40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Not a Pool: TWA Hotel

rooftop pool with TWA logo and runway view

TWA Hotel pool. Photos by Gordon Gebert unless otherwise noted.

As the temperature drops this fall, I’m thinking fondly of a summertime outing taken with my coworkers on a hot day this past July. We were treated to a tour of the new TWA Hotel and the magnificent public spaces within the old TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. Our day ended with a long lunch and plenty of time for dunking up on the rooftop pool deck.

The pool is shallow and short so I didn’t even attempt to swim a lap. Rather, it’s a nice place to hang out and watch things flying around the airport and Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which in our case included birds, a gigantic swarm of dragon flies, and airplanes (seen but magically not heard).

Our tour guide told us that the pool would be open year round, though some aspects of the heating plan had yet to be determined. I’d be curious to check it out in the winter, especially if the deck also has some warm spots.

Day visitors are welcome for a fee, but there are no locker rooms and you have to leave a long list of personal items with security, making the whole experience a bit awkward. We loved the spaces and the views, had some bumps with the service just like the New York Times critic, and all agreed we’d go back in a heartbeat.

Here are some more views of the pool area and the rest of the property from this wonderfully memorable day.

table set with pool-themed accessories

Our lunch table complete with pool-themed accessories and TWA wings. Note that everything on the deck is white and there is no shade. We weren’t sure if this was because the project wasn’t completed or they don’t want guests to overstay their welcome up there. (This photo is mine.)

"Connie" on the tarmac

Architect Eero Saarinen’s creation as seen from the pool area atop one of the new hotel wings, with the “Connie” lounge inside a plane salvaged from the Honduran jungle.

three of us in the sun

Nothing says a good day at work like a pool huddle with some of your favorite coworkers. Thanks to Michael for the pic!

lobby lounge

The entire terminal is now public space, open to hotel guests and visitors alike. There’s even free wifi! Check out the beautiful former departure lounge.

departure lounge

Another view of the terminal, in all its sweeping glory.

white walls, red carpet, tunnel with a light at the end

The light at the end of the tunnel: a fantastic promenade sans harried travelers.

curvaceous concrete and bike rack

Curvaceous concrete and bike rack at the terminal entrance. (This photo is by yours truly.)

group photo in stripy room

Let’s hear it for this great team! (Photo by tour guide Kelly.)

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#100: Kosciuszko Pool

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Configuration: 3 wide lanes of 100 feet in Early Bird lap swim area; pool is 230 feet the long way

Fee: Free

The prospect of pool number 100 hung over me all year. I wanted it to be local and special, a tall order given that I’ve spent seven years ticking off other pools that fit those criteria. Happily, Parks came to my rescue by adding a Brooklyn wunderpool to the Early Bird lap swim program.

As soon as I saw Kosciuszko Pool on the list, I asked four of my favorite pool pals — all of them with 40 Pools from the beginning — to join me there for 7:00 a.m. laps one Friday early in the season. In a summer full of unexpected health issues among this cohort and our loved ones, it was extra special that we all turned up that steamy morning ready to explore a “new” pool and check out a neighborhood spot for breakfast. Kosciuszko Pool, correctly pronounced with two sh sounds but known more easily as K Pool, was perfect for the occasion.

5 of us in swimsuits

Pool and the Gang: Amanda, Lisa Lisa, me, Janet, and Piezy sneaking some post-swim pics. That’s a nice-looking shade structure and the lap area off in the distance.

What’s more, Amanda agreed to be our designated photographer, Janet gamely composed a special workout for the occasion, and they both agreed to share their work herein. Thank you Lane 2 buddies!

Check-in was smooth and professional, with Lisa Lisa coincidentally getting card number 100 — a high count given that this was just the sixth day of lap swimming. Clearly, this addition to the Early Bird program was already well appreciated. The locker rooms were roomy with a larger bench area that we are accustomed to, and the lap swim staff and fellow swimmers were welcoming. No pool rage here. (My only significant criticism was that after the swim the showers gave us just a modest trickle out of each head.)

