Lying on the tiled bottom looking up through the water I could see my friends still swimming around playing and wondered if anyone would notice me in time to rescue me.
I was at the bottom of a swimming pool we visited every weekend through the winter.
A group of us had decided to do this when the summer ended and we could no longer swim from our local beach. At first we would use the Public Baths (swimming pool) in down town Newcastle but it was small and normally quite busy so when we found out about this larger pool just a short bus ride away we gave it a try and used it from then on.
The pool was situated in an upscale neighbourhood. It was larger and much brighter then the Public Baths and we had it to ourselves most of the time.
The only other regular swimmer was a young girl of about ten or eleven who just came to practice her backstroke. We made sure to stay out of her way because she was obviously training while we were just playing. She would just swim up and down the pool at a leisurely pace for up to an hour at a time. The backstroke is not my stroke but I appreciate seeing it done well and she did it well. Once I timed her on a couple of laps and figured out she must swim well over two miles in a session.
On the way to the pool in the bus we would think of different things we could try and constantly challenged each other with different dives, speed and distance racing and underwater endurance. Since we were all pretty even we never knew who would win at any particular thing except diving and then we all lost because there wasn't a diver among us.
One day I decided to do a summersault from the spring board. To me diving was just a way to get into the water cleanly without noise or pain but I admired the way divers could do so much in between leaving the board and sliding neatly into the water.
We all used to do summersaults on the soft sand on the beach although no one had ever managed to finish in an upright position yet but I figured with the spring from the diving board I should gain a lot more height. On top of that the water was several more feet below which would give me lots of time to do the one and a half turns to enter the water head first.
I ran down the board, took a good jump and sprang into the air going into the tuck position. Probably my tuck position was pretty poor, in fact, I am sure my tuck position was pretty poor. As I rotated I realised that I had no idea where I was. How did those divers manage to come out of the tuck at exactly the correct time? Completely disoriented I started to straighten out just as the water hit me in the face
and the stomach
and the legs. When I dragged my aching body out of the water I looked like a lobster and it wasn't embarrassment.
I decided to stick to Jack Knife and hand stand dives after that. Much more impressive even when your style isn't up to snuff.
Another thing we did in the bus every week was pick someone to be a drowning man (victim) and another to be a life saver (hero). We were all going for our St. John's lifesaving certificates so it was a way of practicing our skills and also lots of fun.
The victim was allowed to choose the time and type of drowning man so it could happen at any time and the hero had to be always on the lookout. We tended to prefer the scenario of a desperate man clinging on to anything that floated. This is the hardest rescue but the most fun because the victim tries to grab the hero around the chest pinning his arms which could result in both drowning. The way out of this is a series of moves which could be called underwater jujitsu and was naturally our favourite part of a rescue.
This week we were alone again except for the young girl. Her father was with her today for the first time but he just sat on one of the benches at the side and watched.
I had been chosen to be the victim and decided to try something a little different. Part way through a game of something like water polo with a tennis ball, because none of us owned a water polo ball, I blew all of the air out of my lungs and sank to the bottom. It is amazing how long you can stay underwater without air in your lungs as long as you don't do anything but lie there. Lying on the tiled bottom looking up through the water I could see my friends still swimming around playing and wondered if anyone would notice me in time to rescue me. I was just thinking about coming back up again when I saw Brian swimming towards me. He dragged me to the surface, swam to the edge of the pool and pulled me out of the water. Now he had to give me artificial respiration. We hadn't heard of CPR in those days so I guess if the heart had stopped it was just tough luck for the victim but we knew how to get the water out of the lungs and start the breathing process again. I was laid on my stomach head to the side and Brian knelt at my head. Pressing in the middle of the back forced air and water from the lungs and then sliding the hands under the arms and lifting as he rocked back expanded the lungs. This was the new artificial respiration replacing the one where you knelt at the side of the victim.
I had kept a mouthful of water and let it go when he did his first compression just to make things look real.
Everything went as planned and I was just raising my head ready to stand up when I saw the girl's father dragging one of the pool attendants through the door from the reception area. Apparently he had noticed what we were doing and was trying to convince the attendant that there was a boy drowning in his pool. By this time we knew all the attendants by name and they knew what was going on but this poor guy would not be convinced and ran towards us
on the tile that was clearly marked 'Swimmers Only' and just as clearly marked 'Walk Don't Run'. I watched as he lost his footing and went down. Luckily for him he was close enough to the edge that only his arm hit the tile before he went into the water.
Suddenly everyone was heading towards him and from across the pool came a little girl like a bullet from a gun. Obviously the backstroke was not her only efficient stroke. We all arrived at once and pulled the poor man out of the water. Once we found out that he was ok his daughter gave him a good telling off. First for running on the pool area and then for not listening to her when she told him about us several times at home. She yelled at him again and again but we all knew she was just concerned. She obviously felt that the pool was one place where she was the boss but she finished up hugging the poor soaked man.
We all apologised for scaring him and then he apologised for overreacting and not listening to his daughter. The pool attendant just disappeared back to the lobby laughing.