You may have seen Sam Smoothy in the water, on deck or paddling alongside you as he provides friendly instructions, coