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Lap Pool Swimming Etiquette

I don’t think I am a particularly aggressive guy.  I don’t think I am a jerk.  Generally, I am pretty nice and easy-going, even to people who may not deserve such treatment.  I feel we all have bad days, maybe I am just catching that person on a really bad one.  I figure, if I am nice to them, I’ll bank some positive karma and might pay off later.

Lap Pool Swimming

But, all that being said, there are simply times when someone is acting outside of “having a bad day” or some plausible and acceptable explanation.  Let’s take my swim at the public pool today as an example.  Given all of the swim classes and swim clubs during the summer, there were only four lanes for lap swimming.  Not many, sigh.  Of the four lanes, one was designated “slow”, one “medium”, and two “fast”.  All lanes were also “circular swim”.  Each lane contained two swimmers.  In the slow, medium, and one of the fast lanes, there was one person using a kick board.  Double sigh.  That’s all fine and dandy in the slow or maybe even medium lane, but NOT in the fast lane.  Pretty tough to swim fast with a kick board.

Undaunted, I approached the doubly occupied “fast” lane (you know, no kick board) and happily observe the two occupants (one male, one female) are, in fact, circular swimming.  I wait until one reaches the wall and signal that I intend to join.  The female occupant, I’ll call her “B***H in the Blue Swim Suit”, sort of acknowledges me and tersely says “We ARE circular swimming”.  Ok, I think, that seemed a little brusque but, you know, I have the philosophies detailed above so I say thanks and jump in, when appropriate.  You see, I didn’t want to interrupt someone’s pacing by entering the lane at the wrong time.Lap Pool Swimming

Now, I only have a 1,000 yard swim; not much.  I don’t intend to engage in chit-chat, mess around, or do anything other than get in the pool, swim, and get home.  I was fine with what appeared to be a “head’s down” approach to sharing our lane.  By that I mean, people not really paying attention to their lane-mates.

So, I start swimming.  Admittedly, I am a pretty fast swimmer.  I have been swimming for decades, surfing for nearly as long, and love the water.  That was precisely why I headed right for the two fast lanes; I figured, if you get in a public pool, lap-swim fast lane, you know what you are doing.  Seems like a reasonable belief.  Well, lesson learned there.  The male in my lane, I’ll call him “Average-form Weekend Warrior Who Still Believes He’s the Star Running Back from High School except High School was Three Decades Ago”, is at best, plodding along.  Fine, I give him the standard and customary foot tap that I want to pass and scoot around.  After less than 100 yards from my start.  Triple sigh.  Wanna guess what happened less than 100 yards later?  That’s right.  AWWWSBHSRBHSHSTDA, or a$$hole for short, receives yet another foot tap and gets to enjoy my stream-lined form as I pass him.  No biggie, I’ve dealt with people like him before.  Hmmm, maybe he doesn’t understand the difference between slow, medium, and fast.  You know, because he should NOT be in a fast lane.  Ok, no big deal, I only have 850ish remaining.Lap Pool Swimming

Well, BBSS, who had up to this point been doing a nice, speedy freestyle has elected to practice her backstroke and breast-stroke.  Are you kidding?  Backstroke I can accept as she might be able to keep up, but no chance with breast-stroke.  I catch her in less than fifty yards, give her the foot tap, and attempt to pass.  Except she doesn’t respond.  She continues to swim.  Irritated, I give her another foot tap, thinking perhaps she failed to feel the first one.  Again, no change.  BBSS is very intent on perfecting her form.  Breast-stroking form.  In the fast lane.  One of four total lap lanes.  At a public pool.  Final sigh.

At this point, I feel it correct to assume I am swimming with two total morons who have no clue about typical and appropriate swim etiquette.  So, for BBSS and a$$hole, I’d like to give what I think are universally accepted standards about lap swimming etiquette.  Should you have any questions, please just let me know.  I am taking these from HERE, a great and comprehensive review of lap swimming etiquette.  These are merely a summary and abbreviation of what I consider to be the critical ones:

Pay Attention and Use Common Sense:

  • Before you even enter the water, find an appropriate lane and be realistic in what you are doing.  Once you determine that, then observe the swimmers.
  • Find (and maybe even time) those that seem to be doing your intended speed.
  • Look before you leap please.


