Title:
SAFETY FEATURES OF A CLIMBING APPARATUS FOR USE IN A WATER ENVIRONMENT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An aquatic climbing system having safety features. A climbing apparatus having a climbing surface suitable for use in a body of water in an aquatic environment; and a falling mitigation element in cooperative arrangement with the climbing apparatus and one or more user falling conditions, the one or more user falling conditions having a potential adverse effect on user safety of a user of the aquatic climbing system, wherein the falling mitigation element mitigates at least one of the one or more user falling conditions.



Inventors:
Moy, Russell (Frederick, MD, US)
Bellanca, James (Frederick, MD, US)
Application Number:
12/126672
Publication Date:
11/27/2008
Filing Date:
05/23/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROLAND, DANIEL F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LEVEQUE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW, P.C. (241 E. 4th Street, #102, FREDERICK, MD, 21701, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An aquatic climbing system having safety features, comprising: a climbing apparatus having a climbing surface suitable for use in a body of water in an aquatic environment; a falling mitigation element in cooperative arrangement with the climbing apparatus and one or more user falling conditions, the one or more user falling conditions having a potential adverse effect on user safety of a user of the aquatic climbing system, wherein the falling mitigation element mitigates at least one of the one or more user falling conditions.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the falling mitigation element comprises at least one portion of the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus being substantially vertical and having a plurality of recessed climbing assist features.

3. The system of claim 2, wherein the substantially vertical at least one portion of the climbing surface is curved at the sides.

4. The system of claim 2, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises a plurality of shaped surfaces of the climbing apparatus sufficient to encourage a user of the climbing apparatus to perform at least one to stay to the climbing surface and to fall from the climbing surface into the body of water.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein the falling mitigation element comprises at least one portion of the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus having a substantially negative incline with respect to vertical sufficient to minimize contact of a body falling from the climbing surface with the climbing surface.

6. The system of claim 5, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises a plurality of shaped surfaces of the climbing apparatus sufficient to encourage a user of the climbing apparatus to perform at least one to stay to the climbing surface and to fall from the climbing surface into the body of water.

7. The system of claim 5, herein the at least one portion of the climbing surface having the substantially negative incline with respect to vertical comprises one or more of a three-dimensional surface, a curved surface, a contoured surface, and an angled surface.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein the climbing surface further comprises a second portion having an incline different from that of the at least one portion of the climbing surface.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the second portion of the climbing surface is contiguous the at least one portion.

10. The system of claim 7, wherein the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus comprises at least a first climbing portion, wherein the first climbing portion has a first angle relative to vertical sufficient to minimize contact of a body falling from the first climbing portion with the first climbing portion, wherein the first angle of the first climbing portion is a first angle of negative incline relative to vertical.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the climbing surface further comprises a second climbing portion contiguous the first climbing portion, wherein the second climbing portion has a second angle relative to vertical that is different from the first angle of the first climbing portion.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein the second angle of the second climbing portion is a larger angle of negative incline relative to vertical than the first angle of the first climbing portion.

13. The system of claim 11, wherein the second angle of the second climbing portion is substantially zero.

14. The system of claim 10, wherein the climbing surface further comprises a lower portion contiguous to and below the first climbing portion.

15. The system of claim 14, wherein the lower portion being at least partially submerged into the body of water.

16. The system of claim 15, wherein the lower portion is substantially contiguous with respect to a pool wall proximate the body of water in the aquatic environment.

17. The system of claim 1, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises one or more non-climbable portions having surface topology configured to discourage climbing by a user of the system.

18. The system of claim 17, wherein a non-climbable portion of the one or more non-climbable portions has a non-climbable surface topology characterized as being different than a first surface topology of the first climbing portion.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein the non-climbable portion is contiguous the first climbing portion.

20. The system of claim 1, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises a rear surface configured to discourage climbing by the user of the system.

21. The system of claim 20, wherein the rear non-climbable surface comprises one or more of a safety cover and a non-climbable topology configured to discourage climbing by the user.

22. The system of claim 21, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises the safety cover and a frame that supports the climbing surface and the rear non-climbable surface and wherein the safety cover of the rear non-climbable surface covers the frame.

23. The system of claim 1, wherein the system further comprises an entrapment mitigation element functional to mitigate one or more entrapment user conditions.

24. The system of claim 1, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises one or more climbing features to assist the user stay within the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus.

25. The system of claim 1, wherein the climbing surface is formed of one or more sections removably coupled together to form the climbing surface.

26. The system of claim 25, wherein the climbing apparatus further comprises a plurality of modular sections removably coupled together to form the climbing surface and wherein modular sections of the plurality of modular sections are interchangeable.

27. The system of claim 26, wherein the plurality of modular sections further comprise one or more corresponding frame supports of a modular frame structure suitable to removably couple the plurality of modular sections together and support the climbing apparatus.

28. The system of claim 26, wherein the plurality of modular sections are formed sections removably coupled together by a coupling element.

