Indecent Exposure: Swimsuit Edition


courtesy of Tess van Hulsen

Coach Brandon Johnson observes varsity water polo players Kian McHugh (’14), Sheila Subramanian (’15) and Omri Newman (’14) as they struggle to deck change in order to be timely for practice.

Let’s be honest. It isn’t very often that you see a water polo player, swimmer, or diver not walking around in their revealing attire at practice. It’s simple: these sports have made us increasingly comfortable with fewer clothes on. Commonly known as a “deck change”, more and more aquatic athletes wrap towels and parkas around their bodies to remove or put on a swimsuit while on the pool deck. It’s a custom, a lifestyle and a swimmer thing.

Deck changing has been witnessed at all levels whether it be high school, collegiate, or even at the Olympic trials. Yes, you read that right. Even the magnificent Ryan Lochte does it.

For all aquatic sports, especially swimming and water polo, stripping down and changing in and out of a swimsuit in front of others has been considered acceptable.

Despite the popularity of the seemingly harmless method of changing, it is against CCS (Central Coast Section) rules.

Years ago, CCS created a rule prohibiting deck changing; however, it has never really been enforced until now.

According to the CCS Swimming and Diving Rulebook, “Deck-changing will NOT be allowed at the Meet venue. This will be considered as UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT under Rule 3., Section 5., Article 1. of the NFHS Swimming & Diving Rules. Any participant in violation of this rule will be disqualified from further competition.”

If the official rulebook only prohibits athletes from deck changing in competition settings, then why are my teammates and I prohibited from doing so at practice? I wanted to see if others shared my sentiments on the matter.

“I think [deck changing] is unnecessary and [athletes] are going to have to get used to it this year that they cannot do it and it can cost them a game…the players know it, the coaches know it,” athletic director Earl Hansen said. “It’s like streaking, some people are offended by it.”

Varsity swimming, girls’ water polo and diving coach Danny Dye echoed Hansen’s opinion and reasoning against deck changing.

“I am in favor of the rule. It has been a rule for 20 years and people that want to argue about it are people that do not want to follow rules…It’s considered sexual harassment and it should not be done,” he said. “We as coaches should be pushing all CCS rules whether it is at games, meets, or practice. It’s all about decency.

The athletes themselves, however, hold a very different opinion on the matter than coaches.

How can deck changing be placed in the same category as streaking? We aren’t ‘showing off’ our naked bodies. In fact, swimmers cover more of their bodies with a towel or parka than when in the pool in speedos/swimsuits.

Both a swimmer and a water polo player myself, I understand the benefits of deck changing and the amount of time it saves athletes.

What’s the point in rushing to and from the crowded locker rooms to the pool deck to get ready, when it is as easier to just slip on a suit and dive into the pool a couple of feet away. The locker room floors become wet from the water being dragged in, which poses a threat to athletes who are at risk for slipping and getting injured. In essence, by not deck changning, we’re more at risk of injury!

Truth is, deck changing should not be deemed as a serious concern.

How many swimmers, water polo players, divers, etc. are really phased by seeing another’s changing under a towel, when they see their teammates half-naked everyday at practice?

Though it’s not what many want to hear, we aquatic athletes are all used to seeing each other in tiny speedos and tight sports bikinis. It’s the harsh reality and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

It’s not just female aquatic athletes that feel this way either.

““I feel frustrated because this CCS rule is enforced my senior year and as captain, I would like to be in charge and do what I believe is okay,” Newman, co-captain of the boys water polo team, said. “I try to enforce the rule and lead by example, but it’s definitely hard to change with the time-crunch before and after water polo and swim practice.”

In the end, sure, deck changing can at times be slightly revealing for those who are not used to seeing athletes in swimsuits. But classifying the harmless act as indecent exposure or sexual harassment takes it to a whole new level- a level that is simply over-the-top and unnecessary.