Ocean pools are wave-dominated recreational spaces facilitating significant learning about performance of the body, the self, other people and the non-human world.
Swimming at an ocean pool can never be a mindless chase of the black line at the bottom of the pool. Ocean pools demand multitasking. At an ocean pool, the state of the water and the content of the water cannot be taken for granted. Swimmers and even sunbakers need to keep an eye on the waves and be on the lookout for bluebottles and seaweed.
Because they allow humans to acquire valued relationships with the waves, tides, winds, rocky shores, both marine and intertidal plants and animals, the sun, and the ocean beyond the pool walls, ocean pools are better able to cultivate swimming and surf skills than are other public pools. Ocean pools are thus especially suitable for people interested in acquiring ‘wild swimming’ skills or transitioning from swimming in inground or indoor pools to swimming in open water.
At an ocean pool, the benefits of acquiring and practising skills needed to gain enjoyment from encounters with waves or rescue someone in difficulties within the pool or in the water beyond the pool are obvious. Duckdiving is likewise a valuable skill at pools, where pool visitors may have their possessions washed into the pool by any sudden large wave. Unsupervised ocean pools continually create situations, that encourage pool patrons to:
- be aware of each other,
- take responsibility for each other’s health and safety, and
- take responsibility for their pool and its surrounds both as a venue for sport and recreation and as a habitat for non-human life forms.
Where cost-cutting and safety are prized over the educational value of a skillscape, both the potential value of ocean pools as places able to integrate such civic environmentalism with established sport and recreation cultures and their potential as centres for environmental education and community research are all too easily overlooked.