UGA swimming’s ‘Harlem Shake’ video goes viral, takes swimmers by surprise

The strangest things can become internet sensations.

Georgia Sports Communications
Georgia junior Doug Reynolds.

The Georgia men’s swimming team spent less than an hour putting together a video spoof of “Harlem Shake” and posted it online on Monday evening.

By the time the Bulldogs started practice on Wednesday, the 30-second video had already topped 1.7 million hits and had attracted attention from both national and international news outlets.

“We were assuming maybe 20,000 views,” Georgia junior Doug Reynolds (seated on the left of the table in the video) said. “That was the most optimistic, we were figuring closer to maybe 2,000. It was just a little video we threw together. We do stuff like this all the time and it doesn’t go viral. It just blows everybody’s mind.”

The video originated as an entry in a contest on the website SWIMSWAM. Tennessee set the initial standard with a dance spoof in the Volunteers’ locker room. Georgia decided to up the ante by taking their show under water.

“We hadn’t seen one done under water yet, so we decided to try it with all the props and stuff,” Georgia sophomore Conor Sweeney (wearing the Star Wars stormtrooper mask in the video) said. “We just showed up Monday afternoon with a bunch of stuff, film it after practice and see what happens.

“It couldn’t have turned out better. It was something that was so informal and unplanned. We were freaking out after 100 views. Then it went over 100,000 overnight and now (Wednesday afternoon) it’s almost 2 million. It’s so funny it’s blowing up like this.”

The team cut together two 15-second segments and was under water about 30 seconds at a time which isn’t very long for swimmers who are used to holding their breath for more than a minute during training. The first segment took two takes and the second segment took three takes. The entire process lasted about 45 minutes from start to finish.

“We’re so surprised,” Reynolds said. “To be honest, we were just looking to beat Tennessee. We’re all competitors and we wanted to get more hits than Tennessee, so we were looking at the most 20,000 hits. But then it just took off. It’s crazy because it was such a spur-of-the-moment thing.”

Georgia’s swimming program has some experience with viral videos.

Allison Schmitt and Shannon Vreeland were in the USA Olympic swimming team’s video spoof of “Call Me Maybe” last summer. The Bulldogs’ video this week didn’t have major international celebrities in the pool. But the participants have become instant icons at least on their own campus.

“I was on the bus a while ago coming over here (Gabrielsen Natatorium) and I saw a buddy who was driving the bus,” Reynolds said. “He said, ‘Cool video’ and I said, ‘Aw thanks, man.’ So I turn around to sit on the bus and I had my UGA swimming stuff on. The guy next to me turned around and said, ‘You’re one of the guys on that video? That’s awesome.’ We’re just happy to contribute team spirit for UGA. We kind of put UGA on the map in the YouTube sense. We’re hearing that the only way somebody else can beat our video is if they do it in space or on the moon so that makes us feel good. We feel like we’re on the top of the world right now.”

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