Pool Etiquette

by admin on May 23, 2013

Earlier today, I went to the swimming pool. This pool is part of a rather stuffy country club but I’ve never had any problems with their rules throughout my membership.

When I got to the pool, it had been divided into 3 sections: two single lanes side by side and one big area where an exercise class was taking place. One of the single lanes was occupied by a woman swimming up and down, as one does; the other lane was empty. I got into the empty lane and began swimming.

After a few slow warm-up lengths, I wanted to do some sprints. My favourite stroke is back crawl as I used to swim it for my school’s team. When one gets to the end of a length in this stroke, there are two options if you want to continue swimming. You can stop and turn yourself around, which many people do, but this process is slow.

In races, the tumble turn is preferred. For this, a back crawler gets very close to the wall and switches for one stroke onto their front. Then they roll forwards so that their feet touch the wall and then they push off and begin the back crawl again. This is the method I prefer and when performed correctly, there is minimal or no splashing.

Only one end of the pool was deep enough to do this turn so I would only sprint two lengths at a time. The lifeguard had no problem with me doing these turns and nobody in the exercise class seemed bothered either, but the woman in the lane next to me was not happy.

While I was resting in the shallow end, she pulled up next to me and told me to “stop mucking about and swim properly.” (I don’t know if mucking about is a phrase that has made it across the pond, but just in case, it means playing/messing around. Almost exclusively used when talking to children). I was quite confused and I replied, “But I am swimming properly.”

“No, you’re playing in the deep end and that is not why we come here.”

“Oh, are you talking about the roll I do at the end of a length? Oh, see, that’s just a way of turning that racers use.”

“Well, you go too fast and nobody’s racing here!”

“Too fast? I wasn’t aware there was a speed limit. And I just like to turn around like that.”

“Well you shouldn’t! You’re flashing your fanny in the air and it’s disgraceful!”

(NB: This move does involve turning upside down so one’s backside does indeed come out of the water briefly – and fanny refers to a lady’s privates in the UK. Obviously, I was wearing a swimming costume, so there was no inappropriate flashing involved.)

“Well, you’re the only one who seems bothered by it, and it’s a perfectly legitimate swimming technique.”

“You’re splashing me when you do it!”

“That’s not possible. The move doesn’t make any splash because it’s mostly underwater.”

“I don’t understand why you’re being so difficult, young lady. You should respect your elders and when they tell you to stop doing something, you stop!”

I am at least 40 years younger than this woman, but I didn’t see why that should make any difference. “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to change how I swim just because you don’t like it.”

The woman stalked out of the pool with an extremely sour look on her face. I stayed in the pool 15 minutes longer than I had planned because I didn’t want to run into her in the changing room.

The lifeguard never said anything about my turning being inappropriate and nobody else in the pool was paying any attention to it because all of them were all part of the exercise class.

I really don’t understand why this woman got so annoyed over the way I swam. Was I being difficult, like she said? Should I have modified my swimming?    0517-13

While some of Old Lady’s complaints appear to be manufactured, the key phrase she used was, “You’re splashing me when you do it!”   You yourself admit that the roll over does not create any splash *if performed correctly*.    It is very plausible that your technique wasn’t as good as you thought it was and you actually were splashing her more than you realized.   Old Lady did not articulate her gripes concisely and effectively and you were not amenable to listening to catch any valid point she may have had.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Raven May 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

Had the complainer started with “You’re splashing me,” OP could have just said, “Sorry, I’ll try not to splash you” and carry on. However, with her splash complaint coming at the end, it really didn’t seem like it was the point of her whining.

Some people just love to complain about things.


Stella May 23, 2013 at 11:59 am

I have to disagree with admin on this one. The old lady would’ve brought up the splashing first thing if that was truly her first concern. Also, I find it unlikely that she was always within a few metres of the OP doing the turn so she got splashed. I’d also say that since OP has a background in swimming, she probably was executing the turn at least remotely correctly. You have to botch that turn pretty severely for it to be truly “splashy”, I find it hard to believe someone who’s been swimming a long time would do that and fail to notice.


NicoleK May 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I think the old lady was wrong, but at the same time, some old people are sometimes a bit insane. I think an “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to splash you” would have been a good thing. And then, while swimming, don’t do the flip if shes next to you.


Alli May 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Former competitive swimmer here- OP said that only one end of the pool was deep enough to do this. Since it can be done in about 3′ the shallow end must be very shallow. But the only way for the woman to get splashed is if she was resting in the deep end. What was the woman doing hanging on the wall waiting for OP to “shake her fanny”. Sounds like sour grapes to me.


