and our coaching staff.
Facilities for swimming in Orkney include the ever-popular 4-lane 25 m pool in Stromness still going strong after several renovations, and a brand new 6-lane 25 metre pool at the Pickaquoy Leisure Centre, which replaced the old Kirkwall pool in July 2013. With four pools on the smaller isles, provision for indoor swimming in Orkney is good.