Tracking a Personal Trend

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 jm@watershapes.com.

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4 Responses to Tracking a Personal Trend

  1. I have not seen a water scape with a slide that looks good. In all my years, no matter what you surround the slide with, It still looks commercialized and cheap.

    • Dean Stoddart says:

      Try reviewing Watershapes Magazine – November 2008, volume 10, #11, pg 62. I designed this pool (and the rest of the site for that matter) and from the ground you really don’t notice the slide, or jumping platform at the top of the Grotto. This photo is taken from a cherry picker above to show the features. Perhaps this pool may be enough to sway your opinion. It’s a really great pool.

  2. Jim Winandy says:

    I understand the points made in the article, however, with the right materials and a good design(taking the type of stone into consideration) and an artistic approach, an eye-appealing result can be achieved. My company has been doing waterfall / slide structures for many years,with prior jobs often serving as selling points and/or design platforms for future projects. The problem I’ve seen is that for too many years, too many contractors have been building igloo or pyramid ” carbon copy” type structures with no attempts at building a natural looking structure, that people have become jaded and what the industry can produce and the contractors themselves have been painted with a negative brush. Publishing photos and articles on well done structures and the capable contractors who built them would certainly help turn this negative viewpoint around and at the same time boost public interest in paying for these types of add-ons for their pools and similar type projects.

  3. Rick Chafey says:

    I am currently struggling with a really great pool/spa project, and doing my best to find a way to incorporate a diving board that does not look horrible. We have some concepts worked out, but will touch back in when we have it finalized. At a minimum we will be repainting the board and mountings to not be blue and white.

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