Swim Smooth's 10 Year Anniversary - The Journey Is Just Beginning!

This week marks 10 years since the release of the original Swim Smooth website and the launch of our original DVD Boxset!

We've dedicated the blog this week to indulge in a little nostalgia looking back at our beginnings and giving you an insight into how we've grown to be recognised as the world's leading coaching company for swimmers and triathletes. But as you'll see over the next weeks and months, the journey is only just beginning!

Our founder Paul Newsome takes up the story:

Paul (left) was king of the sideburns, even at age 6.

I had always been interested in video analysis and stroke correction as a young swimmer at the Hull Olympic Club when B-Squad coach Eric Elbourne told me that I’d really benefit seeing my “Steam Boat Willy” stroke on video. Sadly that opportunity never came about but a seed was planted that would see me attend the University of Bath's Sport & Exercise Science program and make biomechanics and coaching my studies of choice.

Upon graduation in 2001 (and after a rather embarrassing stint on “Blind Date”)...

It's number 3, Paul from Yorkshire!
...I packed my bags and left my pursuits of professional triathlon behind me heading for the golden beaches of Australia.

Here in Perth I started my coaching career running the coaching program for Western Australia’s largest triathlon club, Stadium Triathlon. I began utilising the knowledge I'd taken on from university by applying this to coaching in the real world, working with athletes of a huge variety of ability and swimming experience. It was swim coaching, and particularly the video analysis, that really enthused me as a coach.

I stayed working with the club for 3 years and gained massive insight into the need for an individual approach to a swimmer's development, which in hindsight became the foundations of what we now know as our Swim Types system.

In March 2004 my parents visited from the UK and I can vividly recall excitedly telling them about a plan that I had to create a DVD to showcase some of the drills and techniques that I'd been developing in Perth with the primary goal of being able to educate swimmers in the squad as to the how and why to do certain drills to help refine their strokes.

I was also excited about the prospect of drawing upon the training foundations I'd learned as an athlete in the UK on the World Class Triathlon Performance Program under Chris Jones, and how to adapt the freestyle stroke most effectively to the open water through early tuition from Robin Brew.

Mum (aka "Mother Smooth" who is still a much loved member of our team to this day) and Steve loaned me the finances to start this project and we set about a six month project of filming all the information I wanted to cover.

I toyed with different names for the DVD / business, 'Swim Clean' , 'Swim Fresh' and 'Swim Smooth', before finally settling on the latter of course! The 'clean' element got a look-in though with the tag-line 'Clean-up Your Stroke', basing the original logo and packaging off a laundry detergent box! :

The whole project was run on a (very) shoe-string budget (including the original three versions of the website) but from small things did big things grow and this DVD Boxset has continued to be one of our best selling items. Sometimes you just have to start an idea rather than wait until you feel all the moons and planets are perfectly in alignment - procrastination has been the killer of many a great idea.

The website and DVD Boxset featuring Olympic Gold Medallist Bill Kirby OAM was launched on 21st December 2004 to a highly eager audience at the famous Challenge Stadium in Perth. We ran this in conjunction with a gadget manufacturer called Wetronome (whose product you might remember!) who we worked with for many years to come.

2005 saw the expiry of my Australian visa and a decision to literally try and take Swim Smooth to the world but it wasn’t plain sailing from the get-go! These days our clinic series sell out in our 15 minutes but in stark contrast our very first clinic in Ealing, London (UK) attracted just two swimmers!

My girlfriend (now wife) Michelle and I battled on, attending races and events all across the UK and Europe in our beloved Swim Smooth “bus” affectionately named Sid. We even followed the Tour de France around in the hope of some coverage on French Television. Sadly this did not occur - c’est la vie!

We rounded out 2005 with a successful clinic series in Ireland which thankfully fuelled the fire of possibility going forwards.

In 2006 after a six month stint in the UK & Europe, we decided to try our luck in Canada but as you’ll see from the image below, this was even less successful than the UK.

