If I recall my misspent youth correctly, breaking into a neighbor’s swimming pool gets one in “you’re grounded” levels of trouble. But yesterday’s juvenile delinquency is today’s business model, thanks to Swimply. Everyone calls the website the Airbnb of swimming pools—launched in 2018 and first dreamt up by, naturally, a college student. Swimply, simply, is personal swimming pools rented by the hour.
In the midst of Seattle’s current Hot (to the) Max Summer, I registered an account. Unsurprisingly, the site’s default geographic selection, Los Angeles, dwarfs the offerings in King County—and the buggy website insists on resetting to that default on every search. Way to rub it in, California.
Of the 10 local options, only one is within Seattle city limits, and that renter ceased taking bookings in June. Another, in Burien, charges $30 extra for use of the hot tub, a dealbreaker for my sore back, warped by work-from-home setups and Delta variant stress.
After an interminable back-and-forth email exchange—the platform’s booking calendars clearly need some work—I booked a Bothell backyard for a midday hour to the tune of $110, including fees. Because the address doesn’t pop up until after confirmation, I had already committed when I learned the home was a lot farther north than I expected, up near Mill Creek. Thanks to traffic, I’d spend twice as long driving as splashing.
The upside: The pool looked even better than the pictures, and the owner, Kirsten, met me with an ease that relieved my intense awkwardness. She explained that the pool, hot tub, cooler full of chilled water, and air-conditioned pool house were all at my disposal, including an indoor shower whose head had to be at least a foot in diameter. Kirsten also pointed out the best floatie for adults (she was right).
The downside: Her kids had cranked the heat settings on the pool, leaving the temp so warm “it’ll feel like a bath.” She offered to let me return another day, but I couldn’t stomach a second 30-minute drive out; I can’t say she didn’t warn me.
Floating under sky-high cedar trees, the waterfall between the hot tub and pool helped drown out any household noise and I quickly accepted the weirdness of hanging in someone else’s backyard. An immaculate putting green abuts the pool. Kirsten’s husband is a landscape architect, so the entire property serves as a kind of showroom for his business, a miniature resort in a rural neighborhood.
Drifting atop a floatie solo felt decadent, like I had scored a rich friend who liked to share. Kirsten’s unobtrusive posting of the rules (“spouting of the water…shall be strictly prohibited”) kept community pool vibes at bay. Had the water temp hovered closer to crisp than cozy, the hour would’ve been the perfect break in my sweaty, citified week.
Price-wise, Swimply sits somewhere between one of Seattle City Parks’ 10 facilities—$6.25 for adults—and joining a private place like the Olympic Athletic Club, where I was quoted an $80-per-month membership for unlimited use. Scoring an actual, overnight Airbnb with a swimming pool is always an option, but few rentals near Seattle have their own pools. Had I brought the three friends allowed in my $110 hour, Swimply could be considered a deal.
John Cheever’s famous 1964 short story “The Swimmer” follows an upper-class man who decides to swim across town by linking his neighbors’ backyard pools. His lark turns surreal as he strides through their cocktail parties in his bathing suit, accepting gin and tonics before diving in for a lap and padding to the next house in bare feet. Seattle’s anemic personal pool stock could never support a crosstown swim, but Swimply’s model borrows the same cheerful understanding of Cheever’s story, of our misdemeanor-hungry teenage selves: If you’re not going to use that pool, we might as well jump in.