Unlike many of the city’s massive lap pools, this one dated not from the WPA era but the 1960s. Buh-bye brick, hello concrete! Despite the change in materials, the attention to detail was just as thoughtful as the pools from 40 years prior, with Modern play sculptures and a shade overhang incorporated into the design.

Pipes and pyramid

Architect Morris Lapidus designed this play space atop the locker rooms, but the slide he created is no longer in use.

The lap area is at the far end of the pool, and regulars told us it’s even available during the day. (As of this posting date, there are two days left of lap swimming and then one more week of outdoor pools, so get there stat if you want to see for yourself.) One challenge for Janet in her workout writing is that we didn’t know ahead of time what the distance would be. It turned out to be the “short” dimension, which is 100 feet across. Three wide lane-like areas were designated slow, medium, and fast, and the acquatics specialists kept a close eye on things to prevent collisions and misanthropy. More and more swimmers piled in as the session went on, and we gazed longingly at the vast empty water beyond the lap area.

Long view of pool and bleachers

The lap area is so small and far away that you can barely see it!

The week was steamy hot, making the water in my usual Early Bird pool cloudy and warm, but K Pool was amazingly chilly — too chilly for Piezy to even stay in but perfect for me. The biggest detraction was the remnants of a chicken dinner strewn across the bottom or our lane area. Really.

This superblock of a pool was the work of Morris Lapidus, an architect who designed resort pools full of flare in places like Miami and the Caribbean. An immigrant from Russia, he grew up in Bed-Stuy, so it’s fitting that the Parks Department commissioned him for a pool in that neighborhood. Riding my bike here that early morning and then to Queens afterward, I was struck by how quickly and dramatically the neighborhoods in Brooklyn shift. Immediately surrounding the pool are low-rise residences, a school, and not much commercial activity or greenery.

The pool’s namesake, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, an earlier immigrant from eastern Europe, has more than his fair share of structures named after him, including a New York bridge that reopened today. Janet incorporated colorful facts about both of these men into her commemorative workout.

With thanks again to my fellow pool tourists, here is Janet’s workout. And yes, I’ve continued to think about old Tadeusz whenever I try to do a good streamline.

Warmup: 400/533 yards (12-16 lengths). While swimming, streamline off of every wall, imagining your body as stiff and sturdy as the logs Kosciuszko used to dam rivers during the American Revolution. From Wikipedia:

The British advance force nipped hard on the heels of the outnumbered and exhausted Continentals as they fled south. Major General Philip Schuyler, desperate to put distance between his men and their pursuers, ordered Kościuszko to delay the enemy. Kościuszko designed an engineer’s solution: his men felled trees, dammed streams, and destroyed bridges and causeways. Encumbered by their huge supply train, the British began to bog down, giving the Americans the time needed to safely withdraw across the Hudson River.

Kosciuszko pool was designed by Morris Lapidus, the architect of the Fountainbleau in Miami Beach: “During an age when proper, refined American architecture was smitten by the big boxes and straight lines of such European internationalists as Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Morris Lapidus was drawing curves and installing cupids in his lobbies.” Be inspired by Lapidus’s curves:
Swim 4 x 1 length, alternating lane leader—play follow the leader, making your length as curvy as the pool/crowd permits.

More Lapidus inspiration, from the Washington Post [with emphasis added by yours truly]:

It was as if American design were dominated by something like nouvelle cuisine — stark portions of food artfully arranged on an otherwise empty plate — while Lapidus was serving up great, heaping, artery-clogging slabs of triple-chocolate cake. As he put it himself: “If people like ice cream, why give them one scoop when you can give them three?” His contemporaries said “less is more,” Lapidus recalls. “And I said, less is nothing.”

