By Amy Duchene, photos by Gregg Segal
In Los Angeles, we have near-perennial sun and plenty of pools. Six are right here on campus, each offering a different aspect of water fun. Here’s where you can make a splash at UCLA this summer.
Leisure and Laps
The northernmost opportunity for warm-weather fun, Bruin-style, is at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. Built in 1966 on the Hill and nestled among tall pine trees, the center — flanked by green lawns and caressed by dappled sunshine — is home to the Family Pool and Park Pool.
The Family Pool, upstairs at the Rec Center, is a classic, 25-yard, six-lane outdoor affair with shallow leisure area and deep-water diving well. Surrounding the pool are rolling green hills, lounge chairs and even a sand volleyball court. An adjacent amphitheater and living garden lend a relaxing feel. Dana Dickerson, assistant director of UCLA Recreation, affectionately calls this the “Club Med” pool, especially on weekends and warm, late afternoons during the school year, when, she notes, “students will lie out, hang out and listen to music.”
Greek system members host events here, too, like cardboard-boat regattas and in-pool dance routines. At this pool, you can also participate in sometimes quirky fun like UCLA Rec logrolling clinics.
The Family Pool, as its name suggests, is home to much of the Rec Department’s programming for children, including swimming lessons and a summer camp “that uses this pool nonstop,” says Dickerson. If you want to host a birthday or other party at a pool, this might be your venue. The Rec Department is open to pool rentals for private parties, and the Family Pool — with its festive vibe, picnic tables and grills — is often the destination of choice.
On the south slope of Sunset Canyon is the scenic Park Pool, aka Sunset Canyon Park Pool, a 50-meter pool with eight lanes for long-course lap swimming and a diving board during open-rec hours. Thanks to L.A.’s legendary 300-days-a-year of sunshine, all of the campus pools are set up every day throughout the year including holidays, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and in inclement weather.
Park Pool is primarily used by community members, faculty and staff, though students occasionally sit by the pool and study. Like the Family Pool, it’s flanked by a serene swath of grass where patrons catch rays or catnap. And Park is intentionally quiet — no music or Frisbees allowed.
Prior to 2009, when Spieker Aquatics Center opened, Park was the venue for UCLA water polo, as well as the space where UCLA Water Skiing Clubs used to practice — yes, in the pool . To visit the pools at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, take Sunset Boulevard off the 405 and turn south on Bellagio Road. Follow signs to the facility.
History on Display
The North Pool and Student Activities Center Pool offer UCLA history lovers a place to float in the university’s first two original pools, which date back to the early 1930s. Centrally located along Bruin Walk, the outdoor pools have been designated as historic landmarks. Original tiles and ladders are still intact. “It’s a piece of history we get to see each day,” Dickerson says.
The eight-lane, outdoor Student Activities Center (SAC) Pool is part of what was formerly known as the Men’s Gym. Today, it hosts the UCLA Bruin Masters Swim Club for adult swimmers, Bruin Swim Club for swimmers age 6 to 17, intramurals and student club teams. The SAC Pool gets busy during lunchtime lap swims or programs like water aerobics.
“I like, surprisingly enough, the old Men’s Gym pool,” says Clay Evans ’79. “It’s one of the oldest pools in L.A., and it’s funky.” This two-time Olympian trained in the SAC Pool when he swam on the UCLA men’s team. “It was 33–1/3 yards, so you had to do three lengths to do a 100.”
The SAC Pool is still an odd length, but a movable bulkhead enables the staff to shorten it to a more common 25 yards or 25 meters, depending on the need. There’s also a windowed room downstairs that peeks into the pool, enabling instructors to view and grade students — such as when the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology teaches scuba diving.
The tucked-away pool is quiet and private, with a small rise of bleachers to observe the waterworks. To find it, enter the SAC building from the north. You can catch glimpses of the pool as you head through the building.
Just north of Glorya Kaufman Hall (formerly known as the Women’s Gym) is the North Pool. If you find yourself indoors at Kaufman, look for signs pointing you to the pool. The fact that it’s a little tricky to find makes this pool a hidden gem.
Today, the North Pool hosts adult swim lessons and Bruin Swim Club practices. This is also the site of a “wet classroom” used for American Red Cross safety classes, including CPR, first aid, and lifeguard and instructor training.
The aboveground classroom has easy access to the pool, which “allows easy transitions from the pool to the classroom, even when participants are wet from coming straight out of the pool,” notes Clint Svatos, UCLA Recreation aquatics manager. “The participants could be trying a lifeguard skill in the pool and possibly having a tough time with it. Quick access to the classroom allows for them to re-watch a short video on the skill they are working on before hopping back into the pool to try again.”
Even so, the North Pool is “very relaxing. There’s nobody nipping at you,” says third-year chemical engineering grad student Luke Minardi. And because it’s next door to the dance building, you may get a soundtrack to your swim as music trickles over the walls.
The South Pool, located in the Rehabilitation Center building, is unique in many ways. It’s the only indoor pool in the UCLA aquatics family. It’s also small, above-ground, and made of stainless steel. There’s no lap swimming here. Instead, the South Pool hosts specialized classes, including pre- and post-natal exercise, arthritis relief and the like. The fact that it’s indoors means temperatures — both air and water — can be controlled. The balmy water is anywhere from 82 to 94 degrees, depending on the day’s activities, which aids in “low-intensity strengthening and flexibility programs,” per the Rec Department website. This is also the location for parent-child swimming lessons, where parents join their children in the water.
The South Pool, as its name suggests, is on the south end of campus, on the corner of Veteran and Kinross.
Dirks Pool is the competitive one of the bunch, and also the youngest. Dirks opened in 2009 as part of the new Spieker Aquatics Center. It is Olympic-sized, 52 meters by 25 yards, and serves as home water for the UCLA women’s swimming & diving team and the men’s and women’s water polo teams.
The state-of-the-art outdoor Spieker facility is also home to club teams, including triathlon, swim and water polo. Bruin Swim Club and dive clubs practice here, too, as do Bruin Masters. Deepwater Dirks pool opens up to the sky, with floodlights for night competitions.
Spieker also has a diving tower featuring variable platform heights, from three meters to 10, as well as a three-meter springboard. From the top of the platform, divers can see the UCLA campus before plunging into the 80-degree water.
“It’s a pretty unique environment, as we are at the higher end of campus, surrounded by beautiful pine trees that actually make the backdrops pretty awesome,” says longtime UCLA diving coach Tom Stebbins.
While Dirks isn’t open for recreational swimming, the public is welcome to watch meets and competition. History buffs can also check out the “Wall of Champions,” featuring past and present UCLA aquatic teams and Olympians, and keep track of who’s in the lead on the LED scoreboard.
To visit Spieker, follow directions to the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. Spieker is adjacent to the parking lot.
Originally published at magazine.ucla.edu.