Ocean pools are more convivial places than other public pools, as they allow humans to acquire valued relationships with the waves, winds, rocky shores, both marine and intertidal plants and animals, the sun, and the ocean beyond the pool walls. Ocean pools are sustainable habitats, rather than threats to marine life. Some Australian ocean pools already host environmental care groups and the area around an ocean pool can be a focus for environmental care activities.
Ocean pools have year-round roles as habits for non-human life forms as well as their summertime role (and at a number of ocean pools also a growing wintertime role) as human recreational and sporting space. Ocean pools continue to foster the mixing and mingling of surf, rocky shore, beach and pool cultures.
Ocean pools are places that humans can share convivially with each other, even when competing in water sports. These pools represent a particular balance between competitiveness and conviviality, and between achievement sport, fitness sport and bodily experience. While almost any public swimming pool can accommodate all these categories to some extent, ocean pools have particular value for movement culture focused on sensory experience. The role of waves and luck in determining who wins a race helps keep competition convivial.
The ongoing use of Australian ocean pools for club and school swimming strongly affirms that fast, heated, filtered, chlorinated, wave-free pools are still not regarded as the only desirable environment for either summer or winter recreation or non-elite competitive swimming. Provided the rank order of finishing matters more than the precise times swum by competitors or the ability to set records that will have official national and international recognition, ocean pools are acceptable venues for competitive swimming.
Ocean pools cultivate a sense of well-being grounded in aesthetic appreciation of the sea and rocky shore and convivial relations with wild nature and foster mutual support among pool users, especially those using unsupervised ocean pools. Both the live water and dramatic setting of ocean pools enhance their appeal as venues for public recreation and celebrations.
In Australia, and particularly in New South Wales, ocean pools have become emblematic of a healthy and convivial outdoor lifestyle. Images of people at ocean pools evoke the idea of a comfortable relationship with wild nature, that values sensual experience and playful social sensuality. Ocean pools are, however, usually perceived and portrayed as being associated with particular cities (notably Sydney and Newcastle), where ocean pools are recognised as an integral aspect of the surf beaches.
The greatest value of ocean pools may be in illustrating that regardless of ‘race’, class, gender, age or ability, people can and do make themselves at home in pools well-suited for sustained, unsupervised human recreation and sport on a rocky surfcoast shared convivially with wild nature. Equitable provision of ocean pools can thus be regarded as an environmental justice issue.