What's the difference between Swim Smooth and Masters swimming?

We've just arrived back in Perth from a big trip to California, running our 3 Day Coach Education course in sunny San Diego. One question we got asked all the time in the states was: What's the difference between Swim Smooth and Masters swimming?

Like most of our US coaches, Swim Smooth
Coach John Chipponeri is also US Masters qualified

Here's one of the twenty coaches on the course reflecting on the need for a Swim Smooth setup in their location:

I think that there are a lot of people in the area and surrounding regions that are looking for help in their triathlon/open water swim technique and training. There are not many systematic approaches available, so a lot of times these athletes are on their own or going from coach-to-coach to find answers, further confusing themselves. A clear, progressive technique and training philosophy, combined with a positive, fun environment is the perfect solution! A Swim Smooth program would be a breath of fresh air for many frustrated and confused swimmers/triathletes!!

As Brittany points out there, unlike most swim programs Swim Smooth is entirely focused on distance freestyle for open water swimming and triathlon. In contrast Masters covers all four strokes with a major focus on sprint events.

Most countries around the world have Masters swimming and these programs do a great job for senior swimmers racing all four strokes in the pool. The preparation required for longer events and triathlon / open water swimming requires a slightly different focus:

That's where Swim Smooth comes in, it's an entire coaching system designed from the bottom up for distance freestyle swimmers and those racing in open water and triathlon.

Whereas Masters develops all four competitive strokes, Swim Smooth's program focuses almost entirely on distance freestyle swimming. Many swimmers have limited training time (commonly swimming 2-3 times per week) and so you require maximum "specificity" on freestyle to achieve your best performances.

Fiona Ford - Richmond, London

Swim Smooth also places a large focus on developing swimmers who are relatively new to the sport. It's fair to say that the majority of our swimmers and triathletes do not have a swimming background and our methods allow for that. In this way the technique work we focus on takes account of your specific needs.
Bart Rolet - Swim Smooth Montreal

At Swim Smooth we also focus on training methods to give best performance over distances of 750m and longer. Preparation for swims of 750 to 3800m is at the core of our program with specific sessions developing you for longer events such as 5 and 10km open water swims. What does this mean in practise? Less focus on sprinting with long recovery times and a much larger emphasis on sustained-speed over longer distances with shorter recoveries. This would be far from ideal for sprinters but as a distance swimmer or triathlete delivers you break-through performances.

Fenella Ng & Annemarie Munk - Swim Smooth Hong Kong

Our focus on open water swimming means we aim to develop strokes that perform well when swimming in close proximity to other swimmers. Typically this means a greater focus on stroke rhythm and less emphasis on the kick for propulsion. You will still perform at a high level in the pool but in the open water you will really excel.

Rob Kwaaitaal - Swim Smooth Netherlands

That open water focus also means transitioning away from practising starts and turns for pool racing towards developing key open water skills such as drafting, sighting, swimming straight and mass starts. When mastered, these skills are worth many minutes in an open water swim.

Jana Schoeman, Swim Smooth Johannesburg

At Swim Smooth we are big fans of Masters swimming - in fact many of our coaches (such as Lance Ogren, Linda Bostic and Mike Jotautus - all of whom are brilliant masters swimmers in their own right) run fabulous Masters programs but also recognise the need for what Swim Smooth provides and run Swim Smooth squads in parallel for these types of swimmers.

If you are training for open water swimming or triathlon you'll get a huge amount out of a Swim Smooth Squad and as Brittany pointed out above, you'll love the camaraderie we foster - training for longer events can be challenging but we guarantee we'll make it fun and rewarding!

Jason Tait - Swim Smooth Swindon, UK

Find Your Nearest Swim Smooth Squad

As you can probably tell we're passionate about providing as many distance swimmers as possible with the perfect group-training environment. Interested in joining one of our squads? Find your nearest here:

We can't wait to welcome you aboard!

Paul Newsome - Swim Smooth Perth

Join The Movement

We have an extensive on-going program in place to find and train the most passionate coaches all over the planet in Swim Smooth's unique approach to swimming. If you are a coach and are interested in joining our movement then you can find out more about becoming a Swim Smooth Coach here:

The first step on that (significant) journey is to join our Coaches Network:

Don't delay - remember procrastination is the dream killer - just start!

Dying to get to work on your swimming: November 2017 San Diego Coach Education Course

Swim Smooth!