29. The system of claim 25, wherein the climbing apparatus comprises one or more non-modular sections removably coupled together to form the climbing surface.

30. An aquatic climbing system having safety features, comprising: a climbing apparatus having a climbing surface suitable for use in a body of water in an aquatic environment; a plurality of falling mitigation elements in cooperative arrangement with the climbing apparatus and one or more user falling conditions, the one or more user falling conditions having a potential adverse effect on user safety of a user of the aquatic climbing system, wherein the plurality of falling mitigation elements mitigate at least one of the one or more user falling conditions and wherein the plurality of falling mitigation elements further comprises: a first falling mitigation element having at least at least a first portion of the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus being substantially vertical and having a plurality of recessed climbing assist features; and a second falling mitigation element having at least a second portion of the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus with a substantially negative incline with respect to vertical sufficient to minimize contact of a body falling from the climbing surface with the climbing surface.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

This application claims priority pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to the provisional U.S. patent application filed May 25, 2007 and identified by Application No. 60/940,133, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present is related to attorney's docket number 07-AQUA-01, SAFETY FEATURES OF A CLIMBING APPARATUS FOR USE IN A WATER ENVIRONMENT, and to attorney's docket number 08-AQUA-01, SAFETY FEATURES OF A CLIMBING APPARATUS FOR USE IN A WATER ENVIRONMENT, both filed on even date herewith.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document may contain material that is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

BACKGROUND

With use of various aquatic devices and apparatus in or near bodies of water, such as pools, lakes, the ocean, etc., there are many safety issues that must be considered. Many devices and apparatus suitable for use in bodies of water, such as slides, diving boards, mechanized games, and the like must be concerned with issues of user safety, such as user entrapment and user falling for users of such devices, as well as for persons just in proximity to such devices. The use of aquatic climbing walls and apparatus carries similar concerns.

A falling user condition is a condition in which a user of a climbing wall may be at increased exposure to falling from the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus or other portions of the climbing apparatus. For instance, a climber who seeks to stray from the intended climbing portion of the climbing surface, such as attempting to climb around the sides, top or bottom of the climbing apparatus or attempting to access the climbing wall from the pool deck or from the top is at increased risk of falling. Thus, a condition in which the user may use the climbing apparatus in an unintended manner, and thus increase his chances of falling, may be considered a falling user condition.

An entrapment condition is another type of user condition which, if unmitigated, may cause a user of a climbing apparatus or a person in proximity to the climbing apparatus to be entrapped while attempting to use or simply be in proximity to the climbing apparatus. Entrapment conditions may be caused by pre-existing physical properties of a body of water, like a pool, that become dangerous when a climbing apparatus is used in the environs of the body of water. Thus, an entrapment condition may be formed by the position of the climbing apparatus proximate a support structure, such as a pool deck and a pool wall, which provides support for the climbing apparatus in or near the body of water. An entrapment condition, then, may be formed by one or more of a gap between the first substantially vertical lower portion and the pool wall, and a gutter proximate the pool deck and the climbing surface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The features of the invention believed to be novel are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The invention itself however, both as to organization and method of operation, together with objects and advantages thereof, may be best understood by reference to the following detailed description of the invention, which describes certain exemplary embodiments of the invention, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIGS. 1A-1C illustrate front, side and top views of a 1×3 climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 2A-2D illustrate various side views of a frame suitable for use with 1×3 various climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 3A-3B illustrate front and top views of a 2×3 climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 4A-4B illustrate front and top views of a 3×3 climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 5A-5B illustrate front and top views of a 4×3 climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 6A-6C illustrate front and top views of a 1×4 climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 7A-7B illustrate front and top views of a 2×4 climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 8A-8B illustrate front and top views of a three-dimensionally formed climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 9A-9B illustrate perspective and top views of a substantially vertical climbing apparatus with recessed climbing assists or features, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIG. 10 illustrates a view from below a partially submerged climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 11A-11C illustrate perspective, side and top views of a curved climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 12A-12C illustrate top and perspective views of a curved climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 13A-13B illustrate front and rear views of a modular framed climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 14A-14B illustrate front and side views of a climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIG. 15 illustrates a coupling element for removably coupling together sections of a climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIGS. 16A-16B illustrate rear perspective and top views of a climbing apparatus having safety shields, in accordance with various embodiments.

FIG. 17 illustrates a rear perspective view of a climbing apparatus, in accordance with various embodiments.

Skilled artisans will appreciate that elements in the figures are illustrated for simplicity and clarity and have not necessarily been drawn to scale. For example, the dimensions of some of the elements in the figures may be exaggerated relative to other elements to help to improve understanding of embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail specific embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an example of the principles of the invention and not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments shown and described. In the description below, like reference numerals are used to describe the same, similar or corresponding parts in the several views of the drawings.

