By Jim McCloskey
My feelings about diving boards and slides have changed through the years.
When I was a kid, there was no poolside sight more welcoming than either one of those accessories. The clowning that took place on and around diving boards was, for starters, unmatched in hilarity, and there was nothing quite so satisfying as hearing the awesome slap of a well (if unintentionally) achieved belly flop — but only if the perpetrator was someone else.
As I mentioned a couple of blogs back, I was also lucky enough to swim at a local junior high frequented by highly competent springboard divers. All of us sought to emulate their peerless stylings, but of course none of us came anywhere close to being as good as they were — and unfortunately, their examples didn’t fire any of us up to pursue that graceful discipline any further.
Another local public pool had a diving tower, and I’ll never forget the rush that came with finally taking that big step off the edge: The short-lived sensation of flying was amazing, and as many young men learn, I quickly discovered the pain-diminishing advantages of keeping toes pointed and knees tightly together.
Slides were just as thrilling. When I was small and was spending more time in pools than at the beach, they were still fairly rare. But by the time I reached adolescence, slides were more common, and among my peers doing insane things on them was a distinct rite of passage. I did, however, draw the line when a friend decided to combine sliding with skateboarding — and did so on one of those models with a sharp turn at the base.
Later, trips with friends included visits to parks with natural pools and waterfalls that we turned into slides — after we surveyed the sites for hidden obstructions (with age comes some wisdom). Usually, the sliding part covered no more than a few feet and led to a drop into deep water — the perfect combination, I thought, of thrills with scenic beauty.
Now jump forward a couple decades to my WaterShapes era: In the here and now, I still recall the joys of diving boards and slides, but I suspect I’m far from alone in no longer craving the excitement and, as a parent, having misgivings about what are obviously inviting nuisances.
But there’s more: With even greater passion, I have come to dislike the visual clutter these accessories so often represent. And that’s true even when designers and builders do all they can to make the boards, platforms, chutes and tubes seem “naturalistic.” For the most part, they just don’t look good, and I have yet to see anything that brings to mind the waterfalls and deep pools I cavorted in as a college student.
While it’s no big revelation that what thrilled me as a kid now puts me off (and makes me happy not to have a diving board or slide with my swimming pool — no need to tempt my own kids or their harebrained friends), I find that the emergence of my design sense of what does and does not work visually is even more compelling: As they exist in the marketplace, these devices lack aesthetic appeal to such a great extent that they degrade most settings.
Honestly, if the visual issues were to be addressed, I would be among the first to get excited about diving boards and slides all over again: They add spice to the experience — something that always has value.
Have you developed a solution to the visual challenges posed by diving boards and slides? If so, please let me know in the space below — and feel free to send images to me at email@example.com.