Can anyone guess what is happening in this picture? Obviously, it is the ocean; but what are all those people doing? Hauling in a large fishing net, some sot of Ironman Competition, or assisting with a shipwreck recovery?
No, this is an organized ocean swim just off the Virginia Beach Boardwalk behind the Princess Anne Hotel at 14th Street and Atlantic Avenue. The picture was taken around 1905. See the row boats in the distance. They are hotel employees performing the duties of lifeguards.
The hotel would organize and supervise two swims everyday weather permitting (except Sunday) during the summer season. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. The poles that you see sticking up out of the water were joined with heavy rope to prevent any guests from being caught up in the current of the ocean water. Guest would enter on the North side of the semi-circle, walk southeast holding on to the rope and exit out on the South side. The guests would then be greeted at the hotel bath house by an attendant with towels and soap.
Beach fashion and swimming attire were much different than what we see on the beach in 2020.