"You can never be to careful," when it comes to online dating.
That's according to Waterford woman Kelly* who almost drowned after agreeing to go kayaking with her Tinder date.
Kelly matched with Brian* on Tinder when she was 26, and they agreed to meet for coffee. Brian asked her to be more 'adventurous' and suggested they follow up coffee with kayaking on the nearby canal. He had photos of kayaks on his Instagram, and reassured her he was an experienced instructor who would love to take her out on the water.
Despite feeling the chemistry wasn't right over coffee, Kelly got kitted out to go on the water with him. "He double wrapped the spray-deck" Kelly told Beat, which is a protective sheet placed over a kayak passenger to keep them dry. "I didn't think much of it 'cause I had no experience. I just wanted to do something different, give him the benefit of the doubt, just keep seeing how the date went."
Shortly into the voyage Kelly got nervous and asked to turn back. Soon her kayak collided with Brian's and he "got his paddle and pushed it against my kayak and it completely toppled me," she said. "Because the spray-deck was double wrapped I couldn't free myself."
Kelly was wrapped so tightly inside the kayak she could not break free under water and started to drown. "I was drowning under the water. Literally trying for what felt like minutes, bending my back trying to break the water. I was giving up. I had just accepted the fact that I'd done something very stupid in trusting him and I was going to die."
Thankfully the Dungarvan woman gave one last push and the spray-deck band snapped from her force. "I got up and I looked at him and he goes 'Y'alright? Hehe'. I couldn't believe it. He didn't look like he was panicking. He just watched it happen. I was completely capsized in a boat, terrified, and there was no emotion there. There was no way he was qualified."
Kelly swam to the side of the canal afterward and was helped out of the water by onlookers, and called her parents in tears. For months afterward she suffered nightmares, dreaming she was back in the murky waters, unable to escape.
Kelly shared her story with Beat news to warn others of the risks attached with dating and engaging in unfamiliar activities. "You can never be too careful. I'm in a very happy relationship now, and off the dating sites for quite some time, but if I could bring awareness just to protect people in the future that would be great," she said.
While dating is fun, and part of life, it is not safe to engage in risky activities, such as water sports or hiking, with strangers.
For more information on staying safe with online dating, look at Spunout's guide to dating, and consult Water Safety Ireland or Mountaineering Ireland to ensure personal safety when exploring the outdoors.
*Names have been changed