NostalgicGal May 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Pools=getting wet.

Sounds like older lady got in on the wrong side of the pool…. and worked her way through more and more nebulous complaints to the end.

OP I dont’t think you did anything wrong. Poor taste is purposely giving someone a faceful, which it sounds like you were far from doing, OR doing a point blank cannonball next to the other swimmer to swamp them, again on purpose.

As for ridiculous swimming… the one that gets me is swimsuits labeled DRY CLEAN ONLY DO NOT GET WET. Wha?


Katy May 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Sorry, Dame, I have to disagree with you.
I go to the pool quite often to do laps, and was on a swimming team when I was younger. Yes, the flip-turn (or tumble turn) can create a splash. That said, besides the obvious if you’re in a pool you’re already wet thing, almost any stroke can create a splash with a poorly-executed stroke or kick, and some strokes cause a lot more splashing than others. The only way to avoid being splashed in a pool while doing laps is by swimming when no one else is in the pool. I’m often splashed by other swimmers. I learn to time my laps to minimize the chance of me getting splashed (I don’t push off right after someone unless I know they’re much quicker than me, or much slower so I’ll quickly pass them).
What I find more rude when swimming is either lane-hogging (taking up a whole lane to yourself when there’s only a few, forcing four or five people to swim in one lane instead of share yours), sitting in a lane and talking to someone instead of letting people who want to swim laps do so, or jumping into a lane without consideration of the speed of those already occupying the lane. Our pool has an unspoken rule- the lower the lane number, the faster the swimmers (1 for the fastest and generally used by those of us who have been swimming for years and know how to match speed with other swimmers, 4 for the slowest and the walkers). If you’re being lapped in your lane, you move over to a slower one. It works really well until someone comes in and jumps in a lane without consideration for how fast the lane is moving. Our gym puts out signs saying ‘fast lane’ and ‘slow lane’, but that doesn’t stop people who can barely swim from jumping in the fast lane and blocking things.


Twin May 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I suspect that the main complaint was really the “fanny flashing”‘ not the splashing. As others have said, you’re in a swimming pool, there will be some splashing, and I doubt that the turn described would cause anything unbearable.


Meghan May 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Another former competitive swimmer here. OP, I’m totally on your side here. Even performed poorly, there is no splash on any significance in an adjacent lane when performing a flip turn. Because of the direction you’re turning, the only place you might get splashed it if you were sitting at the end of the lane, right at the edge of the pool.

If anyone has ever seen a swim practice or warm up, there are literally dozens of swimmers in the pool at the same time, maybe half a dozen in each lane. They all manage to swim without drowning each other. This lady just didn’t know anything about swimming, and was rude to boot. You were perfectly within your right to swim as were. Some people just look for things to complain about.


lakey May 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I don’t agree with the administrator on this one. There are people out there who just go around looking for things to complain about. The splashing issue came after a list of trivial and insulting complaints. I have a neighbor like this. I believe in being civil, but I do not think that you are doing people a favor by caving in to unreasonable demands. Pandering to this behavior just encourages people to continue behaving like this.


Lisa May 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm

This reminds me of the time I was at the gym, in the locker room, and an older lady scolded me for *gasp* changing my shirt. In the dressing room, people get dressed. In the pool, people get wet.

Old Lady in this story had no legitimate complaint.

Also, I would think she had a better chance of being splashed by people in a water aerobics class than by the OP swimming laps.


icekat May 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm

It’s possible that the problem wasn’t with your flip turns, but with your wake. From the sound of it, you were really motoring, and that’s going to cause waves. Buoy lines help cut that down of course, but the lady was probably getting a lot more waves than she is used to. That would explain why she also complained that you were going too fast.

So I can sort of understand her point of view, but that still doesn’t make it okay to dictate how somebody else can swim.


Angela May 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I’ve noticed that the more reasons someone gives you, the less likely any of them is the real reason. I concur with previous posters: if the splashing was the problem it would have been the initial complaint. I think I would have been too shocked to have known what to say, but a handy response would be “the lifeguard doesn’t have a problem with it and he/she is supervising the pool. Sorry you feel that way” and carry on. I am often telling my teenage daughter “You don’t have to engage another person, especially if the subject isn’t their business”.


Karen May 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Sorry Admin, but I have to disagree. A certain amount of splashing is to be expected when lap swimming with others. I swim almost every day (that’s a lie, I *THINK* about swimming almost every day and get there 2-3 times a week, or my “fanny” [US meaning] would be much smaller!), and there are people of all levels of skill and speed. Some are very graceful and do not splash, some simply walk in the deep end, and some do very aggressive breast strokes.

