Hong Kong's aquanauts

Mr Tall has already given us the low-down on who you can expect to find in a local gym. Allow me to extend the list to things aquatic: the typical characters you'll see at your local swimming pool.

The water baby. Whatever activity you can think of that children enjoy, Hong Kong has a tutorial class waiting to suck the life out of it. So in any swimming pool, expect to find several lanes roped off and filled with children churning back and forth. The first time that I swam next to one of these lanes, I noticed a rather disconcerting effect: each time I turned my head to breathe, it seemed the swimming costume in the next lane changed colour. Maybe the latest in swimming fabrics? No, it just means they swim twice as fast as me, so each time I turn my head a different child is overtaking me. They look to be about seven years old, and can swim twice as fast as me for however long I swim in the pool. I hate them.

The water panda. In summertime, the water babies head outdoors, to be bronzed under the summer sun. They are easily spotted by the distinctive pale rings around the eyes, where their goggles keep the UV at bay.

The SPF-sister. Female, 20s - 30s, found in outdoor pools, and easily spotted by the oily slick that follows them. Possibly a grown up water baby, she relishes the healthy figure that swimming gives. But, Bronzed? How to stop her delicate face from turning a farmhand shade of brown? Slather on that SPF 250 cream!

The poser. Yes, an amphibious breed that thrives in both pool and gym. Like their gym-bound brothers, they also raise the question "when do they actually exercise?". Because although they are certainly in good shape, time at the pool is spent lying on the edge displaying their body to best effect while perfecting the tan.

The splasher. Closely related to the gymrat Screamer, but an offshoot that has developed by Darwinian selection. (Screaming and taking large intakes of breath while underwater have obvious limitations). Heard as you approach the pool, you'll guess there must be some serious swimming going on. But as you climb out several lengths later, you see they haven't actually moved. No, that's not true - there's plenty of movement, just none of it forwards.

The moonwalker. This is a curious species, one I've only seen in Hong Kong pools. Usually an over-60s lady, and often generously buoyant, she bounds from end to end. She sinks to the bottom of the pool, pushes up and forwards to pop up and take a breath, then sinks again to repeat. Watch out if you have one or more of these in your pool - swimming over one as she's about to pop up can lead to a rather unfortunate collision.

The goldfish man. He puts the sup in "haam sup"*. After a token length or two he retreats to the shallow end. Then as each lady swimmer approaches, he dips underwater for his next voyeuristic thrill. There's nothing subtle about these guys, they stare!

The winter swimmer. Skin the colour and texture of shoe leather, they swim *every* day.  Their biggest regret is that the water in Hong Kong never gets cold enough that they need to break the ice to get in. Not so likely to be seen at your pool, as they prefer to head for the sea.

The grandpa. Has been swimming twice-weekly at this pool since 1965. Coincidentally the same date he bought his one and only pair of swimming trunks. On land they are just a baggy old pair of trunks. But in the water their gossamer splendour is revealed, as they undulate in a manner not unlike the jellyfish at Ocean Park. Unfortunately the age and thinness means that once they are wet, much more is revealed, often giving goldfish man a nasty shock.

Do these sound familiar? And who have I missed?


* Haam Sup Lo, literally 'salty wet man', is local slang. The meaning is similar to 'dirty old man' or 'pervert'.



Oh man, don't get me started on these. Wait, obviously you've already got me started, so here we go. I should note that the presences of several forms of aquanauts is part of the reason I don't often swim for exercise; I just get too frustrated. Anyway, two more types:

The Solitary Stander i.e. the individual who goes to the pool, walks out into the middle of the lane swimming areas, and just stands there . . . .

The Prunarific Pacesetter, i.e. the wrinkly-but-exceedingly-fierce older lady (she may or may not be a moonwalker) who swims at the speed of continental drift, but who insists on placing herself right dead center in the fastest lane (i.e. in those setups where they have slow, medium and fast lanes), and who then screams at you at length for having the temerity to pass her by as you're swimming, resulting in a very embarrassing parody of a public argument between a young, giant westerner and a four-foot-something granny, which I can assure you is never, ever, ever going to go the way of the former, no matter how formidably-assembled are the forces of justice, order and lane assignment on his side. Not that this has ever happened to me, of course.

Hong Kong's aquanauts

As you're both on a roll here:

Bombastic Bomber - can be fat, thin or weedy: determined to make the biggest splash preferably in front of The Grandpa or serious swimmer to see them swerve.[akin to the lane switcher on our motorways] He also has superskills in being invisible to swimming pool attendents or life savers or whatever those bronzed beings in fetching red shorts sitting ontop a ladder are called.

Water Tai Tai - of a certain age with a sensible swimming costume preferably double padded and with a skirt to maintain modesty. Goes swimming with a friend and they proceed a deux together. Super skill - swimming ten laps without getting hair wet or dipping chin into water whilst trading gossip and stock tips.

The stroker - even more of a haam sup lo than the goldfish man. Cruises up and down the pool giving the appearance of a regular swimmer. Appropriately his modus operandi necessitates the use of breast stroke to swim slowly and greater reach.  Target areas are other swimmers'arms and thighs which can normally be claimed as an accident or too many other swimmers.  Depends how confident the advanced strokers feel to aim for other areas.

Do we need to mention the cojoined lovers?