Many fellow alumni know the academic rigor of UC San Diego. I’ll never forget my orientation, when they told us UCSD was the “pressure cooker” of the UC schools.
I worked hard to keep my head above water, both in my classes and in the pool—I was on the women’s water polo team. In high school, I’d been a competitive swimmer all four years, played field hockey and was even on the men’s water polo team for my senior year. I loved how sports taught self-discipline and inspired me into a lifelong habit of exercise.
Well, this was very much the case playing water polo for UCSD, as we often had double workouts—5 a.m. and late afternoon. In my freshman year, we worked out in the natatorium, the only pool on campus at the time. It was just a short walk from my dorm room in Argo Hall, and I was especially thankful for that short walk at 4:45 every morning!
But sometime during my freshman year, we learned they were building a new pool near the middle of campus. It was called Canyonview, and we hoped it would be done before next water polo season, when Denny Harper would be our coach as we moved from a club team to varsity. We eagerly watched as the pool complex came to life.
One night, my friend and fellow teammate, Karin, and I decided to ride bikes to Canyonview and check it out. It was dark and quiet as we neared the new pool, also a little eerie with so few buildings on that end of campus. Central Library rose up through the dark like a sentinel keeping watch in the night.
Once off our bikes, we walked on the soft, freshly tilled earth, flip-flops sinking into the mud. We climbed over the fence barefoot, our toes gripping into the chain-link fence. Thankfully, there were no lights on around the pool, but the streetlights glowed enough for us to see.
We snuck along and, gathering our courage, stripped down to our birthday suits, leaving our sweatsuits and towels behind. Hands over boobs, bare butts mooning the sky, we ran toward the pool.
Right near the edge of the wet deck I slipped and fell forward onto my knee, doing a weird little dive into the pool. My knee burned where I skinned it, but we were swimming and laughing and trying not to make noise, which was causing us even more laughter and noise. We swam a lap or two, just to ensure we were the first people to truly swim in the new pool, even though we hardly told anyone.
As we toweled off, bodies shivering in the cold, we saw a campus police car cruise slowly by on the main road. We ducked down, and my heart was racing as they drove past. We struggled not to laugh out loud as we pulled on our sweatsuits and climbed back over the fence, weak from laughter and adrenaline. Wet hair dripping down our backs, we took our time pedaling back to the dorm.
I don’t recall the official opening of Canyonview Pool, but I’ll never forget the unofficial opening—what a swim it was!
—Susan Kimball ’87 currently lives in Atlanta and is a freelance photographer and writer. You can find her work at: www.susanjphotography.com