Sea Pools of Sydney
October 25, 2010 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Sea Pools: And there are the ocean pools, so beloved by Australians that they have their own culture, a culture robust enough to be the subject of a documentary: Sea Pool: A Life in the Ocean, teased in the video above. Bondi Icebergs, shown in the teaser, is particularly amazing; fed by crashing waves, it is briny and bracing all year round. Membership requires that you swim every weekend, regardless of the weather. Do that for five years, and you’re a member for life. It is the ultimate pool-lover’s pool club.

Description is by Ingrid Fetell at Aesthetics of Joy, where she has plenty more to say about pools & joy. More teasers: 2, 3, 4.
posted by dame (29 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was both glad and disappointed to find that these were not pools carved out of icebergs. I'm averse to the cold water. I will probably never join the Polar Bear Club.
posted by not_on_display at 1:31 PM on October 25, 2010


Membership requires that you swim every weekend, regardless of the weather.

So, it's a club of people who are not allowed to go out of town for the weekend? Lame.
posted by The World Famous at 1:49 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now I must know - where can I find one of these in California??
posted by platinum at 1:50 PM on October 25, 2010


Wow, I love how the waves come crashing over the wall and into the pool. I wonder, though: How do they keep algae and critters from growing all over the pool surfaces? Dedicated scrubbers?
posted by sotalia at 2:07 PM on October 25, 2010


Dear America,

Please build Sea Pools.

Thanks,

Lakeside Orion
posted by LakesideOrion at 2:42 PM on October 25, 2010


Platinum,
there is one near San Diego but you need to fight off the sealions.
posted by stuartmm at 2:59 PM on October 25, 2010


She writes about how one makes you feel like you're swimming in the harbor. Maybe I had an odd upbringing, but whatever happened to swimming in natural bodies of water? I'm not sure I see the point of building a sea pool instead of just going for a swim in the actual sea. Granted, certain major urban areas may make this impractical, but I'd still not rapture about the joys of a swimming pool even if it was my only local option. I might swim in a pool, but I'd be thinking about the frigid ocean off of New England, the lakes of the midwest. Those, happiness, yes. Weeds and sand and all. A pool is just a wavery reflection of what swimming ought to be.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:11 PM on October 25, 2010


My local, the deadly The Bogey Hole.

More.
posted by Duke999R at 3:23 PM on October 25, 2010


You occasionally see these in the UK too. They're like their Australian counterparts, but considerably colder and often with a backdrop of grey sky and light drizzle.
posted by rhymer at 3:28 PM on October 25, 2010


Maybe I had an odd upbringing, but whatever happened to swimming in natural bodies of water? I'm not sure I see the point of building a sea pool instead of just going for a swim in the actual sea.

These are not mutually exclusive. The pools are normally built on the rocky tidal areas that frame the sandy crescents of Sydney's beaches, and for the most part are used by either small kids who are too young to swim in the surf like everybody else, or else by people who want to do some lap swimming in natural seawater, without having to arse around getting out beyond the breakers to where the sharks are.

As a kid, it's heaps of fun to stand up on the seaside wall of the pools as the surf smashes against them, throwing up great plumes of water.

Here's a listing of the ocean baths in New South Wales. Some are really spectacular places to swim. Avalon is one of my favourites, but growing up I swam mostly at Cronulla.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:29 PM on October 25, 2010


gracedissolved: She writes about how one makes you feel like you're swimming in the harbor. Maybe I had an odd upbringing, but whatever happened to swimming in natural bodies of water? I'm not sure I see the point of building a sea pool instead of just going for a swim in the actual sea. Granted, certain major urban areas may make this impractical, but I'd still not rapture about the joys of a swimming pool even if it was my only local option. I might swim in a pool, but I'd be thinking about the frigid ocean off of New England, the lakes of the midwest. Those, happiness, yes. Weeds and sand and all. A pool is just a wavery reflection of what swimming ought to be

I would say that tiny, nearly invisible jellyfish capable of killing a grown man and too small to be stopped by jellyfish nets could be a part of it. Though it seems like the would just get washed into the pool along with the water...
posted by paisley henosis at 3:31 PM on October 25, 2010


Nah, irukandji jellyfish don't live this far south. Up in Queensland & the Northern Territory people need to be more careful - not only irukandji, but also deadly box jellyfish or enormour saltwater crocodiles.

When there's a bluebottle jellyfish outbreak, the ocean baths can be a tiny bit safer from painful stings, but not when the tide is high & the seawater flows right into the baths.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:42 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


enormous.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:42 PM on October 25, 2010