In this document, relational terms such as first and second, top and bottom, and the like may be used solely to distinguish one entity or action from another entity or action without necessarily requiring or implying any actual such relationship or order between such entities or actions. The terms “comprises,” “comprising,” or any other variation thereof, are intended to cover a non-exclusive inclusion, such that a process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises a list of elements does not include only those elements but may include other elements not expressly listed or inherent to such process, method, article, or apparatus. An element preceded by “comprises . . . a” does not, without more constraints, preclude the existence of additional identical elements in the process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises the element.

Reference throughout this document to “one embodiment”, “certain embodiments”, “an embodiment” or similar terms means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, the appearances of such phrases or in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments without limitation.

The term “or” as used herein is to be interpreted as an inclusive or meaning any one or any combination. Therefore, “A, B or C” means “any of the following: A; B; C; A and B; A and C; B and C; A, B and C”. An exception to this definition will occur only when a combination of elements, functions, steps or acts are in some way inherently mutually exclusive.

In accordance with embodiments of the present invention, an aquatic climbing system having various safety features is disclosed herein. The system is comprised of a climbing apparatus, or climbing wall, having a climbing surface suitable for use in a body of water in an aquatic environment and a mitigation element in cooperative arrangement with the climbing apparatus and one or more user conditions. The one or more user conditions have a potentially adverse effect on user safety of a user of the aquatic climbing system and the mitigation element serves to mitigate at least one of the one or more user conditions to enhance user safety of the user of the climbing apparatus. The term mitigation element as used herein serves to mitigate at least a falling condition, an entrapment condition, or a combination of the two types of conditions. Mitigation elements serve to create a safe climbing experience by mitigating potentially injurious conditions that might arise. It is understood that a mitigation element may be an element integral the climbing apparatus itself; in this case the term “system” refers to the climbing apparatus with its climbing surface, which may or may not have a discrete frame structure, having integral or integrated mitigation elements or features. Alternately, a mitigation element may be a feature that is optionally or removably attached to the climbing apparatus; this arrangement would also comprise the climbing system described herein.

It will be seen that the use of shaped or rounded surfaces and topologies, the selection of one or more negative inclines of the climbing surface, the strategic placement of climbing assists or features on the climbing surface relative to the top and sides of the climbing surface, the user of different types of surfaces/materials for climbable versus non-climbable surfaces, and the arrangement of the climbing apparatus vis-à-vis a support structure, such as a pool wall and deck, are all mitigation elements that encourage a climber to stay within a safe zone of climbing, discourage movement outside the safe zone and place the climber in an optimal condition for safe release from the climbing surface.

A falling user condition is a condition in which a user of a climbing wall may be at increased exposure to falling from the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus or other portions of the climbing apparatus. For instance, a climber who seeks to stray from the intended climbing portion of the climbing surface, such as attempting to climb around the sides, top or bottom of the climbing apparatus or attempting to access the climbing wall from the pool deck or from the top is at increased risk of falling. Thus, a condition in which the user may use the climbing apparatus in an unintended manner, and thus increase his chances of falling, may be considered a falling user condition. A falling mitigation element operates to mitigate a falling condition for the user. An example of this is design of the climbing apparatus so as to encourage a climber to stay within a climbing zone and to also encourage release from climbing zone portion of the climbing wall to provide a safe fall away from the climbing wall into the body of water to which the climbing apparatus is adjacent, and into which a portion of the climbing apparatus may or may not be submerged. The type of material used for the climbing surface may itself be a falling mitigation element that discourages a user from falling; selective use of non-abrasive or abrasive surfaces can be used to encourage desired behavior of a user of the climbing apparatus. Another example is design of the climbing apparatus to actually discourage a user from improperly accessing the climbing surface, such as from the top, rear or sides of the climbing surface. As will be shown and described, various embodiments describe these and other types of falling mitigation elements that may be employed.

An entrapment condition is another type of user condition which, if unmitigated, may cause a user of a climbing apparatus to be entrapped while attempting to use or simply be in proximity to the climbing apparatus. Entrapment conditions may be caused by pre-existing physical properties of a body of water, like a pool, that become dangerous when a climbing apparatus is used in the environs of the body of water. Thus, an entrapment condition is formed by the position of the climbing apparatus proximate a support structure, such as a pool deck and a pool wall, which provides support for the climbing apparatus in or near the body of water. An entrapment condition, then, may be formed by one or more of a gap between the first substantially vertical lower portion and the pool wall, and a gutter proximate the pool deck and the climbing surface.

Consider, for example, the potential for a user to have their hand or foot entrapped in a gutter of a pool while using a climbing wall contiguous the side and deck of a pool, and thus contiguous a pool gutter. Gutters or guttering systems create a potential for the climber to fall and for his foot and other body parts to get caught in the gutter. As used herein, it is understood that the term pool deck may refer to a pool deck, a pier, a pontoon boat, a cruise ship deck, a platform in the middle of a body of water, etc. The term pool wall may refer to any substantially vertical portion of the pool deck immediately adjacent the body of water in which the climbing wall is used.

