40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#74: Avery Aquatic Center Belardi Pool

Belardi training pool

Belardi Pool

Location: Stanford, California

Configuration: You name it. 10 lanes x 50 meters during my workout in the Belardi Pool.

Fee: Free with Stanford Masters Swimming

Australia has met its match in Stanford University’s Avery Aquatic Center, a quartet of pools best viewed by helicopter or wide-angle video. I swam in the 50-meter-by-25-meter deepwater pool last Monday at lunchtime while Dr. Little Brother worked on campus.

It took me some time to understand the array of swim options here, so allow me to elucidate. The pool the masters team used–Belardi, at right–is the biggest, but just barely. Across the deck is another 10-lane, 50-meter pool, with the distinguishing attributes of being more shallow and just 25 yards across. That’s the Baker Pool (below right), and it was open to aqua jogging and solo lap swimming.

Meanwhile, two other pools sat idle. I could admire the 10-meter diving platform–a feat of architecture–of the Maas Diving Center during my laps. I could also see the stadium seating by the Competition Pool, where most of the high-speed action takes place in a 25-yard format. It can host springboard diving for good measure, too. It’s no coincidence that Stanford’s athletic programs are second to none.

If you were to max out the pools in short-course configurations, you could have more than 40 lap lanes under the Silicon Valley sun. Who needs 40 pools with all those options?!

Baker Pool

Baker Pool in the foreground, with Belardi Pool off yonder.

Maas Diving Center

Maas Diving Center

Competition Pool

Competition Pool

While many generous donors have contributed to making the facility so top-of-the line, including an anonymous donor who paid to renovate the team locker rooms, the Avery family is the benefactor behind much of this aquatic wonderland. However, their generosity did not stop here. They funded a new, purely recreational pool–also 50 meters–that opened on the other side of campus last fall.

The masters team was the only way in for an unaffiliated civilian such as myself, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. In fact, workouts are free for all visitors. We had the deep, clear saltwater of Belardi Pool all to ourselves, an incredibly luxurious feeling. The coach placed me into a lane, and one of the other swimmers gave me the crucial bit of information that they space themselves out by 10 seconds, since they have so much room. For a while, it seemed that we gained a new swimmer with every two laps, but I didn’t overlap at the wall with most of those people.

With such amazing pools, the guest locker rooms were a bit of a disappointment, not least because they lacked lockers. Perhaps a donor can be cultivated to add secure storage and additional benches within this otherwise perfect facility. Meanwhile, don’t let this minor drawback keep you away.

stanford_DSCN1239

These two doors go to the exact same place.

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#73: Clarke Memorial Swim Center

Walnut Creek pool, the long wayLocation: Walnut Creek, California

Configuration: 20 x 25 yards (or 9 x 50 meters, and there’s also a 25-meter pool)

Fee: $6 drop-in

I traveled across the country for an intensive training weekend at the Clarke Memorial Swim Center several years ago. Highlights outside the pool included a nutrition workshop at a nearby store and a community pancake breakfast with the most delicious strawberry preserves I’ve ever had. There were scores of swimmers and at least a dozen coaches, and I had a great time.

The head coach of the weekend and the pool’s USMS team, Kerry O’Brien, is the namesake for USMS’s annual coaching awards. Other renowned programs here include a youth synchro team and an age group team.  They churn out records and Olympians at an alarming rate.

occupant load limitsI’m back in the Bay Area for family festivities and was happy to return to Walnut Creek for the Saturday morning USMS workout at the suggestion of Dolphin Club Swimmer Suz. Her friend Cindy transported me from the nearby BART station and filled me in on the latest pool news. Shockingly, this legendary pool and year-round community hub is under threat of closure for most of the year to help right the municipal budget.

Needless to say, swimmers and their families have rallied on behalf of their beloved pool, and it looks like the City Council may have listened, however the budget is not yet finalized. I plan to send off a note in support of the pool and hope that anyone else who has taken advantage of this facility will do the same.