So — in celebration of both of triple layers of triple chocolate cake, topped with triple scoops of ice cream, and also in celebration of Hannah’s 100th pool, let’s do
3 x (3 x 100 (i.e. 3 laps)):
          1st set: easy 100, medium 100, fast 100
          2nd set: each 100 easy-medium-fast by length
          3rd set: fast 100, medium 100, easy 100

Now back to Kosciusko: At some point in 1777, Kościuszko composed a polonaise and scored it for the harpsichord. According to Wikipedia, a polonaise rhythm goes like this:
musical notations

Let’s see if we can do 2 x 1 length kicking to this rhythm in honor of Koko.

And finally: Kosciuszko has had monuments/bridges/pools/towns named for him all over the US as well as in Europe, including his native Belarus. Do you know who was born in Kosciuszko, Mississippi? Oprah Winfrey, that’s who! Be your best swimming self as you do 6 lengths perfect stroke warmdown.

nice landscaping outside the pool complex

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Hafnarfjörður, Iceland

Amanda’s summer 2017 return visit to Iceland brought her to many Westfjords pools, which you can check out in her photo essay. Herein, she tackles Reykjavík, site of some of our previous exploits. Due to the “no photography” policy posted at all of these pools, she’s listed links to the websites for the facilities, which include images. The photographs below are hers. 

After a spectacular road trip around the Westfjords, we ended our 2017 Icelandic vacation with several days in and around Reykjavík, which in turn provided opportunities to visit a few more pools. My first stop was a return to Laugardalslaug, site of the IGLA Championships in 2012 that first brought me to Iceland. Unsurprisingly on a beautiful summer day, the outdoor pools and hot pots were crowded, but I had the indoor pool essentially to myself and enjoyed a nice long-course workout. I thought that the sight guides on the ceiling were a new addition, but photographic evidence from this blog proves me wrong. Nonetheless, swimming backstroke here remains a challenge. Most importantly, we did not leave the complex without a joyous trip down the waterslide, which was just as much fun as I remembered.

We spent a few lazy days at our friends’ summer house in the village of Borg, about one hour east of Reykjavík. Borg’s swimming pool is connected to an athletic complex featuring a gym, soccer fields, basketball courts, and a playground. Our 1000kr (US$9.30) entry fee gave us access to 4x25m outdoor lanes, one designated for lap swimming, two hot pots, a kiddie pool, and a basic (especially compared to the one at Laugardalslaug) waterslide. I found this pool unremarkable except for an epic meltdown by a young girl in the locker room, complete with crying, screaming, and the slamming of bathroom doors.

spectacularly blue waterfall

The spectacularly blue Brúarfoss, found not far from Borg.

What I did find remarkable was a pool in the quaint Reykjavík suburb of Hafnarfjörður, a picturesque harbor town and the third-largest city in Iceland, with 30,000 inhabitants. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Hafnarfjörður is that it is essentially built into the lava, with its well-kept houses, yards, and streets nestled carefully among hardened lava flows.

flowers

Some landscaping among the lava flows in Hafnarfjörður.

The city of Hafnarfjörður boasts three swimming facilities. We visited one: Suðurbæjarlaug. The 1100kr (US$10.25) entry fee included towel rental, which was convenient because we had walked there from where we were staying in Garðabær. The swimming facility is edged by a beautiful dark wood-paneled building, with a 5x25m outdoor pool with marked and roped lane lines for lap swimming connected to a smaller open swimming area. This large pool is also connected to an indoor pool, separated by a wall above the water, so you could swim under the wall and into the indoor section. It must be terribly convenient on rainy or snowy winter days.

At most of the pools we visited in Iceland, if anyone was using the designated lap-swimming lane it was usually only to swim a few leisurely laps before retreating to one of the hot pots. Suðurbæjarlaug was the only pool where I saw several serious lap swimmers with caps, goggles, and “toys” like fins and kickboards. There are also starting blocks, so my guess is that this is regularly used as a competition pool. As much as I enjoyed coming across this ideal set-up for swimming proper sets, I tried to keep my workout short so as not to get in the way of the locals.

