Reykjavik: Water Polo

Posted on October 11, 2006


by jared bibler 

Iceland has one of everything, and that includes a water polo club. Invited by a couple of friends, I went on Wednesday night to my first practice. It’s held at the indoor pool at Laugardalslaug three times a week.

Normally, I’m told, the practice opens with swimming warmups and then a water polo game at the end. But this time there was a crew from RÚV (the state broadcaster) taking B-roll for a news story that night, and so the coach had us jump straight into a game. A game for which I was woefully unprepared.

Even swimming lots of laps daily, most days of the week for the better part of two years, had not prepared me for the physical drain of water polo. As it was, I spent the better part of the gametime playing goalie (the most "relaxing" as it only involves constant treading water and not constant sprints) but not very well, letting potshots through my hands like a big floating block of Swiss cheese. When I joined the fray, I was surprised at the physicality of the game. It’s a little bit like ice hockey done in a swimming pool: you’re always getting bumped, jostled, and when you have the ball, dragged under.

But the international crew of players (Russia, Estonia, Iceland, Brazil, USA) was friendly and a few reassured me that it does get easier. Afterwards, we of course sat in the hot tub outdoors, talking and trash-talking in three or four languages. Two days later, I’m still sore.