It's time for my first-annual biased-toward-the-advertisers wrapup of the best in Reykjavík-area swimming pools. Months in the making, the product of careful observation and measurement, and hours and hours of hot-tub soaking, these awards represent a new kind of metric for the curious capital-area swimmer. So without further ado, the awards...
Massaging hot tub, conventional: Breiðholtslaug's combination of spaciousness, unique oval shape, and alternating high-back and low-back jets clearly give it the lead in the conventional hot tub wars.
Massaging hot-tub, ass-kicking: Kópavogur's medieval hot-tubs-with-a-strap. If you don't strap yourself in before turning on the jet, this thing will launch you halfway to Esja. To add insult to injury, the thin strap wears a line in your chest/abdomen while the jet beats on your back from behind. Not for the faint-o-haht; an incredible massage.
Going-the-distance: The 50m outdoor at Laugardalslaug. The baddest-ass and best. Lack of good lighting underwater makes it seem endless at night, which is really what you want in a long pool: that swimming endlessly from shipwreck to a shore that never arrives feeling.
Ghetto-fabulous: From the cashier demanding surrender of all valuables on entry, to the bunker-shaped concrete lifeguard tower, to the take-no-prisoners drink-from-the-firehose water bubbler, Breiðholtslaug easily takes this one. Nobody's smilin'.
View, inspiring: The open southern sky at the end of the lap pool gives the edge to Árbæjarlaug. That is, during the 4-odd hours when the sun can actually be seen.
View, parking lot: Those leaving Seltjarnarneslaug get a sweeping California-style panorama of most of Iceland's population center as it stretches down the coast, craggy mountains in the background. Unfortunately, the modernist-concrete-jungle view from the pools is less inspiring.
Steamroom, old-school: Laugardalslaug, with its motley cast of old men, WWII lighting, shabby plexiglas doors, and the perfect temperature and steam density.
Steamroom, painful: Breiðholtslaug's combo of excruciating steam and elegant Scandinavian design elevate it to the top of the painful steam bath category.
Water slide: The Tower of Power at Laugardalslaug. Enclosed Rainbow Coalition stairway even makes the climb up to the top bearable in subfeezing temperatures. And the ride down is an insane thrill ride for kids of all ages, and Jesse Jackson.
Meat market: Árbæjarlaug on Saturday afternoons. Only the omnipresent kids doing turnbuckle-dives into the hot tubs keep it from feeling utterly like Bill's Bar on Lansdowne Street.
Saline experience: Seltjarnarneslaug. Amazing buoyancy and the feeling of having eaten a bag of Lays after just 4 laps.