Announcing New Swim Smooth Coaches In Florida, Kentucky & Guildford UK

Working on your stroke 1-to-1 with a fully qualified
Swim Smooth Coach is a revelatory experience.
Swim Smooth are very proud to announce the certification of three new Swim Smooth Coaches in Louisville Kentucky, Palm Beach Florida and Guildford UK.

Training to be a SS Coach is a huge undertaking. Developing the necessary skills and experience of advanced video analysis, stroke correction, squad coaching and open water skills takes time and cannot be rushed. We are fortunate enough to be able to pick our coaches from a large talent pool but even for very experienced coaches, the intensive training takes at least 1 to 2 years to complete.

Whether you are a complete beginner or elite competitor, when you see a Swim Smooth Coach you can be assured you are seeing a talented highly trained individual with the very best coaching methods at their disposal.

Congratulations Mike, Linda and Gayle!

For full information on all our coaches and to find your local Swim Smooth Coach see: swimsmooth.com/certifiedcoaches

Linda Irish Bostic - Palm Beach, Florida: www.swimsmoothpalmbeach.com

Linda brings her endless enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of swimming to the pool every day to ensure you meet your goals.

In addition to her credentials as a Swim Smooth Certified Coach, Linda is also a USMS Level 4 and USAT Level 1 Certified Coach.  Linda founded and is head coach of Palm Beach Masters, the 2017 USMS Club of the Year, currently with over 500 members.

As a former NCAA All-American distance specialist and U.S. Olympic Trials finalist, Linda understands (especially you Ironmen and Ironwomen) when you are in the water!  Her swimming experience at the highest levels of competition and many years on deck have honed her powers of observation and stroke correction.  She will help you find your smoothest and most efficient stroke.

She is excited to introduce Swim Smooth to swimmers & triathletes in sunny, Palm Beach County, Florida, USA.  Contact Linda for all your swimming needs and learn why her athletes proudly embrace the Palm Beach Masters mascot: WAHOO!

Gayle Vickers, Guildford & Godalming, UK: www.gaylevickers.co.uk

Gayle first met the Swim Smooth team for training in Loughborough in 2013 and followed up with the training in Perth Australia in 2016. Gayle has spent lots of hours on poolside sharing her passion and love for swimming with athletes of all ages and levels.

If you are just starting out or aiming for the top, don't be afraid to see Gayle or join up to one of her squads or 121 video analysis.

As well as being a coach, Gayle is a competitive triathlete racing all distances; including Sprint, 70.3, IronMan and also the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
Gayle is also Level 2 Triathlon coach and personal trainer.

Gayle runs GV3 coaching offering private coaching for triathlon to children and adults, swim clinics and also 121 Video Analysis.


Mike Jotautas, Louisville, Kentucky : www.swimsmoothlouisville.com

Mike is a life-long swimmer and competed at the national level in his native country of Canada, ranking in the top-5 in backstroke events as an age-grouper. He also competed in the Canadian Olympic Trials in 2000 and 2004.  He was NCAA Div-1 All-American status in his university swimming career in the USA.

Mike has coached a variety of levels since beginning his coaching career in 2004, including small children, Club/Age-Group swimmers, and Collegiate level swimmers.  He earned his USA Triathlon Level 1 and Youth & Juniors certifications in 2012 and and joined BarryS Coaching as an assistant multi-sport coach.  He is a U.S. Masters Swimming Level 3 Coach.  In 2014 Mike and Coach Barry Stokes created TriMasters Swimming to support the under-served and under-coached niche of triathlon swimming.  He was introduced to Swim Smooth in 2014 in search of better coaching tools to help his athletes in the water.  In 2016 he attended a 3-Day Swim Smooth Coaches clinic in Cocoa Beach, Florida, then the 2-week training in Perth in January 2017.

Mike’s passion is in teaching adults how to swim freestyle for triathlon and the open water, and you’ll experience the Swim Smooth philosophy of “coach the athlete, not the stroke” underscored in all of Mike’s coaching.


For full information on all our Swim Smooth coaches and to find your local Swim Smooth Coach see: swimsmooth.com/certifiedcoaches

And for more information on training to become a Swim Smooth coach, visit: swimsmooth.com/becoming-a-swim-smooth-certified-coach.php

Swim Smooth!

