The End of the Deep End
July 14, 2003 11:52 AM   Subscribe

The End of the Deep End. Citing safety reasons, North American cities are abolishing the standard public swimming pool that many of us grew up with. The deep ends of existing pools are being filled in, and new pools are being built shallower. Is this action too extreme, or are deep ends a real threat to public safety? (via Manifesto Multilinko)
posted by sanitycheck (49 comments total)
These safety nuts have gone off the... oh, never mind.
posted by jonson at 12:01 PM on July 14, 2003

OK, count me in as one who thinks this is Going Too Far. It was bad enough when they took the diving boards away. This isn't something I'm gonna lose a lot of sleep over, but it's another case of - IMO, of course - insurance companies ruining America.
posted by soyjoy at 12:02 PM on July 14, 2003

I think the deep ends are safer because you don't crack your head when you try to dive in.

I'm sure statistics would back up this notion so theres no need to check.
posted by BigPicnic at 12:07 PM on July 14, 2003

I was just going to throw out the same completely unsubstantiated assertion as BigPicnic.

Seriously, though, one of the municipal droids in the second SF article does argue for increased signage at all-shallow pools, but does anyone believe that any amount of signs are going to keep everyone from trying to dive in?
posted by yhbc at 12:10 PM on July 14, 2003

BigPicnic - That was my thought as well. I don't think eliminating the deep end is going to keep people from trying to dive. So now there will just be more people breaking their necks.
posted by sanitycheck at 12:10 PM on July 14, 2003

As someone who spent many years as a swim team kid, I would have to ask, don't they realize how much they are taking away from people here? Say goodbye to quality community swimming programs...because remember, you can't dive in the shallow end.

Someone should tell whoever is responsible for this that if they can't handle the deep end, they should get out of the gene pool.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 12:12 PM on July 14, 2003

Since kids can drown in 2 inches of water, I think it would be safer to keep the deep in. You will never stop kids from diving/jumping into pools. The lack of a deep end is stupid and will hurt more kids than the deep end would.
fucking lawyers.
posted by aacheson at 12:13 PM on July 14, 2003

I'd love to subscribe to conspiracy theories as much as the next guy, but isn't it ... umm ... going a bit off the deep end to suggest that "American cities are abolishing" them, as if there's some vast conspiracy of Mayors rubbing their hands and twisting their greasy mustaches over this?

If you follow a link in the SF article, you'll find that "'It's not just a safety factor ...The deep ends were underutilized.'" And: "The deep end has not met its end yet. After replacing its diving boards with slides, the city of Phoenix three years ago opened a diving pool to accommodate demand."

And from my own experience carting the kids around to a couple different area pools, any shallow-area pools are created in addition to existing deep-water pools. It's not like they're disappearing; rather, instead ofnothing to do if you didn't know how to swim, now you've got some alternatives.

posted by RKB at 12:22 PM on July 14, 2003

North American cities? Or just American cities?

Just goes to show you what a lack of 1) priorities and 2) common sense can do to a country.

Not that this is the end of the world, but enjoy your tethered swimming.
posted by jon_kill at 12:26 PM on July 14, 2003

The way the typical deep-end pool is configured, the hapless casual (unskilled) diver enters the water at an angle that, perversely, is perpendicular to the sloping middle of the pool -- slamming the top of his/her head into the pool floor with considerable force and often sustaining spinal injury.

That being said, if you're skilled enough to go off the board and come straight down without a lot of forward momentum, you're pretty safe. Otherwise, you'd be a lot safer cannonballing into 5' of water than diving into 9' as way too many people have learned to their sorrow.
posted by alumshubby at 12:27 PM on July 14, 2003

Oh, and just another water-safety quibble: Always have a swim buddy, no exceptions ever. (I'm really working hard to sell my son on this.) I don't care if it's just a quick dip to refresh yourself. Experienced swimmers can and do screw up one in a million and wind up, er, in over their heads. In which case, all alone is not a good way to be.
posted by alumshubby at 12:31 PM on July 14, 2003

Ha! Not a problem where I'm from!

When laws & courts ordered public facilities integrated, they closed the pools rather than comply. No more swim teams for the public schools, either.

Rich white folks started a private members only pool, and blacks and poor white folks went back to swimming in rivers and ponds, where they continue to drown and contract diseases to this day.
posted by Jos Bleau at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2003

Once again Mark Morford manages to introduce the Administration into a completely unrelated topic. Yawn.

Maybe, just maybe criticism of the administration would be taken a little more seriously were it not for self-important pompous jerks like Morford making it so bloody trivial...
posted by clevershark at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2003

jon_kill: Yes, North American cities. Although maybe I should have just said Canada and the USA.

