Photo by Therese of Swimming Pool Stories
I used to swim almost every morning all year around in a tidal pool back when we lived in a beach suburb, before we bought the house and moved out west. I swam about the same time every morning, but the experience was always unique – there were so many factors that varied in addition to the routine elements, that it could never be similar to any other day.
A tidal pool is an ocean-side rock pool, where the water is naturally circulated by sea water. The sides are usually made of concrete, and the pools typically have an open “fence” of poles with safety chains on the ocean-sides, to give swimmers something to grab hold of should they accidentally be dragged out at high tide. There are many tidal pools in Sydney.
At high tide, the pool water flows in and out over the edges. High tide water is fresh & clean & full of interesting ocean odours, and there is a fantastic interplay between the restless surface of the water; the sound of the waves and seabirds, the sight of the ocean and all its lively waves filling the huge space between the pool and the horizon; the salty wind; and the sky.
Sometimes the water surface was so calm it acted as a mirror for the sky; at other times it was wrinkled and stirred, warning about troubling weather ahead. The water always told a story about what had happened and what was to come next; and it was never the same story.
My morning routine was to wake up painfully early, drive to the pool and park my car, go for my morning jog on the coastal walkway, come back & pick up the towel from the car, swim in the pool, drive home, have a hot shower, eat breakfast, dress up & drive to work. That start carried me through the long, dreadful days in the office. Well it didn’t actually, but it helped. I was dead tired most of the time though (mainly due to people stress, confusion and boredom at work).
Ocean pool communities
There were of course fish in the pool, and crabs along the edges. The tidal pool was an ecological community and I didn’t want to be part of that, so I never touched the bottom with my feet. There was at some stage rumoured to be a Blue Ringed Octopus sitting on a shelf-like cracked concrete wall (there was indeed a kitten-sized octopus sitting there, I saw it); a spot to carefully avoid. A pair of long-necked hunting seabirds would sit on the tall street lamp between their hunts, dripping wet, and a small penguin-like seabird dived in the pool after fish when there wasn’t too much human traffic in the water. A rumour had it that it had bitten a man in the knee under the water once, presumably by mistake.
The pool had a human community of regular morning swimmers, some of whom came all year around like me. These people – young and old, mostly old – recognised me and smiled and said good morning. Many of them seemed like very happy people, and many had been swimming there for decades. Most of these people swam “labs”; so they swam back and forth from end to end, often a specified number of times and typically in only one swim-style (e.g. crawl or breast strokes), most with their heads above the water, moving steadily forward in straight lines till they reached the end, then turned and repeated, over and over.