The outdoor area at Suðurbæjarlaug also featured three hot pots and a cold pot, a kiddie pool, two waterslides, a steam room, as well as gender-specific nude steam rooms. The main locker room was spacious with full-size lockers, mirrors, and hair dryers. But one of my favorite features was the open-air locker room. When it’s available, I always opt for an outdoor shower. There is something especially pleasing about showering with an open sky above you. The presence of a neighborhood swimming facility like Suðurbæjarlaug makes it easy to understand why Iceland repeatedly ranks high in happiness measures.

A lovely street in Hafnarfjörður

A lovely street in Hafnarfjörður.

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Iceland’s Westfjords Pools

Amanda and I loved exploring pools and cultural attractions in Iceland in 2012. I was thrilled when she asked about writing for the blog in advance of a return visit with her husband and two Icelandic friends last summer. As if we needed more convincing, her photo essay provides full evidence of Icelanders’ love for the pool. Stay tuned for a separate post about the pool in Hafnafjordur, outside Reykjavik, which was her favorite of the whole trip.

The (very short) list of “stuff” that we would need for our trip to the Westfjords of Iceland included this bullet point: “Swimming gear! Let’s hit every pool in every town. Goal.”

Photo of waterfall in distance behind fields

Water, water everywhere. A roadside waterfall on day one of our Westfjords road trip. Photo by César Martínez.

I was 100% on board with this plan. My first trip to Iceland in 2012 included visits to several of the pools featured among the original 40 of this blog, and I have since remained a big fan of the country and the people, due in no small part to their passionate pool culture. Since I had already volunteered to provide some guest posts for 40 Pools, I was grateful that my fellow travelers shared in my enthusiasm to visit local pools in the Westfjords.

Photo of green hills

A typical Westfjords view. Photo by César Martínez.

In fact, a pool was on the itinerary for our very first day of travel, with a planned stop at the pool where Einar’s grandmother learned to swim. Attached to the Hotel Reykjanes, this pool has two things that are remarkable: it is large (50m long and 12.5m across), and it is geothermally heated to quite a hot temperature. It was not difficult to imagine Einar’s grandmother, along with everyone else in town, splashing around in this giant “hot tub” while enjoying the spectacular views of the surrounding fjord.

Amanda underwater with bubbles

Taking a dip in the heated pool at Hotel Reykjanes. Photo by César Martínez.

Steamy fields and water

Geothermal steam rising from the grounds outside Hotel Reykjanes. Photo by César Martínez.

Spectacular views quickly became a theme as we continued to check Westfjords swimming pools off our list. I had planned to swim some laps when possible, but in many cases this proved difficult, as the pools were oddly sized and usually only had one or two lap lanes available. Not to mention that most were far too warm for a proper workout.

Sketch of pool

An example of odd pool dimensions from the public pool in Suðureyri.

The pool in Suðureyri was packed with local families on a beautiful Westfjords summer day, with plentiful sunshine and temperatures in the high 60s. It indeed seemed that the entire town was there, some splashing in the small swimming pool and others lounging in one of the three hot pots. Given the strict rules about bathing properly before swimming in Iceland, I was surprised to see the largest hot pot full of small children eating popsicles while their parents enjoyed miniature cups of coffee from a dispenser on the pool deck.

Pool view

Photo by César Martínez.

We discovered a true gem of a pool in Patreksfjörður. The complex was clearly recently built, with a 16.5m five-lane pool, complete with lane lines painted on the bottom, as well as the customary three hot pots, on a deck with truly breathtaking views of the fjord. We timed our visit to coincide with summer’s extended dusk and puzzled over the Lonely Planet’s description of the town as “unattractive.” A full gym is attached to the pool complex, with a number of trophies from regional swim competitions on display in the hallways, one of the only pools we visited that seemed to offer a competitive swim program.

Hot tub and scenery

Dusk over Patreksfjörður.

Twilight view

Dusk over Patreksfjörður. Photo by César Martínez.