As a Sydneysider (though not a regular swimmer), great post.
It's worth pointing out that you don't actually need membership to swim in a sea pool; they're owned and maintained by the respective local Council and are public and by and large free. There's a women's-only pool at Coogee but that's as exclusive as they get. The Icebergs are a peculiar eccentric lot, who swim in the surf as well as in the pool; it's also the name of the licenced Club they maintain in Bondi which has a bar and an expensive bistro. Anecdotally there's a decent minority crossover between the male Icebergs and the gay bear culture in the Eastern Sububs—you can imagine the body shape and mindset of men who swim year-round.
As it happens I personally know two social/cultural historians who've done work on the history of public baths and community pools in Sydney and it's a genuinely fascinating area of study. There are pools up and down the Pacific Ocean side of the city, as well as right up and down the East coast of NSW, and in harbour pools in sheltered parts of Port Jackson and up the Parramatta River. (Harbour pools are a bit different; though public they're not necessarily free, some of them are simply areas caged with a jetty in a square, while others are for all purposes ordinary concrete suburban pools which happen to draw on water from the river).
They're artifacts of the ways of thinking Europeans in Australia had in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The short story is that from the 1830s there were by-laws forbidding daylight swimming at public beaches, and 'surf bathing' only began to be allowed by Councils in the first decade of the twentieth century when attitudes about public display of bodies started changing. People started to think about beach swimming and about swimming exercise generally as a healthy activity in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, and it was encouraged for its health effects, but there were two problems: a) the attitudes about public morality and dress, and b) the tendency for nineteenth-century (not very good) swimmers to drown easily in the surf. Ocean baths with dressing sheds solve both problems.
How do they keep algae and critters from growing all over the pool surfaces? Dedicated scrubbers?
They're cleaned pretty frequently by staff with brushes on long sticks, and the water that's pumped into them from the sea is filtered but yes, if you swim in an ocean or a harbour pool, you should expect algae, a bit of surface scum, seaweed and sand. Especially if there's been heavy rain or large surf.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:45 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're cleaned pretty frequently by staff with brushes on long sticks, and the water that's pumped into them from the sea is filtered

The ones I'm more familiar with are just rock walls with sandy - and at times rocky - bottoms, complete with seaweed, anenomes & other kinds of ocean life; good for a bit of snorkelling when you're young. They're filled only by the waves washing or splashing over the walls at (very) high tide or when the surf is big.

At Clovelly, they've taken this concept a bit further by building a low sea wall at the mouth of a deep cove with a beach, so that you can snorkel around in relative safety from the churn of the ocean & see all kinds of marine life, including a locally famous blue grouper fish.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:07 PM on October 25, 2010


An aerial survey of Sydney's ocean pools.
Historical info on the City of Sydney's baths and pools.
posted by zamboni at 5:08 PM on October 25, 2010


hey, mefite peacay makes an appearance in the first of zamboni's links!
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:43 PM on October 25, 2010


Yay the Aussies have arrived to tell us more! As a former beach rat and current swimmer (pool and then open water in the summer) these seem just about perfect. A swim friend and I so want to do like a two-week tour of all the pools now.
posted by dame at 6:19 PM on October 25, 2010


the tendency for nineteenth-century (not very good) swimmers to drown easily in the surf.

I'm thinking there's more to it than that. Isn't the Australian ocean dangerous? I noticed the 1884 description of Bogey Hole mentions "these baths had no problems with 'sharks, stingarees or jelly fish'."

Didn't Australia lose a Prime Minister during a swim in the ocean?
posted by eye of newt at 7:52 PM on October 25, 2010


Everyone knows that Commie frogmen took Harold. Didn't stop us naming a memorial swimming pool after him, though.
posted by zamboni at 8:02 PM on October 25, 2010


The Chinese didn't "take" Prime Minister Holt. He defected willingly, had plastic surgery to assume a foolproof Chinese appearance, and spent the rest of his life as a minor regional functionary in the Ministry of Bovine Fertiliser.

But ocean swimming is indeed relatively dangerous - less so from critters than from (sometimes) powerful rips & undertows. That's why most Aussies know better than to swim at unpatrolled beaches, or outside of the flags that mark the safest swimming areas on any particular day.

The flagged areas are marked & supervised by Surf Lifesaving Clubs, first established in 1906. This also explains other reasons for the continued existence of ocean pools - you can swim in them when the beaches are unpatrolled & therefore more hazardous (eg at night, or when the beach is closed because of heavy conditions or shark sightings).
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:34 PM on October 25, 2010


Good point, Ubu.

MeFites may have recently seen Surf Lifesavers on Muslims Wearing Things.
posted by zamboni at 8:58 PM on October 25, 2010


these baths had no problems with 'sharks, stingarees or jelly fish'

A "genuine" "historical" "fact": this warning refers to the dangers to swimmers in the nineteenth century posed by itinerant snooker players, Irish republican fanatics and workers in gelatin factories AKA bone boilers.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:43 PM on October 25, 2010


including a locally famous blue grouper fish.

That's not the real Bluey, Ubu. That is an imposter - Bluey the second!

Thanks Dame, fantastic post, I wish we had these over here.
posted by Ahab at 10:29 PM on October 25, 2010


I went swimming in the ocean pool at Clovelly this morning. It was pretty bloody cold.
posted by butt_monkey at 11:07 PM on October 25, 2010


18.5 degrees, according to the Manly Hydro Lab.

Here's a handy 7-day forecast loop from the Bureau of Meteorology.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:15 AM on October 26, 2010


I always liked the look of the Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls. Haven't made it yet though.
posted by chavenet at 7:38 AM on October 26, 2010


This picture of the sea pool at St Andrews shows at least one of the reasons why people like these pools - a nice, non-rock-infested place to swim at low tide. And in scold water like North Sea, the water in sea pools is warmer than the rest of the sea, the contrast getting more the longer it's isolated from the sea.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:47 AM on October 26, 2010


My first thought as the video played was "Oh look, another 5D MkII showoff video."

That's unfair, because it's an interesting subject and it's very well shot. But this style of video is very quickly become a total cliché.

"Oh hai I can has 5 dee GEAR!" in the summary didn't help either.
posted by CaseyB at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2010


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