Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pool or Ocean?

Originally uploaded by katzeye


Do you prefer to swim in the ocean, or in a swimming pool? I think most people will say, “swimming pool!” and list many reasons to support that choice.

I prefer to swim in the ocean. And I have many reasons why that is the case.

Yesterday, I spent more time in a swimming pool than I generally spend in one in years. There were the grandkids who needed to get wet. So, there was a lot of bobbing and floating and splashing mixed in with some whining, etc.

Then, last night, I thought it might be a good idea for Mark and I to take a swim, because he recently had knee surgery, and needs to exercise.

So, we dressed for a swim and wrapped up in towels and such to make our way to the pool in the rather cool breeze. The water in the pool was probably warmer than the air, but still, there was something difficult about fully plunging. I was cold and my every instinct told me, in every cell of my body, that to be wet would be colder.

While some might say, “I want my mommy!” I was saying, “I want my wetsuit!”

But no one wears a wetsuit in the pool. It was probably freakish enough that I was wearing a tank top and board shorts. Hey, if guys can do that, who says that I am required to wear the female equivalent of a speedo anyway? Especially after 60. I just want to be comfortable. And in any case, the tomboy in me totally favors the comfort of a pair of board shorts.

Mark simply jumped in feet first, which is usually the best choice. But it’s a shallow pool. It only goes as deep as 5 feet. I can stand in the deep end and my hair can remain dry on top, which makes me feel absurdly tall, as if at a pool at Legoland.

So, Mark’s feet hit the bottom, hard, when he jumps in and that sets his knee rehabilitation back about six weeks. So he goes and gets into the Jacuzzi.

Meanwhile, I am still getting used to feeling cold, and still determined that I will swim laps. Or something.

While Mark is saying, “Ahhhh….” I am doing a sidestroke across the pool. Then I do a backstroke. Then I do a dog paddle. I am feeling strangely winded, and that is quickly followed by intense boredom.

I try getting across the pool in any kinds of strokes that I can invent. I would like to just do a deadman’s float and lightly kick my feet until I reach the other side, but I don’t want that much chlorine in my soft contacts. Then I realize that it is the chlorine that is making me feel winded. I am allergic to chlorine. Duh. I try to limit my exposure to it. We have filters on our showers to eliminate it so that I can go all year long without a breathing treatment. As a kid, I would get asthma after a swim in someone’s pool, every time.

Okay, so now what? I float on my back. I try to see stars in spite of the intensely bright pool lights.

I finally get out, feeling like a popsicle and sink into the Jacuzzi with Mark. In the Jacuzzi, I continue to swim, albeit, with much less room, because, unless I am reading, I am not that good at just sitting there. Soon another couple joins us, and then another, so it’s rub-a-tub-tub, three couples in the tub. And I am no longer even remotely swimming, but just sitting and trying to act like a grownup and stop playing with the bubbles.

Not exactly my idea of getting exercise: doing a slow roast in a Jacuzzi while talking for hours about the HOA, and politics, etc.

So, here are the reasons why I prefer to swim in the ocean:

I can wear a wetsuit and not look like a dork, unless the water temp is 75 and the air is 113, but in that case, I would probably be lying on the kitchen floor with a wet towel placed over my head and shoulders. The wetsuit, after the initial plunge which is usually taken care of at the first powerful wave, keeps my body temp better regulated. And the wetsuit helps keep me from getting sunburned.

I am a native of Cali, and have lived in Huntington Beach for about 35 years (and Newport Beach before that, and Seal Beach in between), but my ancestors come from places not known for getting tans.

My dad’s Scottish ancestors intermarried with the Norse invaders, and so that line is Scandinavian/Scottish from way back. Add to that that an Irish woman married one of these norse/scots and you get pale skin that freckles for all who come from this line.

My mother’s ancestry is Dutch, Danish, Scottish. I got my blondish/light brownish hair from her, but my skin from my dad. I can tan, if I am willing to make it a full time job. It takes at least three months of daily hours holding still on the beach to get one. And in two days of not doing that, it fades in a hurry. And for the first month, it will mostly be peeling and increasing the freckle count.

When I swim in a pool, I am dressed differently and parts of me that are not used to sun instantly burn, sunblock or not. And I think all that reflection there just increases the entire effect. So, in order to swim in a pool, I either need to wear a wetsuit, put on prescription strength sunblock that looks like clown white face, all over exposed skin. Or work on getting a protective tan.

None of those are all that enticing, so, board shorts, rash guard, etc. Anyway, what do you do in a pool? Especially one that is only 5 feet deep? Back stroke, side stroke, dead man’s float?

I prefer to swim in the ocean because there are always things you can do there. You can swim, paddle, or, run like mad toward a fresh set that is coming in. You can dive under a wave. You can float on your back up the slope of a slick wave, and down the other side. You can be pummeled to the point that you are eating sand and telling yourself that you WILL find the surface again if you just relax.

You can watch dolphin swim by. You can dodge a surfer. You can catch a wave that takes you on a long and exciting, or long and pleasant ride. You can share a wave with your buddy, or a seal, or both.

You can stay out as long as you are not turning blue, and you don’t get winded from breathing chlorine fumes. You can burn a lot more calories than you will doing a half-hearted sidestroke in still water.

My parents loved to swim in the ocean, and we did it often. I can’t recall the first time they took me into the Pacific. And I do recall my infancy (see a previous blog). It had to be when I was just a baby. I do have some memories of being held in their arms while they rose up over waves and down the other side, and their responses to these experiences were positive, so, I am certain that I began to love being in the ocean as a baby.

As children, we would often stay in the water for 8 hours at a time. We were blue prunes! As a teen, I would borrow surfboards, until I had my own, and ride waves for as long as I could.

So, what can you do in a pool anyway? To me, with my expansive experience in the vast pacific, a pool seems like a bathtub.

I guess I’ll just take a good book the next time I go to the pool. That is what I do in a bathtub.

Either that, or I will wear a wetsuit to the pool, bring a body board, and yell KOWABUNGA as I throw myself into the water. Acting like a grown-up is so overrated, anyway.