Eerie black and white image

The moonscape on the drive between Bíldudalur and Tálknafjörður. Photo by César Martínez.

That said, we completed our circuit of Westfjords pools with a beautiful competition pool in Tálknafjörður, featuring five 25m lanes with painted lane lines and starting blocks. By the time we arrived at 8:00 in the evening, the shade of the setting sun was beginning to encroach on most of the facility, so we didn’t enjoy basking in the hot pots as much as we had in Patreksfjörður, but what this pool lacked in atmosphere and views it made up for with a spectacular water slide.

talknafjordur hot pots

Raudasandur beach

Iceland also has beautiful beaches. Here’s the photographer on Rauðasandur (“red sand beach”).

Snow-capped mountains in distance

On the Snaefellsnes peninsula, on the road back to Reykjavík. Photo by César Martínez.

Westfjords map

Iceland’s Westfjords

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Oh, What a Beautiful City!

A friend came across this gem of a video set at Hamilton Fish, a gem of a pool on the Lower East Side. I implore you to watch it and then watch it again, because it’s just as good the second time, music and all.

Years ago I saw a longer treatment of the same place, called The Pool, that explores a different day in its life (sans cell phone promo). It’s a good one too, if  you ever get a chance to see it. Differences among people from all walks of life all melt away when they are together enjoying the water.

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Cal Legends Aquatic Center


pool view through front door

My recent visit to the Bay Area did not include a swim in one of its newest pools, Cal Legends Aquatic Center. It’s unavailable to the likes of me, being reserved for the sole use of UC Berkeley’s renowned intercollegiate aquatics programs. The Golden Bears were constrained at the workmanlike Spieker pool, so a group of alumni up and bought the land for “more water,” had it built, and donated it to the college. How’s that for being true to your school?

I came by early on a Saturday morning to peer in through the fence at the year-old facility. The boxed-in setting is so similar to Spieker that I thought I might be in the wrong place, but the new diving tower is the giveaway. No more do Cal divers have to travel to Palo Alto to practice their high dives.

A group of women were nervously huddled on the highest platform, jumping one by one, so I’m convinced I was lucky enough to see varsity swimmers or fledgling recruits.

Meanwhile, Spieker and Cal’s other pools–Hearst, Golden Bear, and Strawberry Canyon–remain open to the rest of the community. Sources tell me that it may be possible to get into Legends if the other pools have to close unexpectedly, something not uncommon based on my experiences trying to swim at Cal, but in that case you get the water only and not the heated locker rooms and hot tub. (If any pool closures happen during my visits, I hereby plead the Fifth.)

As a staunch supporter of public education, I was glad to see that Cal beat the Cardinal team last year (in the Spieker pool no less). That said, I do find Stanford’s facility to be much more inspiring even than this new pool. Perhaps getting past the chain-link fence would change my mind.

pool view through the fence

Are those varsity swimmers up on the tower?

pool view through the fence

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Pool Power

sign: pool open until Sept. 11Attention, attention: Report to your nearest outdoor pool immediately. The Parks Department extended the outdoor pool season by a week–until Sunday, September 11–at all the big pools! Designated lap swim sessions ended last week, but many pools are empty enough for unimpeded laps during the regular hours. Enjoy!

As you soak in the ambiance, here is some food for thought. It is back-to-school season, after all.

  1. In Iceland, there are pool anthropologists who travel across the country to study pools for academic purposes. Many of their beautiful selections overlap with my own, but I clearly need to make a return trip–and consider a career change.
  2. In Australia, pools are so important to the national culture that they are the basis of the country’s Venice Architecture Biennale pavilion. Another return trip and career change possibility.
  3. It’s not just architects who are inspired by pools. Check out these artist-designed pool experiences. LA is now on my travel list as well.
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Not Exactly a Pool: U.S. Winter Swimming 2016 National Championships Venue

 

Too wimpy for winter swimming myself, I asked the ever-intrepid Janet to blog about this intriguing temporary pool-ish setup in the Hudson off Manhattan. The write-up is hers, the pictures mine. I admit to a bit of jealousy of the swimmers on this beautiful sunny day but contented myself with my own memories of swimming nearby during warmer conditions.

