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Swimming Pool Etiquette

By Pearl Bullivant on September 16, 2012 in Other

Photo: Kay Nine

Every time I set foot in Singapore I have a giggle about its rules and regulations and the accompanying signage that serves to remind and instruct its citizens about civil conduct and courteous behaviour. It’s something we could do with in the Eastern Suburbs, where egocentricity and dog poo abounds. Singapore’s regulations might reek of nanny statism to most Australians, but who are we to criticise when we are a nation that has to be told that a diet of junk food is bad for one’s health and that dressing a toddler in raunch-clothing is inappropriate?

Australians would benefit from being pulled into line and bombarded with reminders of ‘the right thing to do’, like not crowding around escalators and having one’s TravelTen Card ready BEFORE the bus arrives. As Australians like to consider themselves mavericks and luddites (far from it though, I’m afraid), I have decided to devote some of my future columns to the subject of ‘etiquette’. Not the ‘how to set a dinner table with correct cutlery’ guidelines that Julie Bishop, as the former Education Minister, threatened to introduce into schools, but commonsense advice on how to behave considerately in certain situations.

This month, I’m tackling a cause dear to my heart: swimming pool etiquette. I’ve been spending a lot of time in public pools within the City of Sydney and pool etiquette is an area that Clover Moore really needs to address. You may think that swimming breaststroke in a freestyle lane is not a big issue, but when you have a plethora of ignorant people taking a laissez faire attitude to lap swimming, chaos can only ensue.

Blame it on the Olympics frenzy, but I have noticed that this bad behaviour compounds in the lead up to the ocean-swim event season with pumped up lawyers training like ‘the possessed’ and upsetting the natural order of things. Unfortunately, the blatant rudeness of lap swimmers has become such an issue that some pools actually provide a ‘lane etiquette’ guide on their websites just to remind the egocentric that they are not alone in the pool.

Here are some of Pearl’s etiquette tips:

• The end of the lane is for tumble turns, not for congregating in to brag about one’s athletic pursuits and earning capacity or for conducting extramarital affairs. Go to a pub or motel room instead.

• Do not use your kickboards two abreast in the lane so that you can gossip. This pool ‘crime’ is commonly perpetrated by young women wearing matching caps and Funkita costumes who also snigger at the older women who dare to be naked in the change rooms.

• Fast swimmers: keep out of the slow lane. I don’t care if the fast lane is crowded and Pearl is the only swimmer in the slow lane. Bad luck buddy; keep out!

• People who swim with a snorkel and flippers and hand paddles – why, why, why? These are usually the same people who taunt faster swimmers by refusing to give way at the end of the lane.

• Swimming involves getting your hair wet. Don’t get upset when my kicking action upsets your expensive blow-dry.

• Lanes are not roads. You can’t tailgate or stop in the middle of the lane like you do in your 4WD and nor can you overtake by swimming under others swimmers.

• In the change room, do not: blow dry your entire body in front of the change room mirrors; scrub your body in the shower, leaving dead skin all over the floor; or apply makeup before you get in the pool in the hope of picking up!

Pearl xxx


  1. Being a very poor swimmer I have learned that if I use a snokel I can still swim well and use my shoulders and arms. I had contemplated using a snokel at a pool but now I won’t, I didn’t know it was such a no-no! Fins and hand thingies just sound ridiculous though… Just a question for you Pearl, where do you stand in children using a lap lane that no-one else is using. My 7 y/o is currently having her first swimming lessons and my 17 y/o took her into the (empty) lap lane to help her practise her strokes. The were severely reprimanded by a nearby lap lane user (I wasn’t there at the time). In the end one of the on duty life savers sided with my children saying they were permitted to use the lane and were using it properly. I could understand if they were mucking around but they weren’t. My youngest has learning difficulties and is finding learning to swim very challenging hence the extra assistance and encourangement by her big sis. However this vitriolic older woman has now shattered my daughter’s confidence and enthusiasm for swimming. She had been splashed inadvertently, but it is a pool where you’d think she would expect to get wet…


    Posted by: Anna Notley | September 17, 2012, 10:56 PM |

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  2. Sweetie – you are a snorkel only gal, just as I’m a flipper only gal, so get down to the pool and practice your strokes with ease. As to kids using the lap lanes – being a part time swim teacher I endorse ANYTHING that encourages children to swim. I regularly take my three great-nephews to Vic Park pool to work on their freestyle and most of the oldies in the slow lane are very accommodating.

    Posted by: Pearlie | September 23, 2012, 7:37 PM |

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  3. We need to draw timely attention to the visceral joys of swimming on on the cusp of our scorching summer, made more tolerable by the refreshing coolness imparted to the overheated body as it glides through the embrace of water. However, I urge caution to both safely navigate the churning turbulence and avoid painful collisions in an overcrowded suburban pool on a hot summer’s day. If swimmers adhered to speed limits in various lanes, kept to the left of the black line unless overtaking and were mindful of the rights and right of way of others, even an over-trafficked pool can be enjoyable and relatively stress-free for all its occupants. Children should be taught to not infringe into lap lanes and those inclined to dive bomb confined to their own section of the deep end so as not to jeopardise the welfare of others.

    Posted by: Joseph Ting | October 5, 2013, 2:51 PM |

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