If OP was sharing a lane, that would be one thing. When you share or circle you need to be more careful, but she’s not to be held responsible for what happens outside of her lane.


Barbarian May 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Notice that the old lady did not report the “problem” to the lifeguard because there was no problem. She just had some imaginary problem with the OP and tried to harass her. If she had been close to the aerobics area or kids in the main pool, she would get some serious splashing.

If Old Lady gets shocked by “fanny”, she would have had a blast at our club. An older gentleman worked out. His trunks with worn elastic dropped as he exited the lane, exposing his rear to the people waiting for lanes. Nobody pointed this out to him, all being very polite.

Our fitness club’s outdoor pool for the kids is adjacent to the swim lanes. When the kids frolic, splash, and use the slides, they create extra turbulence in the lap lanes, so I get the added bonus of a wave pool to work out in.


startruck May 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

my response would have been, oops sorry. and i would have waited till she was away from me or left the pool. who knows. maybe you were splashing her. and i know a pool is where you go to get wet. but sometimes i like be in a pool and wade around and not get my hair and face wet. she is telling you that you were splashing her and you just kept with, no iam not. seems a bit rude to me. when someone is doing something to aggravate you , you have the erge to tell them. i don’t think she would have gone to a complete stranger who wasn’t splashing and made up a story. what would be the point?


Rosie May 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Another former competitive swimmer here–flip turns are totally normal and don’t create an excessive amount of splash or fanny-flashing (in either sense!) for someone in the adjacent lane. I think the OP did fine, but I would have cut the rude lady off sooner by just saying, “I’m sorry if you are offended but this is fairly common swimming technique. I’m going to continue my workout now.” I’ve found it’s hard for people to continue a conversation when you’re underwater!
Generally, it seems that lap swimmers without a competitive background tend to be wary of faster or “fancier” lap swimmers (aka, anyone doing flip turns or butterfly). In my youth, I used that to intimidate people at lap swim so I could have my own lane, but now I try to head off that impression by going out of my way to smile and be polite to other lap swimmers when I first get in the pool. Plus I’m not as fast as I used to be so it’s less of a conflict!


KitKat May 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I used to swim competively before my teens. We would often start warm ups before the lane markers were up and the pool was closed. Everyone gladly moved out of our way/started getting out of the pool. Also, the way I learned a flip turn created no splash. Everyone I swam with did them completely underwater and no, we didn’t lose our momentum.


FerrisW May 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Another one disagreeing with the Admin I’m afraid! I find it bizarre for someone to complain about splashing in a pool, but then again I’m not a very good swimmer so don’t come across this very often.

Personally, the woman lost all credibility as having a real complaint when she told off the OP for ‘flashing her fanny’. In the UK it’s a term for women’s genitalia, not her bottom, and while not the crudest of possible terms is still not something you would say in polite conversation. Being offended at seeing someone’s ‘fanny’ at the pool is much like being offended at getting wet to me- at a pool, people wear swimsuits which, while covering, are still somewhat revealing. If you don’t want to get wet, or don’t want to be reminded that people have genitalia, a swimming pool probably isn’t the best place to be. To me this sounds like the woman was simply looking for something to complain about, and the OP did nothing wrong.


Anonymous May 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm

@Via–Good point about butterfly stroke. I always thought it was sort of an unwritten rule of etiquette to only do that stroke when you have a lane to yourself, to avoid splashing (or worse, hitting) someone else.


chechina May 23, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Even if the turn was “splashy”, unless the older lady was swimming right alongside the OP, it’s unlikely she’d get splashed each turn.


SherlockSara May 24, 2013 at 12:11 am

Yet another person to disagree. I think you were pretty off base today, admin.

I swam for many many years, and someone who complains about flip turns splashing is just being sour. It seems like the longer the older lady talked, the more random excuses she was coming up with — you’re playing, you’re splashing, you’re flashing your fanny, etc etc etc

You did nothing wrong at all OP.


