Should MP3 players be banned from the pool?

One of the best underwater music devices around, The Finis SwiMP3 is one of a number of underwater MP3 players due to be banned from The Oasis in London's Covent Garden

One of the best underwater music devices around, The Finis SwiMP3 is one of a number of underwater MP3 players due to be banned from The Oasis in London's Covent Garden

Last week I swam outside at the Oasis in Covent Garden. It’s a lovely place to swim because the water is always quite warm even in winter (I don’t know how they do it because there’s never that much steam coming off the surface).

Anyway at the end of my swim a fellow swimmer, who it turned out worked there, came up to me to inform me that underwater MP3 players, or SwiMP3s, were going to be banned from the pool. When I asked why he said, ‘it’s so you can hear the lifeguard if they shout you to get out the water.’

Now I nearly always swim with an MP3 player in my ears – a Finis SwiMP3 model which I’ve had for a couple of years. This is largely to relieve the boredom of plouging up and down for ages. Without one I reckon I would only be able to manage to swim in a pool for about 45 minutes, whereas with one I can swim comfortably for double that time.

I must confess though the only time I don’t wear one is when I’m swimming in open water, particularly in the sea where I am paranoid about jet skis especially after the tragic death of Kirsty MacColl a few years back. However, I do consider the threat of jet skis to be a little more serious than anything that could happen at the Oasis where the biggest threat is probably from pigeons overhead!

Also as I wear both a swimming cap and earplugs to protect my ears when I swim I almost certainly wouldn’t hear a lifeguard shouting at me anyway (come to that I’m not always convinced I’d hear a jet ski which is why I tend to look around much more when I’m swimming in the sea and always wear a bright swimming cap).

So in my opinion it’s usually a much better idea for a lifeguard to wave his arms or ideally stand at the edge of the pool and attract my attention when I reach the end of the length. Go on, tap me on the head if you really need to I won’t mind!

Surely banning a music player that has been designed to give people a little bit of pleasure when they exercise (something we all find a bit dull if we’re honest) isn’t really necessary? After all no one says you can’t wear an iPod on a treadmill in case one of the members of staff tells you to get off the equipment. Or that you can’t put music on in your car because you won’t hear other cars beeping you.

Sure swimming isn’t without risks – nothing in life is – but I’m not convinced by wearing one of these devices the risk is any greater (surely the greatest risk of swimming is drowning from not being very capable in the water and no one asks you to produce your swimming certificates when you buy your ticket).

To ban SwiMP3s, or any underwater MP3 players, seems to me utterly pointless and unnecessary. We should be actively encouraging people to use these devices so they are more likely to exercise rather than discouraging them so they are less likely.


on “Should MP3 players be banned from the pool?
6 Comments on “Should MP3 players be banned from the pool?
  1. So what has happened since? Our local pool has just started this nonsense. I urged them to provide evidence of the safety risk, in the form of case studies of previous instances, and research that has been done before. Awaiting response.

    • There really is no safety risk at all. This is a typical knee jerk reaction you get from some pools because they don’t understand how something works so they think it’s easier to ban it on some spurious health and safety grounds. As I said in the piece, if they ban MP3 players saying you can’t hear any safety announcements then they would have to ban deaf swimmers and those who wear ear plugs too. In any case, you can’t hear anything with your head under the water and a swim cap on – maybe we will all be made to swim head up breastroke without caps on, so we stay alert for any messaging from the lifeguards.

      • Thank you for your response, Chris! I had the same thought, this is why I requested proof from them for the safety risks. I am not sure how far I will get – ‘knee jerk’ officials are the worst kind to convince:) I have not thought of a cap, though, I might just use one next time with my player hidden underneath. I have also contacted the Health and Safety Myth Buster Challenge Panel – I don’t know if you know them? Truly, a good read, some of these cases.
        Thanks for your response once again.

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