Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Imagine gigantic pools, fed by sea water, sitting on a majestic stretch of coastline.

Imagine being an open water swimmer who could train in sea water, both in pools and in the Pacific Ocean.

Imagine the complexes being close to one of the world’s most magnificent municipalities.

That is what the Sutro Baths and the Fleishhacker Pool in San Francisco, California offered between 1896 and the 1950s.

The Sutro Baths was a privately owned, publicly renowned swimming, ice skating and museum complex that opened in 1896 and was named after Adoulf Sutro, the 24th mayor of San Francisco who was an eccentric visionary and talented entrepreneur.

The Sutro Baths offered 6 heated saltwater swimming pools and one freshwater pool.

Swimmers could slide, swing, dive, jump into the pools via slides, swings, diving boards, trampolines or a trapeze while thousands of spectators could watch the excitement and enthusiasm for aquatics.

During high tide, ocean water would flow directly into the pools from the Pacific, recycling 2 million gallons of water in an hour. During low tides, a turbine water pump built inside a cave at sea level, was used to recirculate the water in the pools within 5 hours.

The Sutro Baths were located near Seal Rock, a little over 20 minutes and 10 km away from Aquatic Park in San Francisco Bay. Lands and ruins of the complex are now the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Similarly, the Fleishhacker Pool was a public saltwater swimming pool located in San Francisco and named after philanthropist and civic leader Herbert Fleishhacker. Upon its completion in 1925, the 300m x 50m pool [shown above] was one of the largest heated outdoor swimming pools in the world until its closure in 1971.

The pool water was pumped from the Pacific Ocean, then filtered and heated to be enjoyed for up to 10,000 swimmers. The pool’s heater could warm 2,800 US gal of seawater from 60°F to 75°F each minute. The water provided by a series of pumps and piping at high tide, directly from the Pacific Ocean, 200 meters away. There were also rowboats with lifeguards who cruised the pool on patrol.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association