The masters workout had about 10 lanes or so, with part of the pool sectioned off for synchro competitors to warm up in–although the entire pool is quite shallow. I shared a lane with two younger women who were sisters and their mother, who kindly welcomed me into their swim family. The water was lightly salty and very clear.

DSCN1232_walnut_creekIt’s hard to say whether the pool makes the community or vice versa, but it really is a special place. The facility was overflowing with people during my visit, and I had to wait a while for a spot in the shower after my swim. I was happy to enjoy the locker room chatter in the meantime (“locker room” being a misnomer for this room without lockers).

The swim complex sits in Heather Farm Park, which includes all kinds of things–lake, gardens, community center, play areas, picnic areas, tennis courts, an equestrian center, and a bike path connection. If for some reason you wanted to a non-swim activity, there are plenty of choices. Me, I’ll stick to swimming and hope that’s an option next time I’m in town.

 

 

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Other Australian Beaches and Swim Spots

Balmoral Beach Bondi Icebergs Club | Wylies Baths |
Tathra | Torquay Loch Ard Gorge | Brighton Baths

Having reported on all of the “real” swims I did in Australia, it’s now time to share some of the baths (pronounced baaths) and beaches. Although I just took leisurely dips or did quick swims at these lovely places, they would work well for training purposes and thus merit reports here. Plus, writing these up gives me a chance to claim a whole “new” ocean!

Balmoral Beach, NSW

side view of Balmoral

En route from downtown Sydney to Manly Beach by road, you pass the turnoff for this beach on Hunters Bay. I’d heard that it was very pretty, so we stopped here after our Bold and Beautiful Swim. The rumors were true; it’s a stunning crescent of fine sand spilling out into calm harbor water. From the beach, you can look out to the Sydney “Heads,” the peninsulas that mark the dramatic opening from the Pacific into Sydney Harbor.

Buoys keep boats out of the swim area, and there’s a classically designed beachfront pavilion with food and changing facilities. Walking out the aptly named Rocky Point, you can see where the beach’s shark net used to be anchored. Ahem, used to be anchored? That’s right, there is no longer a shark net here, and I’m not sure what to make of that fact.

Bondi Icebergs Club, Bondi Beach, NSW

Icebergs pools

Bondi (rhymes with fond pie) is probably Australia’s most famous beach. It’s got a factually based reality show, a professional lifeguard staff (more in a future post on how rare this is), good surfing breaks, and a hipstery vibe. Among swimmers, its claim to fame–and worldwide envy–is the Bondi Icebergs Club.

Founded in 1929 by a group of cold-water-loving swimmers, the club has grown to offer two seawater lap pools–one of them 50 meters with lane lines, both with lines on the bottom–along with change rooms, gym facilities, a sauna with an amazing view, and dining facilities. (Entry: AUD5.50) When the surf is up, as it was during our visit, the waves crash into the pool, jostling the swimmers around among lanes and creating waterfalls in the gutters.

To say it makes for a memorable swim experience is an understatement. The beachside end of the 50-meter pool was closed due to the rough conditions while we were there, so we contented ourselves with partial laps. It being the height of summer, we could not fully enjoy Icebergs traditions, but my understanding is that people relish in the joys of swim here year-round. No matter what the time of year, a swim trip to Australia simply would not be complete without a visit to Bondi.

Wylies Baths, Coogee, NSW

Wylies Baths

If you can tear yourself out of the water, I highly recommend the waterfront cliff walk from Bondi 6 kilometers south to Coogee. You’ll weave in among bays and beaches, up and down from sea level to hilltop, with each unfolding view more stunning than the last. I’m not just talking about the water views either. Flora, rock formations, and manmade structures all merit attention. There’s even a snorkel trail with underwater informational signs.

Coogee Beach, at the end of this walk, looked to me like a kinder, gentler Bondi, a comparison that extended up the hill to Wylies Baths. Open 365 days a year just like Bondi Icebergs, it has a large concrete deck, an unfinished bottom, and impressive stilt-supported boardwalks and facilities including cafe and change rooms.