Or, consider the potential for a user to become entrapped between a climbing wall and an adjacent or contiguous pool wall or pool deck. Any large enough gaps between the climbing wall and the pool deck or pool side wall may create so-called transition gaps that can create entrapment conditions for climbers. Any large enough gaps between the climbing apparatus and the pools guttering system can create a condition for a user's hands, fingers, feet, ankles, etc. to become entrapped, particularly if the user slips or falls from the apparatus, is submerged or is otherwise in proximity to the apparatus. As will be shown, submerging at least a portion of the climbing apparatus in the body of water may greatly help to mitigate entrapment and thus reduce risk of injury but care must be taken that this does not introduce a gap large enough to itself become an entrapment condition under water. Any unacceptably large gap between the pool wall and submerged portion of the climbing apparatus, however, is mitigated by ensuring that any gap is small enough to prevent entrapment of a user's hands, fingers, feet, etc. For example, fitting a substantially vertical and partially submerged lower section of the climbing apparatus contiguous the pool wall allows for the climbing apparatus, which may or may not include a frame, to be fitted closely to the pool wall so as to mitigate any gaps between the submerged section and the pool wall, thereby reducing the potential of swimmer entrapment underwater. This arrangement also allows the climbing apparatus to be fitted close to the pool wall, reducing its “footprint” on the pool deck and reducing the potential for swimmer to bump into the wall when swimming in a lane in close proximity to the climbing apparatus. Also, a substantially vertical lower portion allows for easier placement of the climbing apparatus into a body of water. Moreover, it can be seen that a closely fitted substantially vertical portion of the climbing apparatus additionally serves to shield a user from entrapment in the gutter or guttering system associated with the body of water. An entrapment mitigation element thus serves to mitigate one or more entrapment conditions for a user of the climbing apparatus, thereby providing an important safety feature of the climbing apparatus.

Entrapment mitigation need not require submersion of the climbing apparatus. Rather, the climbing apparatus may be even with or slightly above the support structure, such as level with or above the pool deck. In this example, this may expose a user to greater entrapment user conditions, such as a pool's guttering system, but an entrapment mitigation element may be otherwise provided. Referring now to FIGS. 14A-14B, climbing apparatus 1400 and its sections 1420 reside at or above the pool gutter, such as level with the pool deck. This would cause an entrapment condition for a user, but for the presence of safety shield 1450. Safety shield is proximate the pool deck and pool wall in this embodiment and is positioned proximate the gutter. Safety shield 1450 may be any shape or of any material effective at mitigating the gutter entrapment. For example, safety shield may be a short climbing panel, a rubber block placed into and/or over the gutter, a low profile plastic shield placed over the gutter and an acceptable shield configuration may be somewhat influenced by the type, size, and location of the particular gutter being mitigated.

Moreover, the use of shaped surfaces or topology for the climbing apparatus is another safety features that mitigates a potentially dangerous user condition when a user slips or falls. Sharp, overly angled, or straight edges or surfaces can injury a user when falling. Shaped, contoured, sculpted, rounded or smoothed surfaces or topologies can greatly enhance user safety. As will be described, such surfaces may be used in the climbing surface, the sides, the top, the bottom and the rear portions or sections of the climbing apparatus. It is envisioned in certain embodiments that shaped surfaces or topologies have large diameter curves sufficient to encourage a user to stay to the climbing surface or to fall from the climbing surface into the body of water; they may also be configured to discourage the user from attempting to climb out of the climbing zone of the climbing apparatus or from attempting to access the climbing apparatus improperly, such as from the top, rear or sides. Properly shaping surfaces of the climbing apparatus circumvents the climber's natural inclination to grab the edges and thus mitigates the potential risk of a climber getting too close to the pool deck located on either side of the climbing apparatus. It naturally encourages climbers to climb within the zone of safe activity, referred to as a safe zone, of the climbing apparatus.

Consider for purposes of illustration, and not limitation, a large rounded surface or edge being characterized by a range of approximately 2.5″ to 6″ in diameter, sufficient to prevent a climber from easily grasping an edge. Consider further, an example, rounded bumpers, such as in tubular or flanged form, may be attached or integral to the sides and be of sufficient surface area to discourage most climbers from being able to improperly climb to or from the climbing zone. Rounded, tubular sides of the climbing apparatus may be large enough in area and circumference to discourage grabbing by a climber trying to gain access to the sides of the climbing wall surface or to the pool deck directly from the climbing wall. By way of example and not limitation, a 3½ inch tube is operable to prevent most climbers from grasping with the foot or hand and using the tube as a climbing aid.

As a further example, shaped, rounded sides of the climbing apparatus provide a safety feature that may be augmented by the introduction of tapered, rounded edges that tapers or increases to be larger in diameter and/or surface area at the bottom of the mid section, closest to the pool deck is approached. This tapering may start at the bottom of mid-section of the climbing surface and extend up to a desired distance above the pool deck, such as one meter. It is noted that the tapering of the sides to provide an area of increased diameter and/or circumference may be integral to a frame of the climbing apparatus, meaning that it is all an integral piece of material such as might be achieved with roto-molding, short for rotationally molded, or it may be provided by a discrete, tapered section of material operable to be fixedly attached to the sides.

The material of shaped, rounded surfaces, such as tubular sides, is of a quality as to discourage grasping or climbing and thus may be characterized as shiny, slick, smooth, non-grip-able, lacking in texture and other features thought to discourage assisting in climbing. Shaped surfaces, such as at the bottom of the climbing apparatus, in the example of a partially submerged portion of the climbing surface, also mitigate the possibility of a swimmer or submerged user from becoming entrapped between the submerged portion and the pool deck/pool side, or entrapped in the pool guttering.

Shaped surfaces may be formed by discrete portions, panels or sections, or they may optionally be formed as one or more integrally formed sections. Sections of the climbing apparatus may be made of fiberglass, plastic, rubber, shaped concrete or other suitable materials. As will be shown, shaped surfaces and topologies may be integral to main sections of the apparatus, or they may be optionally added, as is the case of adding bumpers or the like to the side, bottom, top, etc. to further enhance user safety.

Referring now to FIGS. 1A-1B, an exemplary climbing system 15, comprised of apparatus 20 and one or more mitigation elements, is illustrated. In this example, it can be seen that climbing apparatus 20 is comprised of three vertically arranged section or panels 60, 65, 70, the lowermost of which, 70, is partially submerged in the body of water, as indicated by water line 12. A climbing zone 24, indicated by dashed lines, resides in sections 60, 65, 670, and the strategic placement of climbing assists or features, such as climbing holds, hand holds, climbable features, pockets, ledges, grips, grabs, climbing rocks, rock-like features, etc. referenced interchangeably as climbing features, and the incline of the various panels themselves, are falling mitigation elements that encourage a climber user to stay within climbing zone 24 and not attempt to exit or enter climbing surface 26 improperly, such as by attempting to enter or exit from the sides, rear or top; another example of a climbing zone is climbing zone 315 of FIG. 3A, indicated by dashed lines. The decision to not place climbing assists or climbing features above a certain area of the climbing surface ensures that the climber cannot grab anything above a certain height on the top section, safety zone 22. Thus, a climber may be able to tap the top section but not hang on it. Safety zone 22 is provided by a section or panel that discourages a climber from climbing over the top of the apparatus. As shown, the system is comprised of four, vertically arranged sections or panels but it is understood and it will be shown that the climbing system may be horizontally or vertically expanded to have any number of sections or panels or to be of any desired shape or configuration without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

In accordance with various embodiments, a falling mitigation element comprises at least one portion or section of the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus having a sufficiently negative incline with respect to vertical sufficient to minimize contact of a body falling from the climbing surface with the climbing surface. This is illustrated in various figures, such as FIGS. 1B, 2A-2D, 6B, 8B, 11A-11B, 12B-12C, 13A-13B, 14B, 16A. It is also envisioned in accordance with certain embodiments that more than one portion or section of the climbing surface may also be of negative incline with respect to vertical but of a different angle of incline, such as a greater decline with respect to vertical; this is illustrated in FIG. 6B, for instance, in which a portion of the climbing surface, section or panel 630, has a greater angle of negative incline than section or panel 635. Having two portions of the climbing surface with different inclines with respect to vertical further enhance safety and mitigate a falling user condition. In the example of FIG. 6B, the greater negative incline of portion 625 adds to the difficulty of the climb as well as further encourages fall of the user away from the climbing wall and into the safe body of water.

A sufficiently negative incline with respect to vertical ensures that the climber of the climbing wall, upon releasing his grip and/or contact with the climbing wall, falls backwards away from the climbing surface and safely into the water below. One optimal angle for this is 12 degrees; however, some pool decks slope away from the pool as much as 5 degrees therefore making the wall angle of negative include from vertical 7 degrees. It is envisioned that a climbable surface may be the range of between approximately 3 to 35 degrees from vertical for the negative incline, although it is known that the difficulty of climbing the climbing wall is affects by a range of factors, including angle of negative incline and the characteristics of the climbing surface itself. It is further noted that the negative incline of one or more portions of the climbing surface also deters climbers from trying to access the climbing surface from the pool deck, which if attempted could create a potential safety risk of slipping and falling onto the pool deck.

Referring back to FIG. 1, the side view of FIG. 1B illustrates that in this particular embodiment the climbing surface is comprised of various sections or portions, shown as panels 60, 65, 70. Section 70 is shown as partially submerged in the body of water and the submerged portion is contiguous and snuggly fitted to pool wall 45, thereby providing an entrapment mitigation element of the system that mitigates the opportunity for trapped user fingers, hands, legs, etc. between panel 70 and pool wall 45. It can be seen that the arrangement of the partially submerged panel section 70 further helps to mitigation entrapment with respect to the gutter or guttering system 40. In this particular figure, as well as in drawings FIGS. 2C and 16A, the guttering system 40 is recessed inside pool wall 45 and visible on the pool deck 10. Any number of guttering systems or gutters may be used in connection with a pool, such as a pool guttering system recessed into the pool wall 45 and exposed to the user in the upper portion of pool wall 45 and certainly an entrapment condition for a user of a climbing wall; this type of pool gutter 245 is illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2D, 6B, 8B, 9B, 11B, 12B-12C, and 14A-14B.

