Manly Cove will play host to the Australian Queer Aquatics Festival (AQuA) on Saturday, February 11.
This will be the Beach Festival leg of a broader calendar of events and will include a Beach Water Polo 4s match and a memorial swim to recognise and fundraise in the name of Bobby Goldsmith, an athlete and one of the first Australians to die of an AIDS-related illness.
You can find the event write up here.
AQuA came about as a collaboration between Wett Ones Sydney LGBTQI + Swimming Club and The Sydney Stingers, a LGBTQI+ inclusive waterpolo club, in order to capitalise on the influx of people visiting Sydney for WorldPride, showing off Sydney’s beaches as well as offering events to participate in outside of the parades and festivals.
“AQuA is just as much about the Sydney community as it is about everyone that’s coming in to Sydney to see everything the city has to offer,’ said Ben Thomas, President of the Sydney Stingers.
“We really wanted to make sure that we engaged our community and helped to demonstrate what our clubs offer and what they can do for the community, and that’s where the beach festival came from.”
“We knew that many of the athletes from IGLA (International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics) will be coming down for WorldPride, so we wanted to make sure that we put on something that really gave them the opportunity to have fun and get wet with some friendly competition,” said Thomas.
Thomas joined the Stingers in 2015 as a means to expand his community and social network while keeping active. Having grown up in America and moving to Australia to study in 2009, he sought out community sports as he grew up playing water polo and competing in marathons.
“Community sports are spectacular ways of meeting other people,” said Thomas. “The Stingers specialise in bringing new players to the sport. Over the past five years the Stingers have brought more adults to the sport of water polo than any other club in the country.”
Formed in 2001, the Sydney Stingers originated as a team to represent Sydney in the 2002 Gay Games, a worldwide sporting and cultural event that promotes acceptance of sexual diversity.
“In 2018 [the Stingers] really wanted to have a more diverse club and saw the benefit of bringing in more players, so they recruited me and some other players that had been around for a while to recruit more women,” said Emily Scott, a former Australian representative water polo player, and board member for the IGLA.
“We received a huge interest for it and had 40-50 players almost instantly. We were able to have three teams entered in the NSW metropolitan waterpolo women’s division straight away.”
Scott, having played water polo growing up, stepped back from sports in her twenties while coming to terms with her sexuality.
“I quit all sports,’”said Scott. ‘I wasn’t in the right headspace and I was pretty nervous about being gay in sports. Over the next few years after I came out and had received a lot of support, there was a bit more queer visibility in water sports and water polo, so I decided to play again.”
For both Scott and Thomas, playing with the Stingers has afforded them the opportunity to expand their community whilst also helping to elevate queer visibility within the sport.
“The difference is that you know you don’t have to worry,’ said Scott on the difference in playing in an inclusive team. ‘When there are new players in the team you know that everyone will be more than accepting and that they’ll celebrate who you are.”