Swimming here was like being in an aquarium. Fishies, fishies, more little fishies, and colorful sea urchins everywhere. I haven’t come across many of these in my travels, but their spiky appearance is sufficiently threatening that I tried to avoid putting my feet on the bottom.

As many signs and memorials point out, Wylies dates to 1907 and was built to enable the first female Olympic swimmers train. These days, the lap swimmers do their thing in the “deep” (far) end, sans markings or lane lines, going back and forth the 50-yard length. Meanwhile, the shallow side of the pool had a lot of young kids wading and playing. I’ve read that waves sometimes crash here just like we’d seen in the morning at Icebergs, but the water was flat at the time of our visit.

There’s a modest entrance fee and also a fee for the showers.

Tathra, NSW

Tathra beachThis relaxed beach town was our swim stop during the two-day drive along the coast from Sydney to Melbourne. Jo’s parents used to take her and her siblings here on summer vacations, and I could see how easy it would have been for them to rack up fun memories.

Tourist publications bill this area as the Sapphire Coast, and that’s no hyperbole. The water is an ever-so-nice, deep shade of blue with just a hint of green.

The Old Tathra Wharf, dating to the 1800s, sits several hundred meters off the beach and makes for a good swim destination. Stay close to the rocks for the best sea life views. After the swim, you’ll naturally want to fuel up at the beachside cafe.

Torquay Front Beach, Torquay, VIC

TorquayThis outdoorsy paradise sits on the Bass Strait, southwest of Melbourne, marking the start of the Great Ocean Road. If the Wednesday morning activity is any guide, Torquay (rhymes with porky) is also ground zero for triathletes in training. Everyone and their Baby Jogger seemed to be out for an early ride, run, or swim.

The really popular activity, though, is surfing. Multiple surf company headquarters, a surf museum, and plenty of waves at the back beaches are key to the local culture.

Since my visit here coincided with my birthday Eastern Standard Time, I pulled out my flowery cap for a birthday swim at the front, or bay, beach. Buoys a ways out section off the swim-only area, providing a ready-made swim course. Back on shore was a pretty stand of Norfolk pines, which used to be planted along beaches for ship masts.

As at all of these spots, it would have been nice to spend more time here, but that would have meant missing other attractions and my chance to swim in a whole new ocean.

Loch Ard Gorge, Port Campbell National Park, VIC

Loch Ard Gorge from the topAt some point during our Great Ocean Road journey, it dawned on me that we’d come to an ocean I’d never seen or swum in before. How better to round out this swim adventure than with a WHOLE NEW OCEAN?! I was scarcely able to give proper attention to the wonders we passed en route–roadway engineering miracles, beaches and more beaches, rainforest, and resort towns, to name a few.

My first glimpse of the Southern Ocean came at Johanna Beach, soon past Cape Otway, where the Pacific goes one way and the Southern the other. We then stopped at the Twelve Apostles–massive, striated limestone pillars standing in the surf that carved them. Everyone agrees that twelve is an overstatement, but the exact number is debatable, and even with fewer than a dozen this is still a very popular tourist attraction and probably the highlight of most Great Ocean Road Trips.

We saluted the apostles and then continued a short distance west to Loch Ard Gorge, where you can walk out on cliffs or take stairs down to the beach to admire the limestone cutouts from all angles. Its beach looks like it’s being embraced by giant rock arms that aren’t quite touching, leaving a narrow opening where the water flows in. Frankie and Jo had seen giant waves crashing in here before, but today’s late-afternoon surf only sent in ripples that rode up the side of the rocks all the way in. It was fun to watch, since from the beach you could barely tell when a wave was coming until it broke into the gorge.