admin May 24, 2013 at 6:11 am

If swimming credentials, as several commenters have noted about themselves, adds credence to one’s opinion, allow me to state mine. Competitive racer in my youth, not only a lifeguard but a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor who trained and certified lifeguards, government certified aquatics facility operator, managed summer swimming pools throughout college, lifeguarded at a college facility and ended up being an Aquatic Director at a health club. I’ve heard and seen every possible scenario and etiquette faux pas possible at a swimming pool including sexual harassment, peepers (guys who oogled women swimmers by sinking down into the deep end of the pool to watch them swim overhead), lane intimidation which did include excessive splashing or “accidental” kicks to discourage someone to leave the lane. During peak lap swimming times, people crowd the lanes four to six per lane and inevitably someone is having a hissy fit about how their fellow lap swimmers are impeding their ability to exercise. Despite my creation of lanes designated for those who just lap “walk” or a kids “play” lane and lanes designated for the speed demons, I *always* had someone who believed they were entitled to an unobstructed lane and basically bullied their way into swimming in the kids and walkers’ lanes. I had numerous lap swimmers who performed various turn flips with gusto, the bottoms of their feet slapping the water like a whale’s tail flukes. Either they were unaware of how dramatic their turns were or they knew.


Daphne May 24, 2013 at 12:27 am

One explanation is that she just wanted the pool to herself. She probably has tried to intimidate others as well, because when she is swimming she wants no one near her. Don’t let her scare you away. You have every right to swim laps whenever you want.


Rachel May 24, 2013 at 3:39 am

In the UK, there is no way to use the word fanny for that part of the anatomy without being horrifically crude. That says more about this lady’s character and complaint than anything else. Hey use of that word, especially as the complaint is untrue, would have me swimming away very quickly.


OP May 24, 2013 at 5:34 am

OP here. I’ve read all the comments and, I must admit, I feel relieved.

While I know a lot of people have said that you should expect to get wet when you’re in a pool and a splash from an accidental mistimed stroke from someone else in the pool is to be expected, I personally do not like being splashed, especially if it’s on my face while I’m surfacing for a breath. (As a side note, the woman was clearly completely prepared to get wet – swim hat, goggles, face underwater, no make up.)

However, at the same time, I really do not think I was splashing this woman. If I had thought that, I would have stopped immediately. She was rarely in the deep end at the same time as me (I couldn’t give a number) and I never got the move so drastically wrong as to create a splash. I botched it a few times by not tumbling close enough to the wall, so I didn’t have anything to push off from, which cannot possibly create a splash, as all that happens is you float there, feeling like a fool.

I think her real bother was that she was expecting only moderately-paced swimming to occur. Maybe the policy of that pool IS to only have slower swimming, but as the lifeguard said nothing, I can’t imagine so. They also have children’s swimming lessons there after school (my baby sister goes to them), so it’s not always a quiet pool.

I haven’t been back to the pool since, but that’s because I have exams. I will definitely go again and I will keep doing those turns, unless somebody asks, rather than orders, me to stop. I gladly would; I don’t like making waves. (Pun absolutely intended)


hakayama May 24, 2013 at 7:52 am

“Old biddy” here: crabbiness and other unlovely character features are not necessarily age-related unless there’s the senile dementia or Alzheimer’s coming into play.
The only line that young crabs cannot use in their cantankerous sourness is the “respect thy elders”. Otherwise, I’m sure they can win ANY contest where they can show off their ugliness.


Chocobo May 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

Perhaps if the old woman had been polite and said “I’m sorry, dear, but you’re splashing me when you do your turns. Could you be more careful, please?”

I don’t blame the letter writer for not giving any credence to the woman’s complaints. Who is going to be compliant with “Stop playing!” then “You’re too fast!” then “You’re indecent!” and THEN “you’re splashing me!”, followed by a demand for courtesy when absolutely none has been given in return. Perhaps if the woman had the decency to make a polite request instead of making demands, she would have gotten what she wanted. I lay no blame of the letter writer whatsoever.


Tracy May 24, 2013 at 10:43 am

Does anyone else think that if being splashed was really her issue, she would have stated it *first*?


sstabeler May 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm

yeah…. I’m going to have to call BS on the old woman- when you’re doing a flip/tumble turn, if you’re doing it properly, then you actually produce less splash than during the stroke. (I know of no swimming stroke that produces no splash whatsoever) As for the flashing complaint- a woman flashing her fanny means she is deliberately exposing her genitalia. The only way that could happen in a swimsuit is if the swimsuit was ripped, in whch case, the appropiate response ( if you have to respond- this is one of those situations where it’s best to ignore it) would be to politely tell te person in question their swimsuit is ripped, without mentioning where. As for too fast- you are going to get fast swimmers at a public pool, especially in marked-off lanes. I’m sorry, but a slow swimmer in a different lane should not limit the speed of a swimmer in a different lane. As for mucking about, it is a recognised turn, and is actually how you’re supposed to do a turn. It’s unoiversal in any form of competition that requires multiple lanes. ( and as for nobody racing at the time- it’s called practice)

as for respect your elders- that doesn’t mean unquestioning obediance, it means not being rude.

in short, assuming the OP is not deliberately splashing, then the old lady was talking rubbish.


