Lane Wars

Posted on May 19, 2013



Diamonte-shaped sunburn, lambrini in the park, scantily clad ladies tanning on roundabouts – it can only mean one thing. Spring hath sprung in London Town.

The ice sheet of winter has finally cracked, dousing us in sunshine and dressing our trees in glorious, lustrous greenery that smells better than a Lenor advert. We didn’t think it would ever happen but the long months of wearing tights under jeans (unlucky, boys) and spooning hot water bottles are finally over.

Luckily our fair capital has some of the best outdoor swimming facilities around, to keep us refreshed during the hot, steamy summer that’s obviously round the corner. With lido facilities sprinkled north, east, south and west, as well as places like Hamstead Heath swimming ponds for the weed lovers among us, there’s always somewhere to cool off.

But as always with any urban activity, as well as finding watery sanctuary, you’ll also come across a veritable cornucopia of weird behaviour. Let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders when it comes to bad swimming etiquette:

  1. The Windmill – they say as long as you try your best, there’s no such thing as failure, and if that’s true then our first contender deserves a Nobel prize for effort, despite cruising at around 0.3 miles per hour. With wildly oscillating limbs and enough back-splash to rival a drowning aardvark, approaching these dangerous waters risks taking a flailing elbow to the jugular. Overtake at your peril.
  2. The Boaster – there’s very little actual swimming involved with this one, the end of the lane simply provides the opportune space to park up and talk loudly about the second house in Brooklyn. Occasionally it looks like the boaster might be thinking about swimming, but this soon passes.
  3. The Unit – two non-conformists that laugh in the face of conventional meeting spaces for friends – like cafes, parks, living rooms or generally anywhere that’s not wet and ripe with opportunity to get in other people’s way. They’ve come for a catch up, not to swim seriously, so will either be taking up the entire lane, or be sort of floating one behind the either with craned necks.
  4. The Hipster – easily recognisable because they’re dry as a bone. Don’t expect them to actually get into the pool, they’ll just be sitting on a chair, posing and wearing oversized sunglasses even if it’s raining. I’m looking at you, London Fields Lido.
  5. The Fashionista – there’s always one fashion forward swimmer. Take the dude I spotted recently in neon pink speedos. It takes balls to wear those, and we could certainly see his.
  6. The Pace Wrecker – this one idles in the shallows, waits until you’re almost at the end of the lane and about to execute a Phelps-esque turn at the wall, then launches themself into action like a floundering walrus, forcing you to stop and wait for some distance to form between you, ruining your stride and  impending Olympic record.
  7. The Moorhen – for some unknown reason, maybe due to being an otter in a previous life, this one will intermittently dive under water, only to pop up in really inconvenient places, like under the lane rope, or next to your crotch.
  8. Tumble Turn OCD – this swimmer will obsessively tumble turn at the end of every length, even if there are 11 people crowded into the shallow end waiting to commence workout and executing said turn involves kicking a pregnant woman in the nostril. I can only assume that if our rotating friend misses a turn, somewhere in Turkmenistan, a badger will die.
  9. The Foot Fetish – there’s always someone that insists on paddling so close behind you that they touch your feet with each stroke but for some unfathomable reason will not overtake. Simply looming as a creepy toe-stroking presence in your wake, this pool companion is hard to shake.
  10. The Competitor – the only thing worse than someone who won’t overtake is someone who won’t let you overtake. Especially when the effort of staying ahead is about to give them a stroke. Maybe only making ninth place in the year seven school swimarathon still burns like a Glasgow bikini wax, but whatever their neurosis, our angry friend needs to relax and give way.

So the next time you’re merrily splashing around in the pool, take a long hard look at yourself and your swimming etiquette. Do your lane companions look like they’re about to do a murder, and you’re about to become a bloodied heap of lycra and goggles in the nearby bushes, Poirot style? If so it might just be time to get out and have a cold shower.

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