Ocean pools are playgrounds, that are wetter, wilder and more adventurous than most public playgrounds. Ocean pools appeal to bathers and swimmers bored with, or seeking alternatives to more controlled swimming environments.
While diving boards have been removed from many public pool on safety grounds, ocean pool patrons can still jump into the pool from rocks or cliff tops. At some ocean pools, this is a customary and treasured practice.
Many Australian ocean pools have signs warning about slippery rocks and variable water depth, but the hazards in and around ocean pools are not limited to wind, water and rocks. Swimmers and sunbakers need to keep an eye on the waves and watch for bluebottles (Physalia, the marine stingers sometimes known as Portuguese Man o’ War or Pacific Man o’ War) in or around the pool. Some Sydney ocean pools have signs alerting pool users to the presence of venomous blue-ringed octopus.
It is because they are a more hazardous environments than other public pools, that ocean pools serve as skillscapes cultivating particular skills and a sense of responsibility for other pool patrons and the plants and animals found in and around the pool. Yet while ocean pools were developed and managed to be ‘safe enough’ for humans, many government agencies now disparage them as ‘an usually hazardous type of public pool’ rather than recognising their value as adventure playgrounds that:
- cultivate particular skills, and
- pose less threat to human health and safety than backyard pools or unpatrolled beaches.