Loch Ard monster

So, at last, my chance to swim in the Southern Ocean. (Here is where I admit that most of the world does not consider this location to be the Southern Ocean, instead designating it the eastern end of the Indian Ocean, with the Southern kicking in more to the, um, south. Australia begs to differ and deems this the northernmost flow of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. Since I was in Australia and referring to Aussie maps, that’s what I’ll go with. Either way, it’s still a new ocean for me.)

I got right in, enjoyed some waves, and even did some butterfly for good measure. Nevermind that the namesake Loch Ard is a famous shipwreck. I wish I could say that I felt the chill of polar waters, or noticed different kinds of sea creatures, but in truth the ocean pays no mind to the boundaries we assign, and it seemed pretty much the same to me. This did not in any way diminish my excitement, and I hope to someday return to the Southern Ocean for more swimming and also to make it to the Indian. (Perth, do you read me?)

Brighton Baths, Middle Brighton, VIC

backstroke in the BaaaathsMy epic swimcation wrapped up in Melbourne. We hopped from pool to pool on this last day, at the end of which Jo had one last treat in store: Brighton Baths (AUD5).

Bath houseI haven’t resolved the ethics of boxing in a rectangle of seawater and calling it your own, but this seems to be an acceptable practice in Australia (examples above)–or at least it was in 1881 when these baths were established–so I did my best to enjoy without passing judgment. It wasn’t hard, as there was a lot to enjoy here. Think landmark 1936 building (what’s up with that year and swim facilities?) remodeled to include a swank health club and gourmet restaurant overlooking a private beach and seawater pool bordered by sun decks and filled with fishies.

Jo was startled to come across a ray, and in the course of looking for it I found another; we later were told that they are trapped here. Narrower fish would have no problem swimming in and out of the bars propping up the decks, but the rays would have to be pretty clever to make their way out of what’s essentially an underwater prison.

the view toward shore

Close in to shore, I fluttered through sea grass and relived the Wylies Baths swimming-in-an-aquarium experience, minus the sea urchins. The biggest novelty here were starfish, with far more points or legs on their stars than those I’ve come across previously. The water–Port Phillip Bay–had a slightly sweet taste to it.

From the deck, you could admire the bath house, a nearby marina, and the city skyline in the distance. Meanwhile, at the far end of the enclosure, there are three backboard-type wood panels on each side, allowing for 50-meter laps with flip turns. Clever, right? Check out this image for the full dimensions. Yes, I did go under the boardwalk to check out the bars and stilts, but it didn’t strike me as a place I’d want to do laps.

Accomplished local swimmers train here regularly, and there’s an Icebergers squad taking to the water sans wetsuit year-round, surely enjoying the sauna and showers after their chilly dips. The fitness club here had by far the nicest change rooms of any I’d visited in my travels, the only hitch being that they closed at 7:00 when really it would have been nice to swim and lounge a bit longer.

Just as in New York I spend a lot of time at Brighton Beach, so could I imagine life as a Melburnian including frequent visits here. Brighton Beach: good for the soul.

sunset over the baths

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#70: Fitzroy Pool

deep end - profondaLocation: Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

Configuration: 10 lanes of 50 meters

Fee: AUD5.20

Melbourne’s first suburb is home to one of its best pools. The Fitzroy Baths, with separate men’s and women’s pools, opened here more than 100 years ago. Today, the former women’s pool is now the kiddie pool and the men’s is a beautiful lap pool. There are wide stands and a nice grassy area for lounging, a gym, and a sauna to help fill your day.

historic sign

Reproduction broadsheet describing festivities for the 1909 opening for the summer season.

The Fitzroy Pool was the first stop on my final day in Melbourne, last Friday, a properly warm summer day that we made the most of with three different swims. This pool’s community appeal was immediately apparent. From the street-front mural to the bikes parked on deck to the people of all ages swimming, playing, and relaxing,it has legions of devoted followers. Come February, Sunday afternoons featuring free DJ music and barbecue will surely draw even more.

