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Meet the Sharks: Melbourne's gay swimmers

GSN learns how gay swim team the Melbourne Glamourhead Sharks have become a terror of the competitive pool and a welcoming club for all LGBT people.

Meet the Sharks: Melbourne's gay swimmers
Image courtesy of Melbourne Glamourhead Sharks
Melbourne Glamourhead Sharks

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water… But the Melbourne Glamourhead Sharks aren’t anything to be afraid of – particularly if you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans swimmer.

We caught up with Sean Gallie from the Australian aquatics club to find out more:

When was the club established?

The club was established in 2001 years ago by a group of swimmers who wanted to compete in the Gay Games in Sydney in 2002.

It started with 10 swimmers and has grown into one of the largest Masters Swimming groups in the state of Victoria providing a social and friendly environment for LGBT swimmers and their friends to participate in fitness swimming and, if they have a taste for it, competition.

How many members does the club have?

We have a diverse mix of members in terms of skills, body type and ages. Ages range from 20 to 77. Our current membership stands at 84 members, and is still growing.

What have been some of the highlights in the club’s history?

One is swimming each year at 24hr MS Megaswim which raises money for people living with multiple sclerosis. We generally raise over AUD$20,000.

The Glamourheads’ inter-club swim meet is one of the biggest inter-club meets for Masters Swimming Victoria, with over 100 swimmers competing from clubs all around Victoria. Of course it always ends with supper and our famous trifle competition – a standing tradition of every Glamourheads inter-club meet.

Competing at the Gay Games in Sydney in 2002 and Cologne in 2010, as well as the World Outgames in Montreal in 2006 and Copenhagen in 2009 were all highlights. And we hosted the swimming competition at the first Asia Pacific Outgames in Melbourne in 2008.

Finally at Wellington Asia Pacific Outgames in 2011, over 3 days of competition the Glamourheads brought home 65 Gold, 39 Silver and 22 Bronze Medals, winning the swimming competition at the games.

What’s the gender split in the club?

We have a mixed group with a split of approximately 70% male and 30% female.

Does the club find it difficult to attract women members?

The Glamourheads are always striving to promote women in sport and to attract more female members as we would love to see the split an even 50/50. We try hard to let the lesbian community know that we are not just a gay men’s swim squad but a truly LGBT swim club.

What sort of competitions does the club compete in?

I think that one of the things that scares some people off from swimming with us is that they believe that we’re all about competition. We do have some members who love to compete; some members love to come down and support the club at swim meets without competing.

There is also the social side of the club. It’s a great way to make new friends and get fit, we’re very social with our monthly team dinners at pubs close to training, yearly Golden Goggles Club Dinner party and our Christmas party.

Competition is not a pre-requisite of the club, but is fun for those involved.

For those Glamourheads who do compete, it is in a mix of local, national and international events. We swim locally with other masters groups in Victoria approximately four times a year. Nationally we take part in interstate swim meets with our sister clubs Aqualicious (Brisbane) and The Wet Ones (Sydney). And we compete in open water swims such as the Cerberus Swim, and the Funky Trunks Splash and Dash.

What does the future hold for the club?

To continue to promote a supportive and welcoming environment for the LGBT community to participate in swimming. We recognize the importance of providing a healthy alternative to the scene for social interaction and an active promotion of a positive image of the LGBT community. The club is a friendly and social way to meet other similar minded swimmers.

I would recommend that anyone that is interested in swimming should come down and try it out. Having been a member for only two years, I still remember my first day being daunting, but was welcomed into the group and have made some amazing friendships out of it.

Read more from Gareth Johnson