Also shown in FIG. 1B and top view FIG. 1C is a frame structure 30 having bracing 32, 36 and base 34. The framing serves to attach the climbing apparatus to pool deck by attachment elements, such as bolts 35. Such a framing structure may or may not be covered by a cover as shown as rear portion 840 of FIG. 8B, or rear safety covering 1720 of FIG. 17; if a cover is used to cover a frame structure, such covering provides a further safety feature by covering a framing structure with softly shaped or non-hard edge surfaces. There are of course many ways envisioned to secure the climbing apparatus to the pool deck so that it is secured to support user climbing and they are incorporated herein. A shaped base, such as that illustrated in FIG. 9A (base 930), FIG. 11A-11C (base 1150), and FIG. 16A-16B (base 1625) may be used. Moreover, an integrally formed base of sufficient weight to help secure the climbing apparatus may be employed; this is illustrated as the rear surface in FIGS. 12A-12C.

It is envisioned that any number and arrangement of climbing surface sections may be employed. While FIGS. 1A-1C demonstrate a three-vertical and one-horizontal panel arrangement, the invention is not so limited. FIG. 3A illustrates a three-vertical, two-horizontal arrangement; FIG. 4A illustrates a three-vertical, three-horizontal arrangement; FIG. 5A illustrates a three-vertical, four-horizontal arrangement; and FIG. 7A illustrates a four-vertical, two-horizontal arrangement, for example. The panels or sections in these examples may be considered to be modular, meaning they can be removably coupled together to form the climbing surface and be interchangeable if desired. As shown in their corresponding side and top view drawings, FIGS. 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B-6C, 7B, demonstrate a frame structure comprised of sections to support their climbing surface sections or panels. In FIG. 3B, frame 350 is comprised of two frame assemblies 320, 330, one for each vertical arrangement of panels 320, 330 of climbing surface 325. FIG. 4B illustrates that the frame structure 430 is comprised of right, middle, and left frame assemblies 435, 440, and 445, respectively, to support sections or panels 420 of climbing surface 425. Frame 530 of FIG. 5B has four frame assemblies 535, 540, and 545 to support four vertical columns of climbing surface panels/sections 520 of climbing surface 525. Climbing surface 725 in FIG. 7B is supported by frame 730, comprised of right and left frame assemblies 735, 740, respectively.

The sections may be removably coupled together by means of the frame structures as shown. Reference to climbing apparatus 1300 of FIGS. 13A-13B illustrate front and rear views 1305 and 1350, respectively, of a modular frame 1330 used to removably couple modular panels or sections 1320 of climbing surface 1325 together. The various sections are bolted together but may be otherwise removably coupled, such as by clips, etc.

While these drawings indicate a 1:1 relationship between frame support and the climbing surface being supported, this need not be the case. For example, a unitary support structure may be used to support the climbing walls of FIGS. 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B-6C, 7B or fewer or more frame support structure may be used than is shown. The frame structure 530 could be comprised of just three or even two frame assemblies if so desired. If a framing structure is employed, it may change according to the size of the climbing apparatus. The frame structure of a climbing apparatus may change to support the expanded section arrangement.

The modular sections making up a climbing apparatus need not be supported by a frame structure at all. Rather, a plurality of modular sections may be removably coupled together to form the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus by means of a coupling element, such as the exemplary one illustrated in FIG. 15, in which two sections 1550 may be bolted together by a bolt 1520 at a section connection point 1510, accessed by recessed cavities 1530, 1540, as shown. The climbing apparatus of FIG. 10 is formed of modular sections or panels 1020 that together form climbing surface 1025. The various panels 1020 are removably coupled together such that they may be interchanged as desired to change the climbing experience. No frame structure is used; the base 1030 supports the climbing wall when assembled. Or, consider the curved climbing apparatus system 1100 of FIG. 11. Climbing surface 1125 is formed of two curved section panels 1120 and 1130 that, if certain tapering changes were made, could be symmetrically formed and could therefore be interchangeable in the sense that the positions of section 1130 could be swapped with that of section 1120, assuming that side 1140 is not integrally formed with section 1130. The flared side portions 1140 further enhance safety by preventing entrapment in the gutter and thus are an entrapment mitigation element. In FIG. 12C, it can be seen that when climbing apparatus 1250 is formed by vertical sections 1255, 1260, rather than by horizontal sections (as shown in FIG. 12B), these sections 1255, 1260 are modular in the broadest sense.