A couple stories give a sense of how beloved this pool is. First, the sign on the deck wall at the deep end:

DANGER DEEP WATER
AQUA PROFONDA

According to legend, it was painted in the 1950s by a well-intentioned but Italian-language-challenged pool manager to warn English and Italian speakers alike of the perils of the deep end. Alas, he left out the in acqua, making for a memorable typo that has since been replicated on the bottom of the pool (see top photo) and brought landmark status for the wall. As the Heritage Victoria website gushes, “The sign has historical significance for its associations with the post-war migration program which had such a profound impact on the Victorian community. The sign is indicative of the changing demographics of post-World War Two inner Melbourne when migrants replaced a segment of the population who moved to the outer suburbs. The sign demonstrates one way in which migrants were becoming accepted as part of the community and as such is a rare tangible example of a public acknowledgement of the cultural impact of the mass migration program. The sign is symbolic of the pool as a place where the diverse population of inner Melbourne could mingle on equal terms.” That’s quite an accomplishment for a misspelling!

aqua profonda signToday, the lettering is partly obscured by temporary buttresses propping up the wall, which was found to be in danger of collapse in a survey following a fatal collapse of another aged, Melburnian brick wall.

The second story also has to do with wrong-turned-right. In fall 1994, the pool faced sudden closure due to budgetary concerns. After a six-week occupation by community members who literally halted bulldozers, it was triumphantly reopened that December. It’s worth reading the anniversary report of the inspirational Save Our Pool campaign. (Read to the end to see a great photo of  the protester-filled pool.) Other communities have since followed suit and mobilized to save their own pools.

That’s all well and good, you’re thinking by now, but what is it like to swim here? Lovely! Clear, lightly salted water. Shimmery tiles in the deep end, matte in the shallow. With two play lanes on either side of the pool, there were still six lanes left for lap swimming, and there were never more than four people in my lane. I basked in the warmth of the midday sun knowing that it would be months before I had another outdoor pool day.

Funnily enough for such a community mainstay, the one thing lacking is a café–the only pool I came across during my entire trip that was deficient in this regard. I guess that when you have strong enough popular support, you don’t need coffee to entice people to come on in.

mural

Sustainable Transport, the pool building’s new mural, is its latest community agitation, taking a not-so-subtle stand in favor of mass transit and against a toll tunnel project.

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North Sydney Olympic Pool at Night

pool and Harbour Bridge after darkI don’t usually give repeat airtime to pools, but my after-dark visit the North Sydney Harbour Pool (#64) was notable both for the beauty of the pool and the discovery of an exhibit about the pool’s history.

Here are two pictures to give you a sense of what it was like. Happily, I even had my own lane. In fact, for most of my swim, there were only two other lap swimmers–perhaps because this was the day after the party-filled New Year’s Day–and for some reason they chose to share a lane. I especially enjoyed backstroking to admire the views of the illuminated Harbour Bridge and Luna Park.

Luna Park end of the pool, all lit upAs at the Olympic Park pool, the exhibit here was a bit hidden away, in this case in a corridor behind the change rooms, and is definitely worth seeking out. You’ll find historic photos of the pool including high divers and world-class competitions. I was intrigued to learn that this facility’s similarity to some of my favorite outdoor pools in New York is more than skin deep. Just like them, as previously noted, it was built in 1936. What I didn’t realize is that it was also a Depression-relief project, creating jobs and bringing happiness to the beleaguered population. Also of note is harbour swimmers at this site, prior to the pool being built, developed the “Australian crawl” freestyle technique that is now used in competition. Be sure to seek out the exhibit when you visit for this info and lots more.

exhibit hall

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#68: Boy Charlton Pool

Boy Charlton lap pool

Location: Woolloomooloo Bay, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Configuration: 8 lanes x 50 meters

Fee: AUD6

The Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool’s brochure says exactly what I would: “Set on the shores of Woolloomooloo Bay [I just like typing that] near the Royal Botanic Gardens, this beautiful outdoor pool offers breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour and provides a tranquil environment for swimming, relaxation and socialising at the cafe.”

view from locker room level

The location has been a swimming hole for millennia according to a sign at the entrance, so perhaps this is my oldest pool? The modern-day facility was built in place of baths in 1968 and reopened after renovations in 2002. Its name comes from an Australian swimmer from Manly who broke records at this location in the 1920s en route to Olympic gold.