I couldn't find any Canadian news articles about it, but having worked as a lifeguard and also spent much time in Canadian public pools I can vouch for this. Note that I didn't say that *all* North American cities were doing this, but it is definitely happening on both sides of the border (although perhaps moreso in the USA).

As a synchronized swimmer I have to say this really sucks. 4-5 feet of water is not enough to keep you from banging your head on the bottom while you try to do some fancy upside-down footwork.
posted by sanitycheck at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2003

Yeah, I was hoping Canadian cities would be more reasonable. You know, since we've been across the board more reasonable about everything, I've gotten used to it.

But, I mean, the big swimming pools with the high diving boards? WTF?
posted by jon_kill at 12:38 PM on July 14, 2003

I wondered, as others above obviously have, what effect this will have on swimming programs. The article's awfully non-specific - does this mean they're seriously contemplating "filling in" the deep end of pools used by high school swim teams? What about all those community YMCAs that have teams? Where are future collegiate and Olympic swimmers supposed to train? Or, are they talking about those pool-in-the-park public places that aren't usually - in my experience - where swim teams work out anyway?
posted by JollyWanker at 12:40 PM on July 14, 2003

another case of - IMO, of course - the plaintiff's bar ruining America.

fucking lawyers.

Of all the possible conclusions to reach after reading this article, these two opinions are damaging and at best deflect attention from what's really going on. As others have amply pointed out, there are no shortages of harms to be associated with all-shallow pools that, presumably, any good plaintiff's lawyer could be able to sue for. The scapegoating of lawyers now provides a good cover for corporate lobbyists to sneak through statutory protection from liability from lots of harms and works to the overall detriment to the country. Think before you succumb to the propaganda.
posted by norm at 12:43 PM on July 14, 2003

The deep end at my neighborhood pool was 12'. We had a low dive and a high dive (which I guess was about 3 meters?). I know they took the high dive down years ago and replaced it with another low dive. Who knows where it stands now... probably no dives.
posted by Witty at 12:51 PM on July 14, 2003

Hey Witty...where were you from? My former SD town had a 12' deep section too. I think they took out both diving boards, now... Not sure, though.
posted by graventy at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2003

I'm not allowed to go in the deep end. I've got tubes in my ears.
posted by Samsonov14 at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2003

The most important rule of pool safety is this: Always make sure there's water.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on July 14, 2003

Could be cool as in more H2O-Volleyball!
posted by thomcatspike at 1:14 PM on July 14, 2003

I can't say this surprises me as we have become a nation of infants that needs someone to watch over us 24/7. Considering that there are people in this country that don't realize that hot coffee can burn you, didn't know that lighting a tube of leaves on fire and breathing it can be detrimental to your health, and can't balance on a ladder (check out the amount of safety stickers next time you're on one!), this was inevitable. Soon, we will all be required to wear crash helmets upon getting out of bed.
posted by reidfleming at 1:17 PM on July 14, 2003

norm: I think this is a excellent illustration of the oft-true but underutilized Everyone's An Asshole Principle. Constrain not-my-fault corporatism with expanded liability and accountability and you open the market and municipal coffers to moneysuck by the lawyers. Constrain the lawyers with liability limitations and you end up in the hospital with a bad case of Serrated Metal O. And of course, because this is the Decade of False Dichotomy, these are your only two options.

The Family Friendly (tm) craze is getting dangerous, though.. with no deep end we'll probably end up with similar numbers of broken necks and higher incidence of broken legs (because jumping in full force feet first technically isn't diving). Basically any household product you purchase nowadays is coated in a nice thick layer of triclosan. Playgrounds are literally made of plastic -- all of this because at some point the idea that anything that happens to you is probably somebody else's fault got implanted in our collective consciousness. We'll end up with a generation so infantilized and media-addicted that essentially anyone with a strength of will and slightly superior firepower could easily own us.

I for one welcome our new hockey-stick weilding Canadian overlords.
posted by Vetinari at 1:23 PM on July 14, 2003

I had a pool in my backyard growing up - it was eight feet deep at most. Ah, all those memories of doing things that were totally unsafe - my youngest brother diving in to the pool from the top of the fence, my middle brother's teaching me to swim when I was five (i.e., tossing me into the deep end). Getting dunked repeatedly. And my oldest brother's cannonballs - he could lower the water level by a good inch every time.

Yes, getting rid of the deep end is definitely throwing out the baby with the bath water. But it doesn't sound like they will - the pendulum is just swinging a little towards the shallow end. Still a shame though.

