How a shark ended my swimming career

When I was six, some bright spark decided to repaint the school swimming pool. The blue background was probably necessary to disguise the yellow water, but it was a pool for children, so they didn’t stop there.

Soon a dozen colourful starfish and octopuses crawled across the pool floor. I was as happy as you can be about cute creatures painted in a pool two degrees above having icebergs. (Actually, it was probably only the urine content that kept the pool from freezing entirely.)

Then there was the shark.

At the deep end of the pool, where the water was green and dark and burned the back of your nose when you tried to put your feet on the bottom, they painted a shark.

It swam out of the pool wall in the shadow of the diving board, mouth agape, teeth ready to savage any child foolish enough to paddle by.

It probably looked something like this:

Happy shark
Image credit: Bill Davenport via

What I remember looks more like this:

Scary shark
Image credit: Lwp Kommunikáció via

I accidentally zoomed right in on that picture when I was downloading it and nearly gave myself a heart attack. Try it, I dare you. (Okay, maybe I have a bit of a thing about sharks, but it’s not like it’s irrational. They are trying to eat me.)

Tell me that wouldn’t terrify you if you saw it on the side of a pool.

I wracked my brains trying to figure out why anyone would paint something so scary in a kids’ pool and concluded there’s only one possible explanation: it was a devious scheme.

Give children a pool, and they’ll make an earnest attempt to drown in it. Every time a child attempts to drown, some poor adult has to jump in and fish out the enterprising child. Did I mention the pool was freezing cold and more than five parts per hundred urine?

To save themselves this unpleasantness, the adults devised a simple solution to keep children out of the deep end.

The shark.

It was there for years, and scores if not hundreds of children suffered its gaze. As I recall, it was still there when I left for high school.

Thanks to that shark, I never drowned in the pool. I also never learned to swim. I consider it a fair trade.

Don’t stop reading, because I have questions for you, but first…

This is a subheading

Sorry about that, but Yoast SEO (I don’t know either, but it’s supposed to help people find me, which I figure is good because I’m probably lost) was being really judgmental about my post not having any subheadings and I couldn’t stand the guilt any longer. I get guilted by my fridge for leaving it open, by my inbox for always having a million messages, and now this.

But as I was saying, I have questions!

Was I total wuss for finding a cute painted shark scary? Make me feel better-what ridiculous things frightened you as a kid?

(That second shark picture still freaks me out every time I look at it.)


If you enjoyed this post and have friends who don’t like sharks, why not share it with them? It will serve them right for being smug. You can also sign up to hear from me every month by entering your email in this delightfully dull grey box.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

10 thoughts on “How a shark ended my swimming career”

  1. I remember waking up early one Christmas morning and seeing my Santa sack all full and hanging in the window. I knew I wasn’t supposed to get up, but I jumped up anyway and spun it around to see if I could peek at what was in it. Now, rather than a stocking, my Santa sack was a clear plastic bag, so when I spun it around I saw this screaming face inside, lit by the moonlight coming in, and I was COMPLETELY terrified. I shot straight back into bed and hid under covers, utterly convinced that there was some demon doll in there that was going to come and rip my head off for being so cheeky as to try and get a sneak peek at the presents.

    Turned out it was some weird hanging doll thing that you were meant to keep your pjs in, but I hid it in a locker as soon as I could and NEVER got out of bed early to check on the Santa sack again…

    1. Haha, I love it. I would have been terrified too. They never told us that if we were naughty Santa would leave demon dolls that would eat us. If I’d known, I would have a lot better behaved.

  2. What a brilliant scheme with the shark! Definitely keeps kids from going to the deep end and drowning. It would probably keep me from the pool entirely. After seeing Jaws at the age of…ten, maybe? I’ve been terrified of sharks even though there are none where I come from.

    Isn’t Yoast a darling? It gives my blog posts the red light for “poor readability”. I should add pictures, links, keywords, subheadings and godknowswhatelse. I don’t know how to make this monster happy.

    1. Yes! Jaws is brilliant at instilling a fear of sharks. We actually do have great white sharks around New Zealand… but on the ocean, not the swimming pools.

      Out of all my pages, I think Yoast likes one of them. I refuse to give it a keyword for one of my pages, because as soon as I do it will get super-judgey.

      Yoast: Your page has low readability, but that doesn’t matter because it has terrible SEO so no one will ever find it. Have a nice day

      Pure evil.

      1. Yes. EVIL. It’s like Yoast is designed to trample on your self-confidence (mine is fragile enough already, thank you). Why can’t I have a SEO that goes “Yay, you are awesome!” every time I post something?

  3. Ha! I need to find some shark loving smug friends so I can share this with them (under an innocuous title, of course). Great idea!

    I don’t blame you at all for shark fear. Especially in the pool. I’m from Florida and grew up in the water and as a kid I always worried about sharks in the pool – no paintings needed. Even now, as a scuba diver I’m worried about them. But the large, aggressive varieties found down near you are a lot less common in the warm waters around these parts. Either way, here’s one of my favorite audio clips relating to sharks that you reminded me of:

    1. I clicked your link with a certain amount of trepidation… A *glass* shark? So now I can’t even see him coming? Why would you mess with me like that?

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