Saturday 21 January 2012

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The Mind Reading Staff of Kelowna's H2O Centre

Unlike skating, swimming is something I can do. Or at least I thought I could. Turns out swimming at Kelowna's $46 million H2O centre isn't so much about actually swimming at all. It's about sitting, bobbing, sliding, diving, floating, and even a little surfing. In fact, out of the six or seven pool areas in the building, only one - the Olympic size swimming pool - would actually involve any swimming. Guess which one we never got around to?

At the risk of sounding like an old man, it's all different these days. When I was young, a pool was exactly what you pictured when you thought of the word pool - a giant rectangular hole with water in it. If you wanted to get across the pool, you swam. Now they have this thing called a lazy river. I'll admit that when my kids told me to meet them in the lazy river, I had a visual of floating along down a slow moving creek on some sort of luxurious raft. What it really consists of is a fast moving current which requires far more energy to navigate than the word "lazy" would ever imply. I found myself getting carried around in a circle over and over again until one of my children showed me how to grab on to a rail at one of the exits and get out. I have to confess that I'm a little clueless as to the purpose of the lazy river, although I harbour a suspicion that it's purpose is to trap anybody over the age of 40 and keep them away from the other areas of the pool.

Like the wave pool. Now this is my kind of area, largely because they give you lots of floaty devices to hang on to. Bobbing up and down on the waves while floating on a board is far more entertaining than you might think, but it didn't take long for my mind to wander to the areas it always does, and I began to wonder if it would be possible to stand on the board. Then my mind moved on to standing on the board in the lazy river! Then I put the ideas together and thought about riding one of the waves from the wave pool into the lazy river! Then I realized that the lifeguard was looking right at me. She gave me that "I know what you're thinking - don't do it!" look that I usually only get from my wife, and after a moments consideration I decided that, despite the odds, there was a chance she really did know what I was thinking and it probably wasn't worth being sent back to the holding pen for grownups that is the lazy river.

The pool complex is equipped with just about everything, but if there is an area of the pool where I feel they fell short, it would be the diving area. Not the area itself, which is really nice, but the fact that they didn't build a high diving board. The tallest diving board at the H2O centre is only 10 feet high! I don't have an exact measurement, but I'm pretty sure the diving board at the pool I used to go to was at least a half mile up in the air (editors note: the diving board at the pool the writer grew up swimming in was exactly 10 feet high) and I feel bad that my kids won't get to know that feeling of climbing up 500 steps (editors note: more like 15) then jumping off a board and free falling for a full minute (editor again: it was about 3 seconds. Let's face it, the writer lacks perspective) before hitting the water. Those were the days. One other note in case you haven't been on a diving board in a number of years: the rules have changed a little. The onus is now on the person second in line to wait until the first diver is out of the way before proceeding. This is a change from the old days where it was the first diver's responsibility to get out of the way before the second diver could land on them.

They've added some fantastic stuff to what falls under the definition of swimming pool these days. There's three full size waterslides which are plenty of fun, even if they don't use radar to tell you what speed you're going. Then there's this:

To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of this. A simulated wave machine looks like a lot of fun, but why is it that everybody who rides this thing can do so at expert level? Even the little kids who took a turn looked impressive. It occurred to me that perhaps it was just easier than it looked, and that the only reason there were no out of shape, over forty year old Dad's trying it was because they were all still trapped in the lazy river. I decided that it would fall to me to become the standard bearer for my age group and I headed over to get in line, but as I got close the lifeguard caught my eye and gave me the "I know what you're thinking - don't do it!" look that is apparently part of basic training for all lifeguards these days. I laughed and mumbled back something along the lines of "Yeah, like I was going to try that", then turned and retreated back to the lazy river.

I have to say, when I was a kid, the pool was not one of the places where I felt there needed to be a lot of improvements made. After all, how do you improve on water? Obviously I simply lacked imagination, because these new complexes such as the H2O centre have done just that. They've kept it affordable too. Adults admission to the complex is $10, children are $7, and there's a family rate for 2 adults and up to 3 children for $25. That price also includes admission to the fitness facilities, but I'm definitely not qualified to review that for you. Just walking past the gym caused one of the trainers to give me a "I know what you're thinking - don't do it!" look. Apparently it's company wide training.