Swimming sheds (Chinese: 泳棚) were built along the sea shore and provided changing rooms and wooden piers for swimmers. They took the form of bamboo huts and were built by the Hong Kong Government in the 20th century.
Swimming sheds gained popularity in the early 20th century because their entrance fees were cheap. Swimming sheds also leased swimwear, at a rate of $0.3HKD for female swimming suits and cheaper for male swimming suits. This attracted many citizens to use swimming sheds during weekends and holidays.
In 1911, Chinese Recreation Club (Hong Kong), built a swimming shed in Tsat Tsz Mui, formerly a village, in eastern North Point. It then became the most popular swimming resort, attracting more than 100 thousands of visitors every year.
In the 1950s, there were around 8 to 10 swimming sheds in Hong Kong. Among all these swimming sheds, Chung Sing Swimming Shed and Kam Ngan Swimming Shed were the most famous ones, which were located in Kennedy Town and Mount Davis respectively. Moreover, South China Athletic Association built a swimming shed in A Kung Ngam between 1950 and 1972 and many swimming sheds were also built in Lai Chi Kok Bay, in northern Kowloon, which provided boat rental service.
In the 1960s, the Hong Kong Government revoked part of the land area of the swimming shed in certain districts for redevelopment. As harbour pollution problem worsened gradually, more swimming sheds were disintegrated and declined. In 1988, Wan Hung Fai, the regimental commander of beach cottage, and his friend’s application on reopening swimming shed in Sai Wai Victoria Road was approved by the Hong Kong Government, making Sai Wai Swimming Shed the one and only swimming shed in Hong Kong now. There were facilities like office, changing rooms for both male and female, lockers etc.; opened to the public from 5:00 am to 1:00 pm, charged HKD$120 per month.
On 22 October 2012, LEUNG Chun-ying, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, pointed out that the water quality of the harbour has been improving since all major sewage treatment and purification projects are nearly completed. He suggested building more swimming sheds on both sides of the harbour, and in turn encouraging people, particularly those working on both sides of the Victoria Harbour, to swim or do a little fishing to reduce stress. However, Professor Ho Kin-chung, Dean of the School of Science and Technology in the Open University of Hong Kong, indicated that the water quality is not suitable for swimming now, not until the completion of the second phase of the effluent treatment projects wraps up. But he agrees that the consideration of building swimming sheds in both sides of the Victoria Harbour is feasible because many citizens swim in Hung Hom and North Point, however, with no facilities provided.
Nowadays, the swimming shed is still used by older swimmers and residents of the neighbourhood early in the morning. It is also a popular photo location among enthusiasts and newlyweds for the beautiful scenery.
Sai Wan Swimming Shed
Sai Wan Swimming Shed is the only shed that is still in service in Hong Kong. It was set by the government in the 60s to 70s in which regular swimming facilities weren't common. It is on the brink of the Hong Kong island, outlining the Victoria Road and Mount Davis. It functions as a hybrid of swimming lot and photo-taking spot for photography lovers, for its vantage point which helps visitors see the small island to the West of the shed, the beacon and the sunset. Users could also get changed and store their personal belongings in the shed. After settling down, swimmers walk along the shed and start enjoying their laps.
On 29 September 2007 in Victoria Road and Deep Water Bay, a swimmer drowned in early morning accidentally. That swimmer, who worked in Sai Wan Swimming Shed, was swimming after work. She was sent to hospital. However, after being rescued, situation was still serious. Until the night, she died. Another woman suspected illness earlier when she was swimming at Deep Water Bay. And she also died.
Two old women drowned to death early yesterday morning when swimming. Old woman(ms Zhang, seventy years old)was drowning in swimming shed.It is reported that Zhang has developed swimming habits for 20 years.
That accident happened at the Victoria Road Old Mount Village beach. It was administered by two committees. Members are mostly elders and are interested in early swimming and winter swimming. There is no lifeguard at the Swimming shed. Swimmers only take care of the friends of each other. Sometimes we peripheral vessels passing, sea waves can be rather high. But people are accustomed to early swimming. They said that they do not travel too far as there are dangers and could be threatening.