Queer Sports Team Reboots with Swim Practices.
It’s January, which means everyone is thinking of dropping all the kilos of salted pork we gained during the last month and getting back on a treadmill. Luckily, there are a few options for exercising with members of the queer community here in Reykavik. Group classes of 20 people are reopening for gyms, yoga studios, and practices, while pools have been opened since December. This brings a long-awaited end to the Coivd restrictions keeping gyms closed for the past three months and gives us a chance to get moving again.
Styrmir Sports Club is here to kick us back into shape while enjoying time with members of the queer community. Founded in 2006, Styrmir is an LGBT+ based sports club for anyone looking to play various sports. Football, volleyball, swimming, running, and even rifle shooting are among the sports Styrmir runs. Coming and going based on membership over the years, the club is now starting up again for 2021 with swim practices 3 times per week.
Bjarni Snæbjörnsson, a current member of the board, posted to the Facebook group Hommaspjallið advertising the group: “I write here on behalf of the Styrmir Sports Club. The club has been taking a bit of a nap in recent years but now something seems to be changing. We are a small group (about 4 people) who have met and swam together several times. We started in September, but then everything closed [because of Coivd] and we have started again this December. We wanted to let you know that everyone is always welcome to swim and enjoy the company and the water with us.” Swimming is the first sport to start back up and others will come when restrictions loosen.
“The only activity under Styrmir right now is swimming. There always seems to be interest in football also and we hope that a group could form when we near the summer and covid is not restricing us. As always with Styrmir, the initiative is always welcomed by the board and if anyone wants to create a group or call together people and do sports under Styrmir’s name then it is very welcome. Swimming needs no further planning than just showing up together in the pool so it’s a bit easier than for example soccer where you need to find a pitch and equipment and there needs to be about 15 people showing up for it to work,” says Bjarni.
The group, Bjarni emphasizes, is for swimmers of any ability. “I want to make it clear that you do not have to have swum a lot or practiced swimming before. You don’t even have to know how to swim to show up. Everyone just swims to their liking (whether it is 2 laps or 20) and we are all on our journey. The group includes experienced swimming coaches and instructors who meet everyone where they are. It’s just so crazy to get out and do outdoor activities, exercise, and have fun company in the hot tub afterward,” says Bjarni.
Styrmir has been around since the spring of 2006 when a group of queer men met in Klambratún park for a pickup game of football. “It didn’t take much, we were a few boys who came with footballs and made sweaters, etc. for the goalposts and came throughout the summer until autumn,” says Thorvaldur Skulasón. Another founding member, Hafsteinn Thorolfsson, officially registered the group and was on the founding board. From there the group grew to practice regularly and even competed abroad in tournaments. “I think the biggest active group was around the time we went to Köln for the Gay Games in 2010. We were 33 people competing in swimming, soccer, volleyball and shooting,” says Bjarni.
The football team has been the most active over the years but is currently inactive for a few reasons. Tyler Elías Jones mentions “the football team was active until February last year, but we had quite a good number of people attending at one point. But we weren’t enough people willing to commit to paying for the rent of an inside pitch. The plan was to bring it back in the summer, to find a free pitch and not pay for renting one but, because of covid that plan was never followed through. If there is enough interest, then the football could be started again in April or May.” For a volleyball team to form again Styrmir would need at least 8 players, and 15 for football.
Back in the fall of 2019, Pétur Björgvin Sveinsson became the temporary football coach for Styrmir, intent on bringing Styrmir back to competitions in the UK and Nordic countries. In the interview, he mentioned how Styrmir is a range of talent on the field “Some are good, some are not as good but that does not make any difference. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, it’s the company that is the main focus of these practices,” said Pétur. Players on the team ranged from age 18 to 50, and everyone was welcome regardless of if they were LGBT+ or not. The range of talent, however, didn’t stop the club from gaining a foothold in Europe. Styrmir hosted the ILGA Championship in Reykjavik and competed in the 2009 Copenhagen Outgames.
Bjarni says Styrmir “had one swimmer go to the IGLA in 2011 (International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics) competition, which was held in Hawaii.” IGLA then hosted the following year’s competition in Reykjavik with New York Aquatics pulling out all the wins at Laugardagslaug. Gareth Johnson later described the opening party at the Blue Lagoon as gay heaven, commenting on how LGBT+ sports teams are changing queer culture for the better. Then Reykajvik bid to host the 2017 World Out Games with an amazing video showcasing Iceland’s best attributes. Although Miami, USA won the bid, Iceland has continually been put on the map as a destination within queer culture and queer sports.
To get involved, simpoly show up to one of Styrmir’s meetings. If you’re interested in putting a new team together or venturing in to a sport Styrmir currently doesn’t compete in, a new team can be formed.
Training time for Styrmir’s 2021 swimming group is as follows:
Tuesdays and Fridays at 07:30 and Sundays at 10:00, Laugardalslaug (outside)
Anyone interesting in joining the group can reach out to Bjarni or just show up ready to swim.
To find out more information on Styrmir’s running group, check here.
More on the swimming group here.
Volleyballers, click here.
Football afficiandos, here.
Styrmir’s main page can be found on Facebook here.