Of course this was before the swimmers arrived.
Looking back now 2006 was a foundational year as I invested a lot of time into helping swimmers understand swimming better and improve their efficiency in the water on various swimming and triathlon forums. I acted as an Agony Aunt for people's swimming woes and loved the challenge of trying to simplify what is otherwise regarded as a very technically challenging sport.

In 2007 Michelle and I decided to head back down-under with the view to establishing a swimming and triathlon squad in Claremont, Western Australia. Again this proved to be struggle-town initially but I began the lengthy process of developing a sophisticated 1-2-1 Video Analysis and Stroke Correction service to aid swimmers of all abilities to "discover, understand and apply", improving their efficiency and speed in the water.

Then a very fortunate cyber-meeting occurred via the chat forum www.tritalk.co.uk with resident bike / run expert Adam Young (aka “YoungGun”) as we chatted about our shared interest in photography. This lead to discussions about coming out to Perth and learning a little more about what we do and the rest, as they say, is history! We hit it off immediately and as I felt I needed assistance with some big plans for Swim Smooth asked Adam to partner up with me. It goes without saying that this has proven to be the single biggest decision in Swim Smooth’s 10 year history!

In early 2008 I ran the idea of an individualised stroke correction system by Adam which I wanted to call “Swim Types”. I’d been noticing trends in the way people swam based on their height, build, gender, swimming experience and even personality. It wasn’t embraced immediately so we parked the idea for a couple of years whilst continuing to develop and refine it in Perth. Sometimes you can’t rush a good idea and the time invested in the development of this project proved to be well worthwhile in the end.

We did however produce our second DVD, Learn-2-Swim From Scratch, in a little backyard pool in a quaint village in Essex which has subsequently gone on to become the foundation for the British Triathlon’s “Teach To Swim” coaching module.

Work also began on the 9-month task of writing the current day www.swimsmooth.com website - a task which seemed tortuous and endless at the time but which has gone on to become the most popular swim coaching website in the world with over 15 million lifetime visitors. In fact if you're reading this blog, you probably heard about us because of that website.

In 2009 in conjunction with the launch of the newly revamped website, Adam had the brainwave to create an animated swimmer to demonstrate an effective freestyle swim stroke from a range of angles above and below the water. Initially the plan was for this to be nothing more of a glorified stick figure, but you know how it goes: I knew a man, who knew a girl, who had a cousin, who was dating a guy who was an animator and before we knew it we had this very cool guy, Mr Smooth, which we gave away for free to every new subscriber to the www.feelforthewater.com blog.

He’s proven to be the second best decision we’ve made in the last ten years! (A special thanks must go out to the very talented Jon Allen and Noel Hinton for their work on this project).

2009 also saw me complete my first channel swim, the 20km Rottnest Channel Swim and with it learning a lot about this new world of marathon swimming. If you fancy a real swimming challenge, you can't get better than this incredible race here in Perth.

In 2010 we were approached by the governing body for triathlon in the UK, British Triathlon, to help them re-write their swimming curriculum for coaching levels 1, 2 and 3. This relationship has been incredibly important to us and we still feel flattered that BT chose us for this important role - thanks guys.

Of course this relationship has paved the way to significant recognition of our coaching in the UK. In fact, if you’re in the UK yourself it is highly likely that your local triathlon club coach has received direct tutelage in our methods and be sharing them with you, perhaps without you even realising it.

After 2 years of development we also published our finished Swim Types coaching system and launched it to the 12 coaches on our inaugural 3-day Swim Smooth Coach Education Course. We now run this intensive course all over the world with 210 selected coaches having completed it.

As you can probably tell things were really accelerating and 2011 proved to be a very fruitful year. Firstly I achieved my boyhood dream of swimming the English Channel in appalling conditions, in fact so bad the CSA ratified them as the worst that whole season! (Putting on the 15kg of necessary insulation was fun too..)

And secondly we finished training our very first wave of Certified Swim Smooth Coaches of whom we're enormously proud (if you've been coached by one, you'll know why):

We also formed a new partnership with perhaps the most passionate wetsuit designer in the world and the world's top swimming sports scientist, with the mission of creating the world's fastest wetsuits.

