WHACKY REWINDHere are some of the most unusual headlines from the summer 2011 swim season
WHACKY REWINDHere are some of the most unusual headlines from the summer 2011 swim season

The Python in the Pool A 4-meter-long python in the pool caused quite a shock to swimmers at a private club in Malaysia. The snake was discovered by a guest after she dove in and noticed it by a ladder. No one was hurt,   and it was removed safely by the fire department.

Nude Beach-Goer Arrested Christopher Axford was arrested on a Massachusetts beach for unseemly behavior, according to local news reports. Apparently, he was shaving his armpits and had his shorts pulled down to his shins. Axford was subsequently charged with lewd, wanton and lascivious conduct. Police said he is homeless and shortly after being released following the beach incident, he was arrested again on charges he stole a tip jar from a pizza shop.

Buried Alive A teen visiting relatives in Newport Beach, Calif., was nearly buried alive after a trench he was digging collapsed on him. Matt Mina,17, was rescued by lifeguards and taken to a hospital, where he was released several hours later. “You have no idea how heavy the sand is,” he told his mother after the incident, according to an AP report.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were hiring guards for summer 2011? Now the year is fast becoming a memory. In case you forgot, here’s a look back at what made headlines, and how it might affect the new year.

  • The recall Just before Memorial Day, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of approximately 1 million drain covers, including products from 10 manufacturers. The move is considered the largest recall ever issued in the aquatics industry. While it was deemed voluntary, replacing recalled covers is not optional, said Scott Wolfson, CPSC public affairs director. Replacing recalled covers is ongoing. Initially many in the industry raised concerns over whether replacement products would be available and who would foot the bill for the work. As of this writing, questions about the process remain.
  • The economy The nation is still on shaky financial footing and it’s had an impact on aquatics. In the spring, Sage Hospitality Resources put 10 of its 11 CoCo Key resorts up for auction, and a report released over the summer by Cleveland-based Hotel Leisure Advisors, LLC, indicates growth in the waterpark resort market this year is the slowest in a decade. On the municipal side, tight bugets meant another summer of cutbacks. Lending is still tight, but the bright spots in 2011 leave room for optimism that 2012 will see a more substantial recovery. Waterpark resort properties solidly in operation have maintained firm performance, noted David Sangree, HLA president and author of the waterpark resort report. Additionally, many experts are seeing growth in international development.
  • The American Red Cross A strong reaction was heard when the American Red Cross announced a new pricing structure, which officially became effective June 1. The Red Cross said the new fees are part of a larger effort to improve aquatic offerings and better meet the needs of underserved communities. The organization maintains that the fees were set to better recoup costs and create a more equitable system. However, many operators expressed concern when the changes were announced and wondered how they would meet the new costs. A meeting was held in California, and Red Cross officials have said they are committed to working with program providers who have worries. Still, not all stakeholders are convinced that flexibility will be the best solution. In an informal poll on aquaticsintl.com, only about half the respondents said they were willing to negotiate with the Red Cross on approved provider fees.
  • Industry associations A number of changes were made at aquatics industry organizations this year, and at least one new group has entered the fray. In February, the National Recreation and Parks Association announced that it was disbanding the stand-alone Aquatics Branch and ending the dedicated aquatics trade show and conference.

Around the same time, several industry veterans announced the formation of a new group. The Association of Aquatic Professionals is led by Executive Director Farhad Madani, consultant, Aquatic Safety Experts, LLC, based in Austin, Texas.

  • Drowning prevention Drowning prevention remained top of mind for the industry in 2011. Efforts such as CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign and USA Swimming’s Make A Splash program are ongoing, and the second World’s Largest Swimming Lesson set a new record. Also, the first-ever World Conference on Drowning Prevention was held in Vietnam to address the epidemic in less-developed nations. However, there was still a significant number of drownings this year, and research from the Red Cross indicates a substantial number of people still can’t swim.