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A new side

(Article published in Danish Out & About magazine on 10th April 2017, translated by my fellow translator Billy O’Shea)

Crazy about Funky Trunk

By Frank Holm

Long-distance swimming and running occupies a large part of François Kofoed’s life, but it hasn’t always been like that. He was bullied in his school days because he was gay and bad at ball games.

When François Kofoed moved to Denmark in 1999 to study at university, he experienced something of a transformation. During his schooling at a Catholic school in Belgium, he had experienced daily bullying because he was gay. In Denmark, he suddenly found that he could be himself, without anyone thinking any the less of him for that.

François Kofoed gets smeared up with lanolin and Vaseline before taking a dip in the cold waves. Photo: Thomas Voller.

This summer, he is going to swim across the Fehmarn Belt between Germany and Denmark: a small swimming trip of 25 kilometres. The English Channel, at 35 km, is next on the programme. And next summer, the plan is for François to travel to California to swim from Catalina Island to the mainland – 37 kilometres of shark-infested waters, which must be swum at night because of the strong currents.

 

Gained 30 kilos

It was not exactly on the cards that François Kofoed would one day become a long-distance swimmer.

“I really started to exercise seriously in my late 20s. I had a job in which I had put on 30 kilos and felt tired every night. One day I woke up and decided that now I really had to do something for my body and my life. So I started with a little swimming, and I found I really liked it and was good at it,” says François.

“During my school years in Belgium, I was often called a poof and a pansy. I was not good at football and have always been lousy at ball games. But suddenly I realised that there were some sports I was good at. I discovered a new side of myself, and found that I actually liked sports.”

Fitness and running instructor

François Kofoed first became a fitness instructor, and later qualified as a personal trainer and running coach.

“After that it slowly dawned on me that I was not what my classmates had always stamped me as being.”

Today, François Kofoed runs one of Elsinore’s biggest exercise clubs, Formel76 – a club that has more than 150 runners, open water swimmers and other outdoor exercise enthusiasts.

“If I can help to inspire others and show that homosexuals can also be good at sports, then that’s a task I’ll gladly take on.

François Kofoed swims only in ‘Funky Trunks’ – he’s not a homo for nothing, as he says himself. Photo: Thomas Voller.

I want to help break that taboo. When I think back, there wasn’t really anyone I could have had as my role models in sport.”

 

Great swimming trunks

However, there is one gay cliché that François is happy to admit to living up to: he always makes sure that he always has the right speedos on when he swims.

“I actually only use ’Funky Trunks’. They have great colours and a funky design. I’m not a homo for nothing,” says François, with a broad smile.

“When I am covered in lanolin and Vaseline, wearing a swimming cap and goggles, I don’t look anything like the kind of perfect pictures of swimmers that you always see in the magazines. I’ve long ago accepted that I don’t exactly look like James Bond when I get out of the water after a ten-hour swim,” he adds, with an even bigger grin.

You can follow François’ personal blog at swimdream76.com, where he writes about his personal experiences, and about both his successes and failures.

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