Dean Jackson and Professor Huub Toussaint had ambitious ideas to set the wetsuit world alight and came to us for our expertise of how different swimmers require different wetsuits according to their buoyancy and flexibility profiles, and their individual stroke technique. Using our combined knowledge we set about creating what has widely become regarded as the world’s most innovative wetsuit lineup, with many others now trying to catch up with these ideas.

We also released our best-selling DVD, Catch Masterclass, and I had the absolute privilege of being able to film my favourite swimmer of all time, Miss Rebecca Adlington at The Park Club in London, courtesy of Swim Smooth Coach Julian Nagi.


Prof. Huub might have the biggest head in the world?!

In 2011 we were approached by publisher Wiley & Son to write a book on swimming to help swimmers like you improve their efficiency in the water. A book is a very person thing to write and for that reason this was my favourite project so far. When we released it in 2012 it sold over 2,000 copies on the first day of release and continues to be a best-seller to this day.

Outside of pool-deck coaching, at this point in time we only had three people in the core company team - myself, Adam and Linda (Mother Smooth) but in 2012 we expanded to four in the form of a bubbly and ambitious swimming coach Annie Oberlin-Harris. Annie's main role has been leading a top-secret project that we'll be revealing next week... we can't wait to share that with you.

For me personally, 2013 was all about a very, very long swim - the world’s longest marathon swimming event to be precise - a 28.5 mile (46km) circumnavigation of the city of Manhattan, New York. Long hailed as the most “scenic” of all marathon swim events, the course takes you up the East River with the pushing tide, through the ominous Hell’s Gate, up the Harlem River, before a 20km stretch back down the Hudson River. All up it takes around 7+ hours to complete the swim at an average pace of sub-60 seconds per 100m! Crazy quick and super exhilarating.

After 9 years of extorting all the virtues of what it takes to swim efficiently in the open water, I felt it best to put my money where my mouth is and to walk-the-walk as well as simply talking-the-talk. The result? A first place finish in an international invitational field - I couldn’t have been happier. It wasn’t the win itself that I took greatest pleasure in, but the knowledge that if you stick to your goals, practice diligently and consistently day-in, day-out, literally anything is possible.

We took the opportunity to take a road-trip right across the US of A, culminating with a visit to see innovative swim company Finis Inc in California and run our very first 3-day Coach Education Course away from the UK, hosted by CEO John Mix and his wonderful team.

By now we'd mastered the cheesy thumbs up!

In 2014 we have been hard at work developing the partnership with the world governing body for triathlon, The International Triathlon Union, which will soon see Swim Smooth’s methodology being put into practice through 119 country’s respective governing bodies. We hope you are as excited about the future of swim coaching as we are!

Whatever happens around the world though, the heart and soul of Swim Smooth is our core group right here in Perth where we build the real foundations of our coaching system. We hope one day you get to visit us out here and join in the fun for a while:

Now of course the real challenge is to let you be even more closely connected to what we do, to provide you with a platform that allows you to receive all the great coaching that our 450 lucky squad-ettes do here in Perth. How can we make that happen…? Erm, sorry, I’m over my word count (again!!) so that’ll just have to wait for next week… here's a sneaky peak of some of the planning - can you guess what it is yet?!

I just want to finish up by saying thanks for following everything we do at Swim Smooth. It's fantastic to have your support in spreading the word about better swim coaching and even better to get your emails, tweets and posts telling us how you're getting along and the difference it's making to your swimming.

Here's to the next 10 years!

Paul Newsome

I should also offer a special thanks to the whole Swim Smooth Coaching Team for all your fantastic work, it's been an honour working with you all: Adam, Linda, Annie, Michelle, Cyndy, Martin, Sally, Gabi, Fiona, Emma, Alan, Stacee, Julian, Steve, Brad, Morgan, Dominic, Cath, Sandy, Sinead, Gavin, Lance and Marie.


Unknown said...

I am a 74 year old triathlete with a wall of medals Swim Smooth has helped me win. It is a life long fight to keep improving and following you for years, using your training techniques has helped immensely and for that I thank you. and congratulations Paul.

Unknown said...

