It Never Rains In California, Does It?

Players and referees brave the elements Thursday at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Special Contributor

Editor’s Note: Steven Munatones is the founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association and the Daily News of Open Water Swimming.

With over 40,000 commercial swimming pools throughout the state of California, the landscape is dotted with 25-yard and 50-meter pools from San Diego to Sacramento.


Among many of these pools, 208 high schools and 53 colleges offer water polo along with the majority of the 500 registered USA Water Polo clubs utilize these pools for workouts, games and tournaments.

With its mild climate, a vast majority of these pools are outdoor venues with bleachers, stands and scoreboards.

But when it rains during a water polo game, the sport subtly changes.

Flip flops are exchanged for shoes and rarely worn boots.  Hoods of parkas are pulled over the heads of the athletes.  Parents pull out their little-used umbrellas.  Referees wear transparent ponchos over their white uniforms.  And the pool deck becomes cold and slippery for bare-footed athletes.

Even the cheers – and jeers – during a tightly contested match seemed toned down as if the clouds put an invisible damper on the passion of the fans.  Clapping is lessened primarily because the fans and parents have their hands in their jackets or are holding an umbrella.


It’s odd when it’s not sunny in California for polo—but it happens. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

But the athletes in the pool do not care. The pouring rain does not affect their play.  They carry on…until lightning strikes.

An hour before the Long Beach State vs. UC San Diego game on Thursday in Round 3 of the NCAA men’s water polo tournament, lightning was seen in the distance and the players were ordered out of the water and the fans out of Avery Stadium on the Stanford University campus.

Suddenly, before the most important game of the season for both Long Beach State and UC San Diego, the players’ warm-up was curtailed and their fans left the most impressive water polo venue in the U.S.

Dark, cloudy skies and a damp drizzle put the quarterfinal game on hold.  “All players immediately leave the pool,” said the Avery Stadium public address announcer.  “Fans, please make your way from the stands out of the stadium.”


Water is wet—in the pool or out. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

An empty pool and an empty stadium was not what the players and fans expected only minutes to game time.  But after the mandatory 30-minute wait, the players were allowed back in the pool for their warm-ups and the fans huddled under the covered sections of Avery.

With rain steadily falling throughout the night, the teams and fans are bracing for a wet semifinals today, beginning at 3 pm (PST) between favored Stanford Cardinals and the upstart Triton of UC San Diego followed by a traditional cross-town battle between USC and UCLA that is expected to come down right to the finish.

But the weather forecast predicts a letting up of the showers a few hours before game time.

But come rain or shine, the four teams in the NCAA semifinals with play with an intensity that fans – with ponchos or not – appreciate and the game demands.