Vetinari - fetch me some sunscreen and a towel. Right now.
posted by orange swan at 1:27 PM on July 14, 2003

"There are about 250 pool-diving injuries a year in the United States, Griffiths said. Most happen in less than 5 feet of water. "

jeez. so essentially, by taking the deep end out, they're saying "let's increase this number proportionately to the depth of the water we're removing."

really stinkin' brilliant, guys.

as an avid swimmer (both when i was a little tyke, through grade school, high school, and now) and as a brother to a college diver, this really saddens me. some of my favourite moments were spent those summers in the pool, especially the deep end. where's the challenge in picking up a penny you threw into the 1' deep water in the gradual entry? ;)

posted by quadrinary at 1:31 PM on July 14, 2003

Welcome to the end of ools.
posted by mildred-pitt at 1:47 PM on July 14, 2003

Another factor to consider: by removing the deep end, you prevent kids from learning how to swim in water that's over their head; thus increasing risk of injuries/drowning later in life when they jump in the lake and whoops! where's the bottom?
posted by event at 1:49 PM on July 14, 2003

Well event, the answer to that is clear. We must fill in all the lakes and oceans to make them safely shallow.
posted by orange swan at 1:53 PM on July 14, 2003

My only pool-related injury happened at the very edge, busting open my knee on a piece of tile that snapped off.

We should ban edges.
posted by Foosnark at 2:05 PM on July 14, 2003

Friggin' Nanny State just gets more bigger and bigger. The logic behind this thinking has also led to the elimination of jungle gym/monkey bars. NYC has removed all of them from the parks. This nation is sadly turning into a bunch of whusses.
posted by beatnik808 at 2:11 PM on July 14, 2003

event good point, imho the best gift you can received as a child, swimming lessons and becoming a good swimmer. The deep end was the best part of the lesson as it taught forced me to swim well. The deep end also gave me the confidence to go in the ocean.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:14 PM on July 14, 2003

Or, are they talking about those pool-in-the-park public places that aren't usually - in my experience - where swim teams work out anyway?

Well, at my high school, the public pools were where the swim team worked out since the high school itself didn't have a pool.

by removing the deep end, you prevent kids from learning how to swim in water that's over their head

That is something to be considered. I am not much of a swimmer. I can swim just fine here at the apartment complex where the water is no deeper than 5', because I know that at any given moment, I can just stand up (and often do just that). Put me in water that is deeper than I am tall, and I can't swim at all because my "safety net" has been taken away. I can no longer just stand up, which leads to me panicking. Where I learned to swim (or at least pretended to do so) when I was a kid, there was no deep end ... it was a kids only pool and no deeper than 4' or so.
posted by Orb at 2:18 PM on July 14, 2003

Who really needs to swim, anyway?
posted by angry modem at 2:21 PM on July 14, 2003

Its all not just the lawyers or whomever my local pool, it came down to money. Simply put, insurance for deep ends/diving boards is a helluva lot more expensive that not having either. Consequently, neighborhoods and whomever runs swimming pools simply cannot afford the raised insurance prices of diving boards, such as was the case at my local pool.
posted by jmd82 at 2:32 PM on July 14, 2003

I wonder if the incidence of pool drownings increases proportionally according to distance from large natural water bodies . . .

My mom used to tell me I should appreciate being able to swim because some people simply didn't know how.

That idea is still foreign to me.
posted by cinderful at 2:33 PM on July 14, 2003

No deep end? Come on. You need the deep end. I learned how to safely get back into a tipped canoe in the deep end of my local pool (in Western Canada, it's kind of a must-have survival skill) and spent hours in the pool tossing stuff into the deep water for me and my friends to retrieve. Ah, how my poor ears suffered, but it was fun.

I live on the coast and I must say that throwing stuff into the bottom of the ocean and trying to retrieve just doesn't sound like as much fun.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:48 PM on July 14, 2003


You blame "corporate lobbyists", but municipalities, not corporations are filling these pools. So how is it the lobbyists' fault that cities are filling their pools?

Bizarre and confusing. I never said that.

a plurality of cases are drowning cases. Think there's a market in suing pools?

Probably. This has nothing to do with such cases, as no evidence links deep ends with drownings.

Frankly, I don't understand what you're talking about. My point was that demonizing lawyers was an inappropriate response to this story. Bad-mouthing lawyers nowadays is part of a politically-driven public relations campaign. You seem to have been converted by it.
posted by norm at 2:52 PM on July 14, 2003

I have to say as a life long swimmer and water polo player this is stupid.

I can actually understand in unsupervised pools like hotels but in my 7 years of lifeguarding at a pool with a well trained staff we had maybe 5 incidents where a guard had to get someone out of the deep end. None of which involved an injury of any kind. The only serious incident I know of was when an elderly gentleman had a heart attack and in that case it wouldn't have mattered how deep it was. Not to mention most of the cases were in about 4-5 feet of water, the kids would keep hopping deeper until they got too deep.