Hudson not-quite-a-pool, with George Washington Bridge in backgroundLocation: Hudson River at Dyckman Street, Upper Manhattan, by La Marina restaurant

Configuration: 2 x 25m lanes with boat ramp entry

Fee: Varied with number of events entered

On January 30, the United States Winter Swimming Association staged its 2016 National Championships in the Hudson River. “Winter Swimming” in this context doesn’t just mean swimming in the winter. It’s distinct sport, popular in northern Europe and growing worldwide, in which set distances are contested in near-freezing water in outdoor settings.

The International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) is to the sport what FINA is to pool swimming. As a safety measure it limits the distances raced in specific temperature ranges (200 meters max for water under 2 degrees Celsius, as the Hudson was on this day). It also sanctions a full schedule of winter swimming competitions around the world. Several of the Hudson River competitors and organizers had just come from an event in China, and others were headed on to England, Sweden, and Latvia before the World Championship in Russia. (For any North American readers interested in trying out winter swimming closer to home, there’s also a competition in Vermont coming up in March!)

Over the past couple of years, I have followed the adventures of friends who travel far and wide for these events, and was always fascinated by the various venues. Many are held in frozen lakes, with a 25-meter-by-2-lane rectangle carefully cut out of ice and a lane-line strung down the middle. Sometimes platforms or walls are built at each end of this rectangle, so that swimmers have something to push off of on starts and turns. (The pool in this excellent video, taken at last year’s championships in Vermont and featuring our local legend Capri, gives a good idea of that style of outdoor pool and conveys the appeal of the sport). In these ice pools, ladders provide a means for entering and exiting the water. There are no dive starts in winter swimming, for the sake of swimmers and of everyone nearby.

Cutting a pool in the ice was not possible in the Hudson—the brackish water was not frozen, and even if by some fluke it had been, strong currents would have made swimming very far out from its banks dangerous. Instead, the organizers devised an ingenious way to have a measured course, near the shoreline where the currents were negligible, with a boat ramp used to safely enter and exit the water. The result, installed near the docks of upper Manhattan restaurant La Marina, looked like a very short open-water course: two lanes, a yellow start buoy, and orange turn-around buoys at 12.5 and 25 meters. At the beginning of the day, the river temp was measured at 34.3 degrees, and there was still some snow on the ground from the previous weekend’s record-breaking blizzard.

Janet finishing

Janet (left) finishing one of her many competitions.

For each race, two swimmers entered the water, one per lane. We waded down the boat ramp to the yellow buoy, which ranged from waist high to armpit height as the water level changed with the tidal cycle. For the 25-meter races, we swam to the first orange buoy, touched it, turned around, then swam back to finish with a touch of the yellow buoy. Races of 50 meters and longer used the far orange buoy as the turnaround point, making the course similar to a short-course-meters pool, albeit one without walls to push off or a black line to follow.

Sighting could be an important skill—the lanes were wide enough that several swimmers, including yours truly, found themselves in unexpected places due to currents or just plain crooked swimming. Occasional waves from boat wakes reminded us that we were essentially swimming pool events in an open-water venue. It was pretty cool (no pun intended) the way this event merged the two disciplines.

Six events were offered—25, 50, 100, and 200 meter freestyle, plus 25 and 50 meter breaststroke—as well as a concluding 200-meter 4-person relay. Many of us swam them all, making for a busy day.

The competition was run very efficiently, with a warm staging area inside the restaurant. We were typically sent outside with about 1 or 2 minutes left until the race ahead of us finished—just time enough to make our way down to the boat ramp and take off the outer layers before wading into the cold water. Once done we parka-ed up and hustled back inside, where warm drinks and soup awaited. Plenty of volunteers—many from the wonderful Coney Island Polar Bears, which helped put on this event—kept swimmers safe and ensured that everything ran smoothly.