Molly May 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Sorry, EHell, but I disagree with you here. If that had been her actual complaint she would have said so. Swimming lanes are meant for swimming laps. Sounds like this old lady was either pissed off that she didn’t have the pool to herself, was bothered by the other swimmer’s existence, or for whatever reason felt the need to stare directly at the OP’s crotch when she turned around. None of these things has anything to do with the OP’s supposed rudeness. Unless she’s lingering in the deep end, there’s no way she’s getting splashed anyway even if the OP isn’t turning correctly.


Library Diva May 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Agree with LJ. To me, whenever someone uses age to try and win an argument, I feel like they’ve instantly lost. I’ve known 16-year-olds that are so mature, responsible, well-spoken and together that I’d trust them with just about anything, and I’ve known 50-year-olds that I don’t trust near a lit candle. There are lots of people who never learn from their mistakes, or much of anything else.

Back to the OP, I don’t think she did anything wrong. I’ve never been able to execute this maneuver myself, but I’ve seen it done many times. If this older woman is a dedicated lap swimmer, I’m surprised that she’s never seen it done, either. I don’t know what her problem was with OP, but OP has every right to swim however she wants within the boundaries of the rules of the club. And I can’t imagine that a tumble turn would be against them.


Jenn50 May 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I’ve found that people get bizarrely territorial about their fitness routines. For whatever reason, finding someone doing something different than what you’re used to seems to set people off, even if it doesn’t really affect you. I’ve seen people get wild with rage over someone using the lane they usually use, even when all the other lanes were vacant. I’ve seen people snark about a lady “plodding along in the lane” when she was in the slow lane and all the other lanes were vacant, and I’ve seen people lose all rational thought when they have to wait a few minutes when someone else is using the treadmill they wanted. I’ve even noticed myself getting mildly and irrationally irked when I arrive at the pool and find someone has used the locker I usually use. The pool we swim at several times a week has lockers that many people put their clothes in and don’t bother to lock because theft of clothes isn’t really a problem here, but there’s one guy who has TWICE (that I know of) thrown his stuff in on top of someone else’s, and locked the locker, claiming angrily that it’s “your own fault for using MY locker!” (The staff confirm that nobody has their own locker. This guy has arbitrarily decided it’s his.) I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t buy for a second that this complainer had any legitimate issue. She was just being proprietary over “her” pool, and fabricating nonsense to justify her piqué. And “You’re splashing me!” ? Please. It’s commonly understood that there’s a chance of getting splashed if you are near other people in a pool. As others have said, unless she was intentionally following the woman around intentionally pushing or kicking water in her face, the complaint is moot, and frankly ridiculous.


Anonymous May 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

@Jenn50–Your gym has a co-ed locker room? I’ve never heard of that. Anyway, I’ve seen people get territorial over exercise machines (going to the gym in undergrad usually involved a race to grab one of the two elliptical trainers in the tiny fitness room), and I’ve experienced more than one “length swim log jam” in my time, but I’ve never encountered any adult telling another adult that they were swimming/exercising the wrong way, outside of a structured class situation, or a personal training session, which is a different thing altogether, because people go to swimming classes, exercise classes, or personal training sessions specifically seeking guidance. Maybe it’s a regional thing, or maybe I’ve just been lucky enough to go to “nice gyms” for most of my life. Anyway, if someone told me that I was splashing them doing flip-turns, or butterfly stroke, or whatever, then I’d stop doing that specific thing, but if they came up with a list of spurious complaints, I wouldn’t pay them any mind, and I definitely wouldn’t stop swimming until I was finished. The most I’d do is change lanes (if possible), and I’d probably also tell the lifeguard. Then again, the lifeguards at most pools I’ve visited (and definitely at the YMCA), are nice, reasonable people who don’t “play favourites” and automatically side with the older/richer/more disruptive people just to keep the peace.


Jenn50 May 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Our gym has a family locker room with individual locking rooms for changing, then a bank of lockers in the common area for your clothes and personal effects.


Anonymous May 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

Oh, okay. The YMCA here also has a family change room, but it’s not the ONLY change room–there are also the men’s and women’s change rooms, the boys’ and girls’ change rooms, and then there are “membership plus” change rooms for men and women, with cardio machines, steam rooms, whirlpools, and TV’s in them.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: