OK, it's summer. You're hot. It's time to frolic in the ocean.
You get out the sun screen, pack all the beach paraphernalia, gas up the car and blast up the air conditioning. You think you'll hit the water quickly, but all you do is sit in beach traffic for two hours.
What wouldn't you do to be able to jump into your own backyard pool? If only you had the space.
There may be a way out of this dilemma. It comes in the form of an 8 x 15 foot pool that you can install in your home or out in your backyard, and it won't take up half the space of a regulation-size pool.
You're probably thinking, "I might as well swim in my bathtub," but an enterprising young company in Pennsylvania has come up with an idea that may convince you to think differently.
The name of this innovative way to keep wet is the "Endless Pool" swimming machine. It was invented by the company's president, James Murdock, while he was in graduate school at the University of Columbia. The swimming machine got its first real test when the university's swim team used it in 1989.
"I have never enjoyed something so much as this pool," says Cara Lyn Overton, of Massapequa, who installed an Endless Pool in a specially built glass room in her home.
What makes the Endless Pool unique is a current that runs through the water. Swimmers swim against the current, always staying in the same place.
"There are no jets. That would be like swimming against a fire hose," explains Tim Plummer, vice president of Endless Pools. "We move a huge volume of water using a 16 inch propeller at low pressure. It's more like swimming against the current of a river."
The propeller is run by hydraulic pumps that are turned on by an air switch. Once the water reaches the end of the pool, it enters a grill and moves back up the sides of the pool under two side benches, creating a "continuous loop of water."
"It's a barrel of fun. It's like river rafting, and you can turn the currents up for fun," says Ms. Overton.
The Endless Pool was originally built to allow the swim current to run the width of the pool. Then it was redesigned so that the swim current worked only in the center.
"Now the swim current could be going at top speed, and the swimmer can stand up, step sideways and be out of the swim current," says Mr. Plummer, adding that the change was also made so others could be in the pool with the swim current on and not be affected by it.
According to Mr. Plummer, six to eight people can fit in the Endless Pool at one time, provided that some sit on the benches. Ms. Overton reports that she has had up to five people in her unit at one time.
The installation of the unit is also much simpler than a full-size pool, according to Mr. Plummer. The Endless Pool can be located outdoors, or on any ground-floor or basement room in the house. It can also be put in-ground. It is sent to the buyers in a kit, which comes with a two-and-a-half-hour video explaining the installation procedure. The whole process should take two people two days to complete.
"It's about 30 man-hours worth of work," says Mr. Plummer.
Once assembled, the water in the pool needs to be changed every one to two years. The pool is equipped with a system that uses ionization to keep the water clean. Silver ions are used to kill bacteria and copper ions fight algae in the water. At the end of every day, a swimmer must also place 4 ounces of chlorine in the 2,500 gallons of water. It is estimated that on Long Island, the pool would be responsible for about $45 dollars in maintenance costs every month.
In the 22 years the company has been in business, they have sold over 20,000 pools. The majority of their customers are older people looking for ways to exercise in the privacy of their home and swimmers who also use the pool for exercise. And, as water aerobics have become more popular, so have the Endless Pools.
"I use it every evening. It's delightful!" exclaims Ms. Overton. "I can use it for 12 months out of the year, and [it doesn't] take up the whole backyard. I absolutely love it."
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