Swallow dives

English: Seaside life. Man standing ready to catch a woman coming down with a swallow dive. Photograph from the Dutch illustrated magazine 'Het Leven' (bathing issue), 1937.

Photograph from the Dutch illustrated magazine ‘Het Leven’ (bathing issue), 1937.

You used to see a lot of swallow dives, but nowadays you hardly ever do. This is partly because most pools have got rid of their diving boards and many are not deep enough.

It is a shame, but I fear the swallow, or swan dive has had its day. It seemed to coincide with the era of the Lido, of Busby Berkeley swimming extravaganzas, of Esther Williams, Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) and sweeping art deco architecture.

I am just old enough to have benefitted from the end of the swallow dive era and remember seeing many beautiful dives executed from the high diving board at our local pool. I remember that moment when the diver seems to hang in the air, swooping upwards for a second with arms outstretched before bringing them together over the head and hopefully entering the water with the smallest of splashes. I even on one spectacular occasion saw someone do one of these dives off a bridge into the Thames at Twickenham.

I never did one myself. I didn’t have the courage or the skill. It seemed to be something that men and boys did to show off. I don’t know how they learned, I am quite sure most of them were never taught. They just plucked up their courage and copied one another.