  • Always, repeat always, let your fellow lane-swimmers know you intend to enter.  Make double certain everyone is circle swimming.  If there’s only one swimmer and you intend to split the lane, make double certain the other person knows that.
  • NEVER EVER JUMP OR DIVE INTO THE LANE.  Slide in on the right side, letting others to continue their swimming and flip turns.  I have literally seen people taken to the hospital when a moron jumped on top of them.  Said moron then explained they thought it was clear.  OHHH, ok, that makes the broken neck totally fine then.  Idiots.
  • The person/people already swimming have the right to continue but he/she/they do not own the lane.  You have as much right to swim as well.
  • Don’t push off in front of a stronger swimmer; give them the right-of-way.  Likewise, don’t push off behind a weaker swimmer; give them some space.

Passing/Being Passed:

  • To pass, simply clearly touch the foot of the person in front of you.  No need to grab or slap; just touch.  But, make certain you are ready and capable of passing.
  • Don’t pass because you have been drafting.  In that instance, back off a bit.
  • Likewise, if you are being passed, don’t stop (ever) in the middle.  Either let the person pass or stop in the corner at the next wall.
  • Never, ever swim in the middle or wide to pass.  This is like driving into oncoming traffic: a big NO-NO.  Don’t be “That Guy”.  If, for whatever reason, you do swim wide to pass, be more than certain of your ability to not only pass, but also maintain your speed and reach the wall first.  Causing a multi-person pile-up of messy flip-turns at the wall is lame.
  • Let me repeat: Don’t be “That Guy”.  You know why?  Nobody, not even his Mommy, likes That Guy.

General Stuff Nobody Should Have To Say:

  • Keep up with your personal grooming.  Should you give me (or another swimmer) a nice, cool, new slash on my body from your ragged fingernail, I might be inclined to return that favor.  To your face or car (ok, not really, but it sounds tough right???)
  • No jewelry.  You are wearing spandex, do you think that watch makes you look better?
  • Know how you swim.  If you swing your arms wide on each stroke, pull them in.  I have had my hands smashed WAY too many times by someone in the adjacent lane who cluelessly reaches over the lane line.  Just imagine the lane lines extend vertically to outer-space.  Never, ever, NEVER cross a lane for any reason.
  • Likewise, the lane lines extend vertically down to the bottom of the pool.  If you see your buddy two lanes over, GET OUT OF THE POOL AND WALK OVER.  Having swum into dozens of imbeciles over the years, this one really irks me.  Just like driving, assume the oncoming swimmer cannot see you.  Be safe.  That person may swim with a loaded hip-holster, you know, for extra drag.
  • I can’t believe I am writing this, but do not water jog in lap swimming lanes, unless the pool is nearly empty or there are plenty of lanes.  All aqua-joggers are federally required (I think) to share one lane and no more.
  • Lastly, if you have never attended kindergarten, let me help you: don’t take someone else’s toy without asking.  Even if that toy belongs to the facility.  That’s just ridiculous.

Look, I sincerely hope I am not coming across like a condescending, egomaniacal jackass.  That’s not my objective.  I simply want to vent a little but also acknowledge that we all must respect the rules of whatever we are doing, including lap swimming.  In any endeavor, complying with the standard rules of conduct is essential to not only enjoy the activity, but sometimes just to be safe.  If you act out of line, you risk creating a situation that is at best, rude.  In certain activities, like extreme mountaineering, you could easily create a life-or-death situation by deviating from the normal and acceptable behaviors that participants expect.Lap Pool Swimming

For instance, at the start of an Ironman swim, if you cannot reasonably expect to swim the 2.4 miles in under one hour and fifteen minutes, do not be in the first third of the massive pack of humanity.  You will only have hundreds upon hundreds of people swimming over the top of you.  That’s not fun for them and certainly not fun for you.

If this is too much to absorb, just remember to be and play nice all the time.  If you do that, good things will follow.  It is everyone’s world out there, so let’s all learn to share and share appropriately!  Thanks!

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