Happy birthday swim smooth!
Huge congrats for all the work accomplished
You've been a massive help to my swimming and you made me discover open water swimming. Can't thank you enough for that!
All the best for the years to come
Can't wait to discover your new feature next week

Paul said...

Thanks William and Thibault, you've both absolutely made my evening here in sunny Perth - thank you so much! Paul

Unknown said...

Congrats on the first Ten years, cant wait to see what you develop over the next 10 years. The Swimsmooth philosophy is sound and effective, and works!
Awesome stuff

Jason Tait
South West Swim

Unknown said...

Incredible story Paul-wow-great to see how hard work,perseverance and passion has resulted in such a success story!! I'm so honoured to be a part of Swimsmooth

Nicky Proctor said...

Proud to be one of the 210 coaches who have attended the 3 day coaches course, met some fabulous like-minded coaches and been inspired by Paul, Adam and Annie! Congratulations and thank you!

Rudolf said...

Many congrats for the FIRST 10 years guys .. but you know what that means, pull harder more often to make the next 10 years just as fine!!

Unknown said...

Congratulations , after 3 fruitless years of other swim systems it was a revelation to spend a day with you guys and improve my technique 10 fold. Always indebted to you

Gord Kirk - Calgary said...

Congrats to Paul et al, great summary showing how tenacity and perseverance go a long way to achieving one's goals. All the best with the ITU, HUUB, clinics and other initiatives you have on the go.

Unknown said...

Thank you everyone, we're really feeling the love right now! ;-)

Looking forward to what the next 10 years will bring - watch out swimming world!

Steven said...

Congratulations on your inspiring first 10 years! It goes to show that great things are possible when you believe in what you're doing. It also helps that you've developed an excellent system--that works!--and a very effective communication plan. Well done! You've earned your success!

Shorty said...

Cheers , Kiwi Boy Down Under.

Ian said...

Thanks Paul, that was a really lovely story. Your passion for what you do, and swimming in general, comes through loud and clear and is the reason why I, without fail, always ready your weekly email. They read like a personal message, because there is a shared passion between writer and reader.
Good luck !

Vinnie said...

Congrats! Thank you for you passion, wisdom, commitment and contribution to the swimming discipline and community. Swim Smooth has been an invaluable resource to me, my training and injury recovery in addition to one which I am always sharing with other swimmers in passing.
Ventura, CA

Pawl said...

Warm congratulations, and enormous thanks! I'm on the other side of the world, with little chance of meeting you or going to your clinics, but I have learned a huge amount from you. I am so grateful for the advice on the site and the blog.

Best wished for many more wonderful years!

Barbara said...

Congratulations Paul and Adam, thanks for all the help with my swimming, and most important, the friendly caring attitude. Keep going from strength to strength!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday SwimSmooth.
Thank you Paul, Adam and the team. I've found your videos, SwimSmooth book, Mr Smooth Enthusiast app and weekly blogs immensely motivational. Glad to see success and recognition coming your way; you deserve it.
Would love to visit Claremont for video analysis. One day ...., it's a long way from Brisbane but it's on my bucket list!

gregorywannabe said...

Hmm, OK. How about "Results come from the intersection of 3 components, Technique, Training (CSS), and OW skills"?

Congrats on the 10 years.


Unknown said...

Again thank YOU guys for believing in us, sharing our passions and helping us make our dreams come true!

Unknown said...

@Gregory- yes that's what we believe!

Adam Young said...

Thanks so much for all your comments and feedback guys, it's great to hear you're getting so much from what we do - you're our inspiration! Here's to the next 10 years!!


Juan Manuel said...

hi, guys congratulations for all the work you have done, i have been following you since a long time from argentina

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Paul and thanks for the inspiring and extremely helpful 1-2-1 session I did with you on the 5. It's now more special knowing it was on your anniversary! I've just arrived back in Victoria from my holiday in Perth. Our session was defiantly the highlight and has really now motivated me to really get back I to the pool. Many many thanks. Linda M

Paul said...

Thanks Linda, really glad you enjoyed it! Keep us posted on your progress!


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