Reflections On Water

Maybe it happened in childhood, during one of the first days on the job or completely by accident, but everyone has a memory that they can pinpoint as the moment everything about this aquatic life made sense. Keep reading to see ours.



Captain Dan to the Rescue

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It was a snowy, cold day at a ski resort in B.C., and I'm out doing repair work (no jacket required!). I pull up to a chalet to repair the tub, and as I look next door, I see a family standing in the driveway, so bundled up that they looked like the Michelin Man's family.

They weren't moving. Just standing there. So I got out of my truck (laughing), walked over and introduced myself. It turns out they were a Samoan family directly from Hawaii; they had never seen snow before in their lives!

We hit it off great. Soon they were laughing as much as I was! They had no idea what to do, so I ran home and grabbed a snow sled and toboggan, came back and showed them how to toboggan. Well, that was a hit!

So while I'm joking around with momma (they called her Jo-Jo), I mentioned that if they were so cold, they should be in the hot tub. She said it was broken and the water "didn't look very good."

Well BOOM! Captain Dan the hot tub man sprang into action! There was no way I was going to let these good people deal with a week at Sun Peaks without a hot tub! It turns out the water was disgusting and the hot tub needed a minor pressure switch adjustment. After dumping and refilling, and using my remote propane heater and fixing things up properly, I had them in hot clean water in about two and a half hours.

It was a clinic; I was in my element and loving it. I believe they did, too, cuz by the time I had my equipment packed up the entire family was in the tub laughing and splashing having a great time — that is a picture I will never forget. What an amazing source of pride to be able to use my experience and ability interject that much fun into peoples lives!

I ended up checking their tub chemistry for the next week and becoming one of the gang. They had an amazing holiday, and I was able to really help make it a great trip for them, and I felt great about that, but I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends. Funny enough, out of the blue about a month later I received a package in the mail from Jo-Jo with coffee, macadamia nuts and a ton of other treats and a letter full of gratitude for fixing their hot tub.

I was as thrilled as they were. Experiences like these — that's why I go to work every day.

—Dan Stebner
Sun Peaks Aquatics | Sun Peaks, B.C.



Family Time in the Hot Tub

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When I was about seven years old, I remember a beautiful snowfall one winter evening. In my family, that meant time spent in the cozy hot tub to keep the cold at bay!

Snow in the Triangle area of North Carolina is rare, so this was a very exciting moment for my siblings and me. Of course, my dad took the occasion to the next level. He turned the hot tub jets on high and added in bubble bath, much to our delight. The bubbles must have been at least four feet high and with me, my sister, brother and dad, the hot tub began to overflow. That bubbly warmth mixed with the iciness of snow on our noses was to me the coolest experience ever. It was truly an "a-ha" moment for me that sparked my love of spas and inspired my current career. I tell this story all the time in spa sales to illustrate how a hot tub can be a great addition to the family home.

Being involved with pools and spas helps me bring fun and togetherness to our customers, making this one of the best jobs in the world – and to think it started on one snowy day with a welcoming hot tub!

—Tara Onthank
Rising Sun Pools and Spas | Raleigh, N.C.



Family Traditions

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Some of my favorite and most influential experiences as a teenager took place in my parents' backyard swimming pool. As is true for many people growing up, pools were a source of fun and socializing. In the case of our family pool, the design had everything to do with how we used it, and in fact, those experiences influence my work as a designer to this day.

The pool really wasn't much to look at, just a basic 40-by-18 rectangle. What made it special, however, was that it was shallow on both ends, about 3 ½ feet with a center deep section that was about 5 ½ feet deep. That made it perfect for volleyball, which became a summertime family tradition. I come from a large family — my dad was one of eight kids — so we have all sorts of aunts, uncles, cousins and nieces and nephews. That pool and the volleyball games really brought the extended family together. So much so that our house became the preferred venue for family gatherings.

To this day, those volleyball games still take place and will last all day and into the evenings. It's truly a perfect example of how a pool can bring families together. And, that experience has shown me how valuable and useful all or mostly shallow pools can be, a factor I apply in my own work.

—Greg Boruff
Questar | Escondido, Calif.



Under the Stars

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When I was in 7th grade, I went on my first trip far enough away to merit a plane ticket. It was a family vacation to Arizona to see a few relatives and potentially a few open houses, as my dad spent years trying to move the family there. He'd paint a picture of our lives in Arizona, giving it almost a mythical quality with its perpetual sunshine, warmth and beauty both day and night. "People travel from all over the world to see the stars in Arizona," he said.

We finally went in December and unfortunately, it was unseasonably cold. (That's our luck for you.) But to my brother, sisters and me, whose travel experience had been limited to the Midwest, it was thrilling to go somewhere that looked and felt completely new. (And it gave us the chance to quote a classic Homer Simpson line: "Arizona smells funny!")

One night, at the end of a long day, my dad, sister and I went to the hotel pool. It was closed, but such rules don't slow down the Hammel clan; we hopped the fence and got inside. My dad and sister sat on the side of the pool, dangling their feet in the heated water while bundled up in coats — but I, on the other hand, dove in.

After the initial dunk, I floated on my back, allowing the water to drown out all the sound. And that's when I saw it.