My swim here was the longest to date in an Aussie pool, since the training schedule of my pool buddy Frankie called for 40 x 100s with :20 seconds rest. This gave me plenty of time to drink and look around and also kicked my swimming into a higher gear than I’ve mustered otherwise. Although it was a very hot morning, the water was refreshingly cool, and the hundreds ticked by quickly. I loved the views of the docks across the bay and the skyline behind the park; you are at once in the thick of things and at a pleasant remove. The views in the water were quite nice too–this pool has the best-looking swimmers of all those I’ve visited in Sydney.

My only complaint is that the water was terribly salty–“an unpleasant mix of sea water and chlorine” as a local contact described it. I sipped freshwater from my bottle throughout the swim, but it still took most of the day before my mouth returned to normal.

caballeras

The change rooms were pleasantly breezy due to small gaps at the base and louvered walls. When on my way to the shower, I accidentally knocked my hairbrush out of my bag and before I knew it it had hit the gutter and bounced overboard into the harbor. Oops.

The salt could well have been a ploy to attract visitors to the Poolside Café for smoothies, not that it needed any tricks. Overlooking pool, bay, and gardens, and offering delicious food plus loaner sombreros, it was a lovely post-swim stop.

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#64: North Sydney Olympic Pool

North Sydney Olympic PoolLocation: North Sydney, NSW, Australia

Configuration: 8 lanes x 50 meters outdoor pool. (There is also a 25-yard indoor pool and a wading pool.)

Fee: AUD7.10

My pool tourism dream vacation to Australia is under way! After a looong flight that arrived in the wee hours yesterday morning, I needed help to feel human again and get on the local schedule. In other words, I needed the North Sydney Olympic Pool, which is just a short–and beautiful–walk away from the Sydney apartment I’ll call home for the next week.

me at pool entranceLong-time friends and pool fans Jo, Frankie, and I strolled along the waterfront to get here, passing landmarks such as the prime minister’s Sydney residence and the governor-general’s residence while catching views of the famous Sydney Harbor, Harbour Bridge, and Opera House. One of the best views is commanded by the pool itself, nestled on the waterfront between the base of the bridge and an amusement park. Built in 1936 like so many of my favorite New York pools, it’s got classic Deco style in the brickwork and terra cotta.

The facility has expanded over time to include a cafe, a sun deck, an indoor pool, spa, and fitness center, all run by the municipality. It’s not just another pretty pool, though. It’s fast! Among its records is the record for having the most world records–a whopping 86.

Swimming here lived up to my grand expectations. The water was clear, pleasantly salty and chlorinated, and just the right temperature. There was plenty of room even on a Saturday in the height of summer, and the views were spectacular. I did have to concentrate a bit to stay on the left side of the lane, but even in my depleted state I managed. The deep end goes off a cliff, sinking to depths suitable for high diving. The pool is fully lined, a temporary measure intended to extend its life at least until 2018, when more extensive repairs are planned.

Jo, Hannah, Frankie

Jo and Frankie gave me this purple North Sydney Olympic Pool cap when they visited in 2007. I saved it all this time for just the right moment and will now wear it with pride and authenticity.

The full pool was available for lap swimming when we got there, and lanes were arranged by speed including subdivisions such as “freestyle only” (!) or “no breaststroke” (!!). After a short while, a masters team took over a few lanes for a midday workout. Having had enough of a swim by that point, I enjoyed watching them from a poolside seat in a window that protrudes off the deck.

Other impressive features include solar panels about the indoor pool and, scheduled for opening next month, a natural gas-powered cogeneration plant. This will provide electricity and heat while reducing carbon emissions and power costs, helping the local government to significantly reduce its electricity use, given that the pool currently accounts for 35 percent of said usage.