What was it like, swimming in water that cold? Mostly, I felt the cold intensely while wading in, but once the “Ready go!” command was given, it just felt like swimming. During the latter half of the longest race, the 200 free, I started feeling some painful tingling in my feet, and my fingertips were a bit numb by the end. In all my races, it felt really exhilarating to have been in the water, and that feeling was shared by all the participants—I’ve never seen as many red-cheeked, exuberant people.

Warming up between events was not as difficult as I worried it might be—it was great having a warm indoor refuge so near the water. The restaurant is seasonal, so we had the run of it throughout the day, and its glassed-in portions provided good viewing for the races and plenty of places to curl up in the sunshine between icy dips.

As fun as the swimming was, the other swimmers were the highlight of the day. The winter swimming community is wonderfully friendly, and as a newcomer to the sport I felt embraced and welcomed. As evening gathered and swimming races gave way to socializing and feasting, it was heartwarming to ponder the lengths we go to do the sport we love, and to be reminded once again that the water unites us all, in whatever crazy ways we choose to swim in it.

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#92: Pound Ridge Town Pool

Pound Ridge pool complexLocation: Pound Ridge, Westchester, New York

Configuration: 6 x 25 meters in the lap pool

Fee: Guest of resident

The Pound Ridge Town Pool is one of those places that feels disconnected from the world, as if the sky here were perpetually blue and the water the same, just the right temperature, and never crowded. If you are able to get in either by being a resident or a resident’s guest, you can swim, lounge, eat, socialize, and play table tennis and air hockey here to your heart’s content.

10 pass guest card

me and dad

Me and my dad.

I visited with my friend Naomi and her mother, Ethel, over Labor Day weekend. A regular all summer, Ethel had three guest visits left on her pool card, and she kindly shared them with the two of us and my dad. We chose partially shaded lounge chairs by the nearly empty lap pool and whiled away a couple of hours. At some point a pool pal of Ethel’s joined us. I swam just 1,000 meters, realizing in the process that the pool was a wee bit longer than 25 yards. The rest of our group did some laps too, some for the first time in years and years. That’s how otherworldly the experience was!

The lap pool is also the diving and competition pool. Just two lane lines were in, but the lifeguards kindly let us overflow into the rest of the pool as needed, even though it was signed as closed. No problems here. Most other people frolicked in the shallow pool and lounged closer to the snack bar.

Naomi’s family moved here when she was in elementary school. She swam here in the summers during her childhood but hadn’t been back for ages. Still, she was able to find some names she recognized in the trophy case. The 1970s high dive records would seem to be especially secure given that the high dive has been removed. Back in the day, she said, there was always a long line for the high dive and people really got the business if they didn’t jump. Somehow I can’t imagine anyone getting the business here now.

 trophy case

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#90 & #91: Eriksdalsbadet

empty pool

Eurogames competition pool. Photo by Janet.

Location: Skanstull, Stockholm

Configuration: Indoor 50 x 25- and 25 x 25-meter pools with lots and lots of lanes. More pools outdoors that I didn’t swim in.

Fee: 90 kronor for a regular visit, lots more for Eurogames meet entry

Dear Eriksdalsbadet,

Please accept my apology for taking so long–three months!–to write about your wonders. You have so much to offer. If only we had met under different circumstance, it would have been magical. Unfortunately, Eurogames got in our way.

highway over Eriksdalsbadet

Just like the highway above it, Eriksdalsbadet goes on and on. Hints of its nearly 100-year-old history as a swim site are scant.

It’s awesome that the tradition of swimming on your site goes back to the closed waterworks in the 1920s, although I wish there were more traces left from those days. Still, I get that the Swedish national team needed a cutting-edge training facility–and how exciting was it that your very own Sarah Sjöström was off in China breaking world records during our visit?! (Do your pros really like the water that warm? It sure got hot with the afternoon and then evening sun streaming in.)