Some Great Shots Of The Bow Wave

Clinics, Camps and 1to1s:

North America

Providence / Boston Video Analysis

Calgary Squads

Calgary Video Analysis

2 Day Swim Camp Oct 21-22 Carlsbad CA

New Oceanside CA Squad starting July 26th

Solana Beach / Oceanside / Carlsbad Video Analysis

Chicago Video Analysis

Chicago Squads

Montreal Squads

Montreal Video Analysis

The Woodlands TX, Swim Squad

SS Clinics Chicago

Asia / Middle East / Australia / Africa

Kuala Lumpur Video Analysis

Hong Kong Squads & Video Analysis

Perth Squads

Perth Video Analysis

Kuala Lumpur Swim Squad

NEW Johannesburg Video Analysis

NEW Johannesburg Squads


Wachtebeke Clinc Dec 2017

Nijmegen Squads

Prague Junior Swim Club

Prague Junior Swim Club

Prague Video Analysis

Nijmegen Video Analysis.  & Stroke Correction

City Of Elche Video Analysis / Squads

SS Camp Lanzarote Mar/Apr 2018 (English - Dutch)

United Kingdom

Luton SS Squad Wed/Sat

St Albans SS Squad Saturdays
Breathing Masterclass, Abingdon Dec 6/13/20

Reading Video Analysis Clinic Dec 17
Only 2 Places Left

West Lothian Video Analysis

Richmond London SS Squad

SW London Swim Workshops

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis

Twickenham Video Analysis

Lancaster SS Squad

Swindon/Cotswolds Video Analysis

Lancaster Video Analysis

Northampton Swim Squad

Millfield Stroke Correction Clinic

Swindon SS Squad (joining offers!)

Felixstowe Video Analysis

Stratford upon Avon & Birmingham/Coventry Squads

Felixstowe Squads

Heston West London Video Analysis

Cardiff Video Analysis Clinic

Northampton Video Analysis Clinic

Guernsey SS Squads

Guernsey Video Analysis

Yorkshire Squads (Pool & OW)

Yorkshire Video Analysis

Swim Smooth Kent Squad

Swim Smooth Kent Video analysis
The key challenge of freestyle swimming is how to breathe when facing down in the water. To stop the legs sinking and to not interrupt the rhythm of the stroke, you must breathe to the side whilst keeping the head low in the water.

To keep the head low enough you need to use the bow wave formed by your head moving through the water. It can be difficult to visualise what the bow wave looks like so here's some nice shots of it (click on images to enlarge):

Notice how there is a small lip formed in front of the head and then the water drops quite steeply as it passes your head and shoulders. Notice around where your ears are, the water's surface is significantly lower than the general surface of the pool. That's useful because you can rotate the head and breathe into that "pocket" of low water with your mouth while keeping your head really low.

That should look like this:

Notice how Paul is angling his mouth to the side to make sure he doesn't suck in any water. For obvious reasons we call that "Popeye Breathing":

Also notice how Paul has kept the top of his head in the water, he hasn't lifted it about the surface as you might have a tendency to do (more on this below).

Practising Bow Wave Breathing

When performing drills (e.g. side kicking with fins) your speed is very constant and the bow wave can become really smooth and glassy:

So much so that side kicking with fins can be the perfect drill to practise keeping the head low when breathing to the side.

Remember keep the top of your head in the water and breathe to your ears!

I Don't Think I Have One!

We often hear from swimmers who find it hard to breathe without taking on water. If this is you, you might believe this is because you are not moving fast enough to create a bow wave but this is very unlikely to be the case. Much more likely you are either:

- Burying your head beneath the surface when you swim such that the water flows over the back of your head. Do this and a bow wave won't form at all! If you've been trying to "swim downhill" this could well be the problem.

- Lifting your head clean out of the water when you swim - again doing this will remove the bow wave and you'll have to crane your head really high to reach clean air.

- Breathing too far forward in position (B) where the wave is much higher. Remember, breathe by your ears (A) and the water's surface is much lower:

Further Swim Smooth Resources

If you are new to swimming then you need our full Learn To Swim Program, available with our low-cost standard subscription in the Swim Smooth Guru:


Follow this inspirational step-by-step process to swimming smooth relaxed freestyle - including lots of detail and clever tricks to develop a relaxed breathing technique!

Whatever your level of swimming your can also use the Guru to fix these breathing issues (and a myriad of other faults elsewhere in your stroke):

Swim Smooth!

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