Modular sections not supported by a support frame may be formed sections that are rotationally molded, made of fiberglass, thermally formed or of plastic, by way of example and not limitation. They may be of such a weight and shape when coupled together so as not to require the use of a discrete support frame.

As previously mentioned, portions of the climbing surface may be formed of modular panels or sections that are interchangeable, such as illustrated in FIGS. 1-7, but this is not required. It is envisioned that the one or more sections may be in fact non-modular in nature, meaning that they do not easily lend themselves to being interchanged. Such might be the case, for instance, where the overall climbing apparatus shape is non symmetrical, such a having a left side that differs from a right side, or having top, middle and bottom sections with different shapes. Such asymmetrical sections are illustrated in sections 1225, 1230, 1235 1240 that form the climbing surface of climbing apparatus 1220 of FIG. 12B. In FIGS. 8A, 8B, the use of solid and dashed lines indicates the make-up of various sections, such as Sections 810, 820, 830, in which each section, delineated by solid lines; the dashed lines indicate the topology or contours of the section. The three-dimensional sections could be three-sided triangularly shaped or trapezoidally shaped if desired. The surface effect of climbing surface 825 is clearly three-dimensional, i.e. 3D, and may be considered to be a shaped surface.

Of course, a climbing apparatus having only one section may or not be modular when matched with other sections. Non-modular section or sections may be thermally formed, of fiberglass, rotationally molded, etc. Examples of a climbing apparatus having a climbing section formed of only one section may be understood by reference to FIGS. 8, 9, 11 and 12 and visualizing that the climbing surfaces are not formed by sections but rather made up of one piece or section. In FIGS. 8A, 8B, for instance, it can be seen, particularly from the side view of FIG. 8B, that climbing surface 825 could be configured differently to be formed of a single, formed section with three-dimensional aspect if desired. Also, climbing surface 252, a continuous climbing surface is shown formed as a single section, as is continuous climbing surface 262 of FIG. 2C and continuous climbing surface 272 of FIG. 2D.

In accordance with various other embodiments, a falling mitigation element may be provided by at least one section or portion of the climbing surface of the climbing apparatus being substantially vertical and having a plurality of recessing climbing features or assists, such as recessed holds, ledges, pockets, grips, grabs, rock-like features, etc; as used herein, these terms are interchangeable and referenced generically as recessing climbing features. This is illustrated in FIGS. 9A-9B. Climbing apparatus 900 features recessed climbing assists or features 920, which are recessed into the climbing surface. Strategic placement of recessed climbing features 920 defines a climbing zone 925 for a climber and thus provide an example of a falling mitigation element. When a user falls from climbing zone 925, he will not make contact with the wall or any of the climbing assists. This is a significant falling mitigation element for the climber. The climbing apparatus with recessed climbing features of FIG. 9 is shown with a lower portion submerged as a an entrapment mitigation element; alternately the apparatus may be placed at or above the level of the pool deck and another entrapment mitigation element used, such as the shielding over the gutter as shown in FIGS. 14A-B. Further, the substantially vertical climbing surface may be curved in shape at the sides, similar to the curved sections illustrated in FIGS. 11A-11C, whilst still maintaining the substantially vertical nature of the climbing surface.

With regard to FIG. 10, the partially submerged lower portion of climbing surface 1025 snug against the surface wall of the pool is an entrapment mitigation element, as is its covering a portion of the gutter entrapment condition. The use of rounded sides 1040 further adds to safety for the user.

FIG. 11 is another example of a partially submerged climbing surface 1125 which is an entrapment mitigation element. Further, the curved aspect of the climbing surface 1125 itself is a falling mitigation element in that it encourages climbers to stay to the climbing surface since the curved form of the sections 1120, 1130 make it more difficult to circumvent the intended climbing zone. Additionally, it can be seen that at least one of sections 1120, 1130 has a negative incline with respect to vertical, to encourage a user to fall from the climbing surface 1125 back into the water and also discouraging improper exit or entry of the climbing surface 1125 from the sides or top. The curved form of section 1130 may be continued to the bottom of the climbing apparatus as indicated or it may optionally terminate in a flat surface snug to the side of the pool. The sides 1140 may be shaped so as to prevent entrapment of a climber in the pool gutter and also rounded or otherwise shaped to mitigate harm from falling from above. In this embodiment, it can be seen that the curved nature of the apparatus is reflected in the curved portion 1115 of safety zone 1110 at the top of the apparatus, shown in FIGS. 11A-11C.

The concept of rounded, shaped, contoured or sculpted surfaces of the climbing apparatus is further illustrated by rounded bottom 940 of FIGS. 9A and 9B; rounded sides 1040 of FIG. 10; and rounded sides and edges of FIGS. 12A-12C, including rounded edges 1265. Refer to FIG. 12, in which a curved climbing apparatus 1200 is shown. As previously discussed, the curved apparatus may be formed by various sections 1225, 1230, 1235, 1240 (not modular) of FIG. 12B or sections 1255, 1260 (modular) of FIG. 12C. It can be seen that rounded surfaces or edges are used, such as rounded edges 1265 of FIG. 12C and also the rounded edges of FIG. 12A. Again, the partially submerged section 1240 in FIG. 12B and the partially submerged sections 1255 and 1260 in FIG. 12C provide an entrapment mitigation element in that the submerged panels cover the gutter of the pool, effectively minimizing the potential for entrapment in it. Placement of the submerged section(s) snug enough to the pool wall to minimize any gap between the climbing wall and the pool wall is another entrapment mitigation element.

