If you read this blog, there’s a good chance that you’ve spent some quality time at the pool. Like me, you’ve undoubtedly come across some real characters. Eccentrics, oddballs and downright wackjobs seem to be drawn to public pools. Or perhaps the chlorine fumes have behavioural effects…
You know what I’m talking about. In fact, the title of this post is a thread on the venerable tri website Slowtwitch that has been ongoing for five years. It’s 45+ pages of pure hilarity.
As an ex-lifeguard, I have spent countless hours people watching at the local pool. I like to give the regulars names: floppy left-arm lady, depth charge kick, cardiac attack, frog… I’m always checking out other swimmers’ “technique”. Swim teams have it all wrong; there are far more exciting ways to achieve forward propulsion than the four strokes.
There are some fixtures at every pool, like the lady who compulsively avoids getting her hair wet (she loves it when you do splashy flip turns), the man who really shouldn’t wear a speedo, and the obnoxious wannabe coach who shares his swimming “expertise” at every opportunity (wait that’s me…). Let’s not forget the bodybuilder in surf shorts who insists on swimming in the fast lane.
A man who claims to be a chemical engineer lectures the lifeguards on the finer points of pool maintenance. “The Engineer”, as he is called, is convinced that there’s a conspiracy to close the hot tub when he’s present. He has even taken water samples. Crazy.
Then there are the boys with toys. You know, the ones who bring a water bottle, sports drink, pull-buoy, flutter board, snorkel, fins, paddles, music player, set list, earplugs, noseplugs and resistance bands? They hammer out lengths with different combinations of equipment for 15 minutes before retreating to the hot tub.
There are a few pool memories I wish I could suppress. Suffice it to say that I have witnessed some highly regrettable wardrobe malfunctions. Another time I saw what could only be described as a prosthetic male reproductive apparatus drifting languidly at the bottom of the deep end.
And don’t even get me started on the water (buffalo) aerobics classes, the bane of every lane swimmer’s existence. These women riot if the lane ropes are still in 8 minutes before the start of Aquafit. The pool is transformed into a roiling sea by their exertions (incidentally, this is great practice for open water swimming).
Probably my greatest source of anguish at the pool is people’s ignorance of basic lane sharing etiquette. Grasping the concept of rotating is a monumental intellectual undertaking for some.
I’m happy to share the pool with these “strange denizens”, as long as they stay out of my way. After all, who could possibly have more important business at the pool? Here’s a cool trick for the antisocial: doing some aggressive butterfly will clear out your lane in a hurry.

The pool when 30 sturdy women do synchronized aqua jumping jacks.