Right in front of my face, it seemed, were thousands of stars, more than I'd ever seen at home. It was beautiful and serene, even moreso from the vantage point of a swimming pool.

My dad was right. The stars are super impressive in Arizona.

(Not that I'd ever tell him that, of course.)

—Cailley Hammel | Managing Editor



Right Before Your Very Eyes

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My first memory of swimming pools was also my first experience with a construction project. In the mid-1970s, when I was about 10 years old, a new neighbor moved in across the street and had a swimming pool installed in their backyard.

I was intrigued by the whole process, seeing a swimming pool come from a plain backyard and watching the construction team work tirelessly on the project. The pool business was so crazy and busy at the time that the construction company strung up lights in the yard and worked day and night on the new pool.

The icing on the cake was when the pool was finished, I got to swim in it. Now, my adult life has been devoted to building swimming pools, creating something out of nothing and giving families and neighbor kids backyard escapes to enjoy for years to come.

—Al Curtis
Legendary Escapes | Brighton, Mich.



The First Swim

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When I was but a wee lad in the '60s, my dad was in the U.S. Air Force, and as a result, we moved around a lot. One of those stops was in Dover, Del., where my dad was in flight training for about a year. I was four years old at the time and there are only two things I clearly remember from those days: seeing The Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the first time I took a dip in the pool at our apartment complex.

The sights and sounds of that crowded pool are forever etched in my memory. I clearly recall being both terrified at first and then thrilled by the experience of playing in the shimmering water. My parents put me in a life vest, gently lowered me into the water and then showed me how by moving my arms I could move freely around the pool. Although tentative at first, I quickly got the hang of it and spent the next couple hours joyfully bobbing around the pool.

Looking back, for all the countless pools I've been in, that intrinsic joy of being free in the water has never diminished and I doubt it ever will.

—Eric Herman | Senior Editor



Getting To The Deep End

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It had to be the scrappiest community pool in the state, but we pretty much lived there in summer, me and all the neighborhood kids. This was 1972, and there wasn't much else to do — summer was not broken up by camps, trips and various activities, it just stretched out before us like a dog getting up from a long, hot nap.

The pool was simply a concrete bunker-bowl — once that place was poured, it was finished — surrounded by a chain-link fence. There was not a surface inside or out that wasn't like sandpaper, which was a point that impressed a ten-year-old kid who was bound to skid across a few surfaces. So we all had a little skin the game, so to speak, but there we played out the heart of the blazing summer in a small town out on the flat farmlands.

I don't know if "lessons" existed in those days. Most things, swimming included, you were supposed to figure out on your own, and if you couldn't, people assumed maybe you shouldn't be doing it. So learning to swim was a lesson in determination, mostly — a slow graduation from the shallow end to deeper water.

The shallow end was 3 feet deep, so as soon as you were 3 feet, 6 inches tall, you found yourself bouncing along near the wall on your big toe, head back to keep your nose clear, one arm on the pool gutter just in case, yelling at your big brother to quit splashing you. Next summer, when you descended that railing in June, you found you could stand flat-footed with your head completely clear, and that's how you knew you were growing up.

But you were still confined to the shallow end. There was a rope that cordoned off the deep end, and that was only for proven swimmers, and you were not allowed past that rope until you could pass what everyone referred to as the Test.

When the bigger kids, maybe even a couple of the kids your age, went to the deep end to play Marco Polo, you had to stay in the shallow end with the babies.

This is called motivation.

So you started really trying to learn how to swim. You'd seen people do it plenty of times, and you tried to do what they did. Maybe your dad would pitch in with a bit of helpful advice, like, "You can't breathe with your face in the water, turn your head to the side."

And one day you swam 5 feet! And one day you swam the entire width of the pool, grabbed the wall, rested for a while, and then swam back. You were really swimming. You started thinking about the Test: With the pool cleared, the rope pulled aside and all eyes upon you, you had to swim two full lengths of the pool, down and back.

Half of that was going to be in the deep end — uncharted waters, well over your head, where a man could drown.

Of course, there was no way to replicate the Test in practice. As anybody who has ever played a sport or joined the military will tell you, you can train all you want, but that's never the same as live action.

For many of us, it was our first encounter with performance — that is, mustering the courage to commit, and the discipline to practice, and the fortitude to endure those final nervous hours.

And that's where we learned that the buildup is truly the hardest part. Once you're in the water, you're swimming for your life, and you'll make that every time.

—Scott Webb | Executive Editor



A Magic Connection

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My magic pool spa moment came when I met Charles Wise at the third pool he ever built. It was a community pool for my neighborhood, and I was at the pool opening party, divorced for a month and the mother of two tiny toddlers.

A group of neighbors talked to me on one side of the new pool, encouraging me to go up and talk to Charles. "He's single!" they all said. On the other side of the pool, another group of neighbors was saying the same thing to Charles about me!

Thus we met, married, had a third child together and went on to build a pool business for more than 44 years! Our focus on that most precious value of family inspired us to share the fun of the pool with others. Now we focus on passing on the knowledge we have acquired through seminars each of us presents, through the pool care book I wrote and passing our legacy.

—Merry Wise
Wise Pools | The Woodlands, Texas

Have a favorite moment from your career you'd like to share with us?

Email [email protected] with your stories. We will edit and publish them online.

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