Who needs expensive getaways when there's an escape just down the block?
Shortly after outdoor public pools close for the evening, the real action begins. On almost any given summer night in outdoor pools across the city, pool-hoppers start arriving no more than a half hour past midnight to get in on a very illegal, yet very appealing, late night pool party. A constant flow of people, of all ages and cultures, come and go throughout the night—more often than not until 4 a.m. or later, provided that the cops don’t arrive to break up the festivities.
Last week, which saw some of the hottest daytime temperatures on record in the city, the influx of illegal swimmers coming to Toronto’s public pools was also likely pushing records—though it’s not as if anyone is keeping precise data on these kinds of things. Though Thursday night, when we tagged along with some pool hoppers at Christie Pits to see the party in action, we did overhear one police officer say that the number of departing swimmers was the largest he had ever seen at any Toronto pool, ever. (The photos that accompany this story were taken last week, from Thursday through Saturday night.) Luckily for the overwhelming number of trespassing swimmers, the collective discretion of the officers determined that so long as everyone left promptly, no fines would be issued and no arrests made. (This didn’t really prevent pandemonium from breaking out among the rookie pool hoppers when some guy yelled “Shit! The cops are here!”)
Hint to any people who might try pool hopping at some point: if the authorities show up, remember that you are in a giant cage with 10-foot walls. You are at the mercy of the officers, so your best bet is to get along with them in the most respectful and polite manner possible.
What might be the most compelling aspect of pool hopping, besides the unquestionable illicit fun, is the ad-hoc community which forms each night. Pool hopping isn’t a scene. You won’t get glaring looks for not wearing the right kind of clothes (or for not wearing any clothes at all), you’re not expected to like a certain kind of band, or have a specific favourite beer, or belong to some particular subculture. There are simply no social barriers to participating in this illegal activity—though there are plenty of, well, actual barriers to participating.
Those physical barriers, in the form of 10-foot–high fences, are merely the introduction to the collaborative adventure that is pool-hopping. Few people scale the fences without the support of their friends who have come along with them, or the new friends that they make upon arrival. Typically everyone wants everyone else to have a good time, and the first step is getting everyone in.
You can easily tell who are the seasoned pool hoppers—the ones who thought well enough ahead to wear some kind of swimming attire, and were considerate enough to bring their alcohol in non-breakable plastic bottles and wine boxes. The veterans will also be the ones to explain to the rookies that they need to keep their voices and music down unless they are hoping for someone living close by to call in a noise complaint to the police. This veteran cast of characters includes, but is not limited to: free spirited (naked) hippie types, drunken frat boys hoping to get a glimpse of a nipple or two, show-boaters who risk severe personal injury to impress their friends and other pool hoppers, lovers who sit off to the side in the kiddie pool and make out, and buddies who lounge about smoking and drinking. All of them are just looking for some good-spirited fun in friendly company.
And really, how could you not have a good time when all of a sudden you find the chance to do everything you weren’t allowed to do at the pool as a kid? Running on the deck, check. Multiple people going down the slide at once, check. Multiple people going up the slide at once? Swimming naked? Making out with your significant other? Checks on all accounts.