A 2017 NCAA study rated the UCSC OPERS pool as one of the worst tasting in the nation. To combat the negative image, OPERS cleaned and upgraded the pool this summer, replacing the original 1974 filter with a cutting edge design containing a flavoring unit.
“Originally, we planned to use the flavoring module to maintain a consistent flavor,” said aquatics director Joan McCallum, “when there was less natural urine or sweat in the system we could add some synthetically so that swimmers would never know the difference.” When asked if this was the most pressing problem facing the pool, McCallum replied, “The swimmers will tell you that they’re cold or that they need more open lanes, but all they really want is a pool that tastes good.”
It was head guard Cants Wim who had the thought to add different flavors to the pool. “I was swimming along one day, mouth open, tongue out, really appreciating the different sensations the pool had to offer,” Wim says, with his mouth still open and tongue still out, much like a dog with its head out the window. “I realized,” he continues, “that a hint of pickle flavoring could go really far.” After that fateful day, Wim and McCallum began experimenting with different flavors on different days, from the classic pickle to Big Mac to earwax. They also plan to introduce holiday and seasonal flavorings, such as latke, cheesecake, and deviled eggs. For the sake of accommodations, McCallum plans to have vegan flavors six days a week, with Friday featuring an animal based flavor soiree.
In order to maintain the desired flavor, on duty lifeguards execute a routine taste test every 30 minutes. One simply kneels at the edge of the pool, puts their face underwater and takes a good sip, adjusting flavoring levels as they see fit. McCallum plans to bring on a full-time flavor scientist for the following quarter, but for now, the lifeguards are enjoying the oppurtinity to get their faces wet.