Across the country, people are running to their nearest pools and waterfronts to cool off, get active and have fun. With the high demand for aquatics activities, park and recreation professionals are always searching for new ways to freshen up their programming. Thanks to creative, modern options, some agencies have found ways to bring excitement back to their aquatics programs and attract new audiences to their facilities. These contemporary ideas represent the trends in recreation today and may be a great addition to your facility.
A surprising aquatics trend gaining momentum in aquatics programming is log rolling. The 20th century lumberjack tradition is being used as a fun fitness activity that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. “Log rolling is reaching a whole new audience,” says Abby Hoeschler, president and CEO of Key Log Rolling. “It is a unique sport that doesn’t require use of the entire pool and is great for all ages. People can learn how to do it pretty quickly, and the fun is easily accessible right from the start.”
Minnesota-based Key Log Rolling has made it very easy for recreation facilities to implement this new aquatics trend. The company successfully created a lightweight, portable, synthetic log that is much easier to use than a 500-pound cedar log. “The hollow core makes it easy to transport to the pool, where it’s filled with 50 gallons of water to mimic the weight of a log. Then the rolling begins,” says Britta Stratford, aquatics director of the Mt. Vernon RECenter in Fairfax County, Virginia.
The Mt. Vernon RECenter started log rolling classes in the spring of this year, but has been offering open rolling sessions since November 2014. “I went to the NRPA Congress in Charlotte in October  and noticed the Key Log booth there. I was really interested in the opportunity of bringing something new to the RECenter and the Key Log seemed to be a perfect fit,” says Stratford. The center holds classes once a week each quarterly session and open rolling sessions each weekend. Since the program began, more than 50 people have tried out the log. “There is a lot of interest generated from the log when it gets put in the water. The people in the class love the fun challenge of it, and it is a workout,” says Stratford.
Key Log Rolling has worked directly with owners and facilities to start numerous model programs for YW/YMCAs, parks and recreation centers, universities, colleges and schools across the country. “We started Key Log Rolling to grow and develop the sport and to share what we love about log rolling,” says Hoeschler. She recommends that facilities interested in log rolling should first get their staff familiarized and involved with the program. Once staffers are on board, community demos can be used to get the word out. The versatility of the programming ideas and usability both indoors and outdoors makes log rolling a great option for any facility.
Stand Up Paddleboarding
Another trending aquatic sport with a rich history is stand up paddleboarding (SUP). The practice of standing and paddling on canoes or rafts has existed for thousands of years in river-based and coastal environments. However, the modern history of SUP is based in the Hawaiian surf culture. Since SUP was brought to the United States mainland by Vietnam veteran Rick Thomas, the sport has taken off in mainstream culture. Now it is a regular piece of aquatic programming at facilities with access to waterfronts.
San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has been running its SUP program for four years. “The class is usually offered once or twice a month during off season (fall, spring and winter) and once a week for our surf and waterfront summer camps for kids. Sometimes, we also do special events,” says Rex Biteng, waterfront/aquatics supervisor of leisure services for San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department in California. “We have two instructors: one being the main instructor and the other a certified lifeguard who accompanies the group. Everyone must wear PFDs (personal flotation devices/life jackets) as well.” Since the program began, almost 5,000 people have participated in the sport.
“SUP is an easier sport to learn because it involves paddling like when canoeing or kayaking. The boards used are more stable than surfboards, so standing on an SUP board is a lot easier than riding a surfboard in waves. You also don’t have to stand on the paddleboard — you can just as well kneel or sit,” says Biteng. “These reasons make SUP’ing easier to a broader range of adults and kids. Not to mention, SUP’ing is a good workout and it gets people outside. It also gives you a different view of our bay and lakes,” says Biteng.
For community members who prefer to beat the heat by lounging around a pool, poolside dive-in movies are becoming a popular programming option. Many people are familiar with drive-in movies, which became popular in the late 1950s to mid-60s. Today, the same concept exists but with a modern twist. Aquatic centers and pools are turning their facilities into movie theaters with the help of audiovisual projectors and inflatable movie screens. Community members are invited to bring their families and enjoy their favorite movies while floating around in the pool. It is an activity that provides fun for people of all ages and can easily be implemented at any aquatics facility.
For more than 25 years, the Herndon Parks and Recreation Department in Virginia has offered dive-in movies at its facilities. “Dive-In movies were new and different when we originally started, and now, they are so popular we have continued to offer them,” says Abby Kimble, marketing specialist at Herndon Parks and Recreation Department. “We used to order 16-millimeter film — now we use a DVD player and we hired an audiovisual company to help with sound and video projection.”
Herndon offers dive-in movies, at most, twice a year; however, it gets upwards of 100 people in attendance for the showings. It alternates between newer movies and showing the classics — all of which are appropriate for viewers of all ages. The program has gotten exceptional feedback, with regular requests for more showings, and its success can be greatly attributed to the inclusiveness of the activity. According to Kimble, one of the top reasons Herndon chose dive-in movies as an option is because “this event allows all swimmers of all levels to have fun in the pool.”
Catrina Belt is an Editorial Intern for Parks & Recreation magazine.