I was psyched to beat some of my times from Iceland ever so slightly during the three-day competition. True, I was wearing a $190 technical suit thanks to my team’s new sponsorship deal with Speedo, but I’m sure your infinity gutters, deep water, and normal ceiling played a role.

48500010

Speed slide (right) and lazy river slide.

The tiered showers in the locker room are a great idea–people’s heights vary, so why shouldn’t shower heights vary, too? I also really enjoyed the water slides, once they reopened after some undisclosed incident the first day. The split clock added a whole new dimension to our sliding. Try as I might, I could not break 9 seconds to match my teammates’ times on the fastest slide. Perhaps my technical suit was not optimized for this purpose?

Yonder outdoor pool and grassy lawn.

An early morning view of yonder 50-meter outdoor pool and giant grassy lawn, which all filled up with Stockholmers on these beautiful days.

How about the outdoor pools? I only made it as far as the lawn, since we’d been told that our meet entry did not cover the outdoor part of the complex and I was all pooled out anyway. The natives sure seemed to enjoy themselves out there–and the warm, sunny weather that came with us to Stockholm.

Of course, the competition was fierce. Our TNYA contingent alone was more than 80 swimmers, divers, and water polo players strong. The combination of many of my favorite people traveling to one my favorite places to participate in one of my favorite activities seemed like a guaranteed success.

25-meter pool

25-meter pool, used for warm-ups and cool-downs during our meet.

The lead-up to Eurogames–a major international competition that required signup months in advance and significant travel by most participants–should have given me pause. First the meet was going to be four days, then it switched to three. The registration site flummoxed some of my very intelligent teammates and me. (In fact, I almost got pulled from a couple events due to not having seed times with my entries. I thought I had entered times, mind you, and would have gladly provided them had anyone asked in the intervening months.) Important details such as the event schedule were scant and poorly communicated. All along, though, I reassured myself that everything would go off without a hitch in ever-so-organized Sweden. How organized? This is a place where all the bus stations have countdown clocks and the grocery store check-out conveyors are split by a chute so that a customer who is slow to gather her wares does not impede the person behind her in line. For example.

Smörgåsbord

I swam extra-hard in my 1500 so I wouldn’t be late for this smörgåsbord at my favorite building in Stockholm, Stadshuset. It was a model of efficiency, with hundreds of people enjoying Swedish delicacies and hospitality simultaneously. Photo by Janet.

Things went downhill as the meet drew near. Just a couple days before the start, the meet director realized that the time allocated was impossibly short given the number of competitors. How this was not clear from the data the moment registration closed is beyond me. The “solution” at this late stage was to drop the slowest and no-time entrants from all events and to limit options for distance freestyle swimmers such as myself. Many participants and teams raised a ruckus about these changes, given the long tradition of inclusion in our competitions, and so the schedule was changed yet again and all entrants were reinstated. The catch was that the meet would run loooong, a situation exacerbated by failure to implement various efficiencies such as fly-over starts. Also, the reconfigured schedule had the 800 and 1500 back-to-back. I decided that would be too much at the end of a loooong day so did just the 1500 with the consolation that my 800 split would be recorded. As far as I can tell, that did not happen.

In a different setting–a developing nation, or a culture less known for precision–I would have taken it all in stride. However, because I hold Sweden to such a high standard, because I wanted more free time to enjoy the rest of the city, and because 80 of my friends were watching and griping, the failures large and small were major disappointments.

But, like I said, you’re a nice pool. With a few months’ perspective, I’m clearly still frustrated that the experience could have been even better, but those are the breaks. There were plenty of highlights, and I’m very, very glad to have had the excuse to check out some new water, swim in a technical suit, and visit some old friends and old haunts along with one of Stockholm’s newest museums.

Next time, I’ll make sure that we have more quality time together (not quantity). Until then, thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Hannah

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