We had a simple method for keeping kids out of the deep end, a deep end test where we could judge a kids swimming ability in the shallow end before he was allowed in the deep.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:52 PM on July 14, 2003

Won't abolishing depends only lead to a lot of unhappy incontinents?
posted by sharksandwich at 3:17 PM on July 14, 2003

Bah. You can still rent it. Tilda Swinton is terrific.
posted by muckster at 3:32 PM on July 14, 2003

So, should I not expect to see any US high-divers at the Olympics then?
Maybe the American pioneer spirit will shine through, and the US will submit a high-diving team, despite the fact that they've never dived into water that is over 5' deep. Kind of like 'Cool Runnings', but different.
posted by asok at 3:38 PM on July 14, 2003

Often they include water slides, spray toys and gradual, beach-like approaches that let people walk into the water. They are often irregularly shaped, because their design is no longer dictated by the need for lanes for serious swimmers.
Will they change the signs to let us know too, Public Swimming Wading Pool.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:17 PM on July 14, 2003

San Francisco has really solved the safety issue by making sure than kids don't really get a chance to swim at its public pools.
posted by obfusciatrist at 6:30 PM on July 14, 2003

As no one has mentioned the F-word, I'll say it. This is like abolishing FEAR! Just as mentioned in the article, the deep end represents fear of limits for children. If kids are brought up without these distinctions, without the obvious obstacles to overcome, the only remaining place for legitimate childhood fear will be...?
posted by xtian at 6:54 PM on July 14, 2003

It bothers me to read about "interactive, ankle deep water parks", according to Chicago Park District spokeswoman Katherine McGuire.





If the definition of aquatics has changed, has it changed to interactive peeing in ankle deep water parks?

Serious swimmers know to stay away from public pools to do their lengths because they'd die of heat stroke, the water is kept so warm [no doubt all the whiners complained the water was too cold on a 38 degree [C] day and no one was in the pool anyways].

I was a lifeguard in my teens at a hotel and had to rescue an adult who slipped below the surface while swimming in a pool that was 5 feet deep. Who needs a deep end to drown in, all you need to have happen is an accidental gulp of water unexpectedly and you'll panic and drown.

I'm certainly against over regulation, but if insurance costs become too high to serve the community, then where will that cash come from to keep a deep end with diving board.

Soon we'll have a generation that won't know how to dive anyhow, let alone know the meaning of "no diving". Mom? what's diving?

Don't think Canada isn't over regulated. They wrote the book on that here. Want to buy beer, wine or liquor? They still have a liquor control board, where the hours of the store will determine on whether you can buy that drink or not.

Another example of regulations... my family cottage has an open deck, that has a drop of 12 to 25 feet onto rocks and trees. No one ever fell off that deck as a kid or adult. If you wanted to build that same deck today, it would have to be enclosed with a barrier of a certain height. That totally changes the look and feel of the thing.

Next they'll be telling us we're freer to do anything more than ever before.

Yah, right.

Quick, let's pave the bottoms of the Great Lakes, someone may dive onto a submerged deadhead and end up a quadriplegic.
posted by alicesshoe at 6:55 PM on July 14, 2003

In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the Kinsmen Aquatic Center (where they held the Commonwealth games in 1978) built three pools: one for lane swimmers, one for warm-up (or for kids to mess around in), and a diving tank.

The lane pools were fairly uniform in depth, if memory serves.

The diving tank was the place to show how fearless you really were. After all, in addition to the typical three-meter diving board, there was the 10-meter tower. That tank looked very, very small from way up there. The rule was you had to be a capable swimmer before the lifeguards would even allow you to jump off the one-meter diving board. But once they were satisfied, the tank was fair game. The only rule was that once you dived or jumped, you had to get the Hell out of the way by swimming to the far edge of the tank, lest you get slammed by the guy on his way down.

I can't recall anyone getting into trouble in the diving tank. In fact, that was where the real swimming tests took place, because you had to swim—there was no cheating by putting your foot down to touch bottom.

If pools want to remove the deep end, then let them build an appropriate, exclusive deep-water tank for divers and cannonballers. It really is a good solution.
posted by bwg at 7:02 PM on July 14, 2003

Britain has been selling off its school sports fields for two decades and now (notwithstanding a moderate and probably short-lived resurgence in Rugby) absolutely 100% sucks at almost every sport on the planet. (I mean, here's a football (i.e. soccer)-mad country that gets beaten by Australia.)

America is paving over its swimming pools. What's that going to do to the performance of the national swimming side?

Seriously, you guys need to start wrapping your heads around the thought of China and Australia battling it out for the top of the Olympic medal tally in 2020.
posted by bright cold day at 7:37 PM on July 14, 2003

Bah. You can still rent it.

Rent it? I went out and bought it!

And: hear, hear! on the soon-to-be-lost art of diving. I would never win any awards for grace, I suppose, but my memories of sailing through the air into our backyard pool are indelible. It's one of the rare chances we humans get to sample the sensation of flying.
posted by soyjoy at 8:37 AM on July 15, 2003

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