Will Patrons Kindly Refrain From. Our guide to swimming etiquette

How many remember this poster from the 1970s? And how many thought that law-breaking Will Patrons was a real person

How many remember this poster from the 1970s? And how many thought that law-breaking Will Patrons was a real person

Most swimmers of a certain age will remember the ‘Will Patrons Kindly Refrain From…’ poster which used to be on prominent display in every pool up and down the country. Encouraging us to avoid the less social habits of bombing, pushing, petting and smoking (!), it highlighted the more obvious no-nos which can spoil a good swim.

However, there are other unwritten rules which can help prevent a pleasant swim from becoming a battle of wills or have you heading for an early shower frustrated by the thoughtlessness of other pool users. Goggleblog has done a straw poll to find the top five gripes among regular swimmers.

1) Ignoring the faster swimmer behind you – The one complaint we hear more than any other is fast swimmers being held up by slower swimmers. There is nothing more frustrating than watching the plodding swimmer in front of you push straight off from the wall despite the fact that you are right behind them. This leaves you with no option but to swim a frustratingly slow length behind them, catching their toes every other stroke while desperately looking for a big enough gap to ensure you can get round them without head butting the unsuspecting swimmer coming in the opposite direction!

2) Choosing the wrong lane – We all like to thing we are the next Michael Phelps or Rebecca Adlington, but chances are most of us don’t even come close. However, this does not stop us choosing the fast lane because this is where we think we should be! As a general rule, breaststroke and backstroke are probably best reserved for the slow or medium lanes. And if you swim with your face out of the water then the fast lane probably isn’t for you. Conversely if you are a speedy frontcrawler do not even contemplate getting in the slow lane. If you have come to do a few lengths of breaststroke at a relaxed pace there is nothing more annoying than some inconsiderate person powering past you, churning up the pool and spoiling your peaceful swim.

3) Swimming butterfly at peak times – OK, so you may have been the school butterfly champion but a busy pool packed with people trying to have an enjoyable swim is not the place to show off your fly skills. Unless you have your own pool, butterfly is a stroke best kept for the quieter off peak times when there are only a couple of other swimmers around. Try it at any other time and you can be fairly sure that people are not stopping and staring because they are awestruck by your ability to move gracefully through the water like a dolphin but because you have displaced most of the water from the pool and nearly drowned them!

4) Forgetting that you brought the kids along with you – We’ve all been tempted to try and fit in a cheeky few lengths in the lanes now the kids are competent enough swimmers not to drown if you take your eyes off them. But there is nothing worse than the parent ploughing up and down the pool seemingly oblivious to the fact that their off-spring are causing havoc. Don’t pretend you can’t see them swimming underwater and popping up in the middle of the lanes beneath unsuspecting and increasingly irate strangers, having woggle fights in the middle of the pool or throwing floats at each other.

5) Swimming side by side chatting – Swimming is a fairly solitary sport. You get in, you swim your designated number of lengths, you get out. Swimming side by side in the lanes having a good old chinwag is probably the most annoying thing you can do. Not only do you swim much more slowly when you are talking as well, noone can get past you while you are two a-breast. More importantly, one of you is swimming in the wrong direction and at some point there will be another swimmer coming the other way who will be forced to stop or risk a concussion. You wouldn’t drive on the wrong side of the road so please keep to the right side of the lane and keep socialising for after your swim.

Do you have a swimming faux pas that we haven’t covered, something that really makes your blood boil or gets your speedos in a twist. Let us know by emailing totallyswimming@googlemail.com.


By Wendy Knowles