A swim spa (aka swimming spa, counter-current pool or swimspa) is a small pool with a circulating current. Like a runner on a treadmill, a swimmer in a swim spa can swim in place in a current of moving water.
|The arrows above show how the water flows to create a current for a swimmer to swim in place.|
There are a broad range of uses for swim spas. Many people have medical conditions (i.e. arthritis, cystic fibrosis, fibromyalgia). Some people use swim spas for water therapy and water aerobics. All types of people use swim spas for general health and wellness. Athletes use higher-end swim spas for training and coaching. Kids love swim spas for fun and recreation.
That's the concept -- now, the implementation varies across manufacturers.
The design and quality of the current generation systems in a swim spa varies across manufacturers. It seems that the approach depends upon the history of the company making the swim spas. Manufacturers like Calspas and Thermospas were spa manufacturers first, then swim spa makers. They use jets similar to massage jets in hot tubs to create a current. Companies like SwimEx and Endless Pools were first counter-current pool makers. They use a large paddlewheel and a large propeller to create the current. They also use channels to draw the return water from the opposite side of the pool. Master Spas is a large manufacturer and marketer of hot tubs. They have a hybrid solution that uses a small propeller from a trolling boat motor to create a current. They've invested heavily in marketing with a sponsorship from Michael Phelps.
So what is a swim spa: it is the best of all worlds when it comes to a swimming pool and hot tub. You can swim, play, and use it for therapy. You can lounge in it and relax after a hard day at the office. Yet it has a small footprint, requires less maintenance than a full size pool and it easier to heat.
Ah -- that depends. What are you looking for? How would you use the swim spa? How important is fit and finish? How important is a high quality swim current?
Beware of 'impartial' advice on the internet and be sure to try out a few swim spas for yourself (i.e. a wet test).
For more information about swim spas, please see our Swim Spa Guide.