George Kay and wife, Molly Baross, wanted a pool that didn't take up the whole yard and in which their athletic daughters could practice swimming.
Take a very small swimming pool, add in the warm water of a spa, mix with something you might call a "treadmill in water" and you have the ingredients for a swim spa. It's not only perfect for today's small back yards, you can even put it inside your home.
Swim spas have been around for about 40 years, but they've become increasingly popular as lot sizes have shrunk and people have seen the value of keeping fit. Those values are what motivated George Kay and Molly Baross to buy one for their Orange County home.
"I've tried to use public and private pools to keep in shape," Baross said, "but they're always so crowded, and it takes a lot of time getting there and back."
Their swim spa is typical: It's about 7 feet wide by 14 feet long. There are a few swim spas that are a foot or two shorter and most offer a variety of lengths, up to 24 feet in one case. Width varies by only a few feet.
The flow of water is created by propeller, by jet (like most swim spas) or by paddlewheel.
Most standard swim spas are about 39 inches deep, but most can be made deeper, up to 6 feet in one brand.
Swim spas can use either a natural gas or electric heating system. Either can regulate the temperature all the way up to over 100 degrees, though for swim exercise a temperature no higher than 90 is recommended.
Though Kay's daughters use it a great deal for exercise swimming-they're on their high school water polo team- his wife also uses it for practicing synchronized swimming. That's why they ordered one that could be extended to 6 feet deep.
"It's been so easy to maintain and we've gotten so much use out of it, I can't think of where we'd be now if we didn't have it," Kay said.
This article was originally published in The Orange County Register.