In addition to shaped surfaces integral (part of) the climbing apparatus itself, one or more bumper elements may be removably attached to the climbing apparatus. This is illustrated by the safety bumpers of FIG. 7A; rounded sides 1615 and shaped safety pieces 1620 of FIGS. 16A-16B; and safety bumper 1730 of FIG. 17. The sides 1615 and shaped safety pieces 1620 of FIG. 16 function as entrapment mitigation elements. Any of these shaped forms may be integrally part of the main climbing apparatus if so desired.

As previously discussed and as liberally shown throughout the drawings, the topology of the climbing surface can vary to be any form without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The topology of the climbing surface may include substantially planar panels or sections, as was demonstrated by the flat surface with recessed climbing holds of FIG. 9; substantially planar panels or sections angled with respect to one another, as illustrated in FIG. 14B; curved, contoured or otherwise three dimensional, as illustrated in FIGS. 1B, 2A-2D, 6B, 8A-8B, 11A, 13A. In the case where at least one portion of the climbing surface is at a negative include with respect to vertical, in order to effect a falling mitigation element, the overall incline of one or more portions of a climbing surface may or may not be informed by the topology of the climbing surface. Thus, while a portion of the climbing surface may be negative with respect to vertical, the topology of that portion may in fact not be a negative incline and thus be different from the overall inclination of the climbing surface.

The safety zones arranged at the top portion of the climbing apparatus, shown as safety zones 22, 310, 410, 510, 610, 710, 910, 1010, 1110, 1310, 1410, 1610, 1710 of FIGS. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, respectively, may be of the same or different angle of inclination with respect to vertical. Thus, as shown by angle 28 of FIG. 1B, for example, this inclination may vary from more than (FIG. 1B), same as (FIG. 9A), or less than (FIG. 11B). Generally, the degree of the angle may be adjusted as desired to control the difficulty for a climber to climb over the top of the climbing apparatus. For example, while the angle of overhang of negative incline for a portion of the climbing surface may be 12 degrees, the angle of negative incline of the overhanging top section of the safety zone might be increased by an additional 15-25 degrees, or the angle of negative incline of the safety zone may be made to be less than the angle of negative incline of a portion of the climbing surface. It is understood that a falling mitigation element function is provided by the safety zone of the top portion of the climbing apparatus by encouraging that a climber's body falls away from the climbing wall to prevent the climber from hitting the climbing apparatus when he falls. The safety zone also serves to prevent climbers from trying to climb over the top. The non-climbable surface of the safety zone may be a minimum, linear distance from the top of the climbing wall high enough for most climbers to be unable to reach above and hold onto the top edge; for instance, the linear distance from the top of the climbing wall to the top of the safety zone might be approximately 24 or 36 inches. The material of the safety zone top portions should be such as to discourage a climber from trying to reach above, behind, or around this section. It may thus be characterized as shiny, slick, smooth, non-grip-able, lacking in texture and other features serving to discourage grasping, climbing or prolonged contact.

This is illustrated by rear surface 840 of FIG. 8B, which may or may not be a cover covering an underlying support or frame structure. In FIG. 12A, rear surface 1210 is curved in shape so as to discourage climbing of the rear surface by a person. In this example, the climbing apparatus 1200 is comprised of formed sections (either vertically or horizontally coupled) and does not have a discrete frame structure. Thus rear surface 1210 does not function as a cover for an underlying frame. The rear elevation of climbing apparatus 1600 is configured to discourage climbing of it by a user or person. The top view of FIG. 16B illustrates the steep assent of the rear surface. In FIG. 17, the rear surface is a rear safety covering 1720 with a safety bumper 1730.

In any of these illustrations, the rear surface may be configured to discourage climbing not only by the shape or topology of the rear surface, i.e. a non-climbable topology, but also by the materials used for the rear surface. A flat, slick, non-abrasive or other non-climber friendly material helps to discourage climbing. The rear surface is configured to discourage climbing by a person.

In the foregoing specification, specific embodiments of the present invention have been described. However, one of ordinary skill in the art appreciates that various modifications and changes can be made without departing from the scope of the present invention as set forth in the claims below. Accordingly, the specification and figures are to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense, and all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of present invention. The benefits, advantages, solutions to problems, and any element(s) that may cause any benefit, advantage, or solution to occur or become more pronounced are not to be construed as a critical, required, or essential features or elements of any or all the claims. The invention is defined solely by the appended claims including any amendments made during the pendency of this application and all equivalents of those claims as issued.