The locker rooms, I mean “change rooms,” pale in comparison to the pool and seem to function mainly for revenue generation–you have to pay extra for a key to a locker and for the shower. Still, there’s plenty of room, and they are clean enough.

Whether this is your neighborhood pool or an attraction you travel around the world to visit, it won’t disappoint. We plan to return for a nighttime swim and after-dark views. And plan we must, since there are more than 100 pools in Sydney!

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#63: Temescal Pool

Temescal PoolLocation: Temescal, Oakland, California

Configuration: 6 lanes x 33 1/3 yards

Fee: $5

If you blindfolded me, spun me around three times, and dropped me into an outdoor, 33-yard, saltwater pool, my first guess as to location would be California. These delightful features seem to be concentrated here, and lucky me is able to enjoy them this week during a Thanksgiving vacation.

20131126_temescal_pool_wiki

The Temescal Pool is just a few blocks from where my brother lives, so I strolled over here on Monday for the lunchtime lap session. The lanes were well used, with four to six people in each, and everyone was very courteous. Noticing my NYC Swim cap, a lane-mate mentioned that he used to live in New York, and after a bit of chatting we realized that he used to work for my employer. Small world.

The Temescal District is a diverse, lively part of Oakland, and the pool’s uses reflect that. It serves an adjacent high school, and as the lap session was wrapping up, a CPR class was getting started. There’s also a USMS team here that I swam with once a few years ago. The lifeguard paced around the pool, a big improvement from the sitting/sleeping/texting posture that is common where I usually swim.

If only it were so easy as spinning around three times with my eyes closed, I’d be a regular here.

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#43: Larchmont Yacht Club

Larchmont Yacht Club poolLocation: Larchmont, New York

Configuration: 8 lanes of 25 yards plus extensive beach and play areas

Fee: Don’t ask, don’t tell–but free to me

Fees to Date: $181.74

Founded in 1880, the Larchmont Yacht Club is one of the Long Island Sound’s most venerable sailing clubs, with a large membership going back generations, a famed race week, and a beautiful waterfront facility. None of this would matter to me at all were it not for the outdoor saltwater pool, which I got to visit last Monday.

I’d spent a lot of time watching swimming over the previous days, first serving double duty as a boat observer and crew member for the 17-mile Ederle Swim on August 18 and two days later kayaking for an unofficial 4-mile swim across the Sound that was organized by a small group to inspire a friend in his fight against brain cancer. I was proud to be part of both events, but all this time not swimming had me antsy. Fortunately, the cross-Sound swim ended right here at Larchmont Yacht Club soon after the outdoor pool opened for the day, and I already had my bathing suit on. John, one of the Sound swimmers, brought me in as his guest and made sure that I tried out the various features: waterslide, lap area, adult beach, and spacious locker rooms.

pool area from family beachThe setting is lovely, with just a seawall separating the pool from the large, protected mooring area in the Sound. Originally, John said, the pool opened into the Sound instead of just taking water from there. (I found some old photos of the pool but none that old.) A family beach flanks the pool on one side, and there’s an adult-only beach on the other. The shallow end of the lap area abuts a clubhouse that’s at an irregular angle to the lanes, reminding me of the competition pool in Iceland–a positive association strengthened by the short but sweet waterslide.

One of John’s habits is looking for money, and he promptly found about $.75 at the bottom of the pool. I pulled up $.26, prompting a quip that “It pays to swim here.” It was also very nice to swim here. The lap area was all but empty, and the chlorinated saltwater was a pleasant change from the pools I’m used to. I also liked the way the sand gave way to concrete on the sloping pool bottom.

After swim and beach time, we enjoyed a snackbar lunch with the unofficial mayor of LYC who had suggested it to me originally, Richard, and his daughter Devon–both fellow Ederle Swim volunteers plotting their next endeavors. We all have plenty of ideas about interesting places to swim in the future, many of them right here in our own backyards.

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