Harlem Honeys and Bears, Manhattan’s Only 50-And-Up Synchronized Swimming Club

07.10.12 David Lumb

The 41 Manhattanites who belong to the Harlem Honeys and Bears assemble three times a week: whether it’s aided by walkers or wheelchairs, these scrappy swimmers come to practice for over an hour a day as members of Manhattan’s only 50-and-up synchronized swimming team.

Donning the uniform of black bathing suits, red swim caps and, for some, goggles and nose plugs, the Honeys and Bears performed Monday one of their approximately 40 choreographed routines — “The Pyramid” — before a sizable crowd of city officials and visitors.

As the name suggests, it began with a 10-person pyramid of female swimmers doing the backstroke in unison as another group of adjacent Honeys and Bears held hands and slowly spun around the placid waters. Coach Oliver Footé nervously paced the pool’s outer edges, following his swimmers’ moves with extreme attentiveness to detail.

Known as the Harlem Honeys and Bears, the team was founded by twelve members in 1979. 62-year-old Coach Oliver Footé, himself the junior of the team’s most senior 100-year-old member, has overseen the team’s last 19 years – which he describes as frustrating but rewarding.

Those seniors not yet up for synchronized swimming will have more opportunity to get their swim on without the traffic of splashing kids. The NY Parks Department has opened a senior swim program Monday through Thursday from 9-10 a.m. in Lyons Pool on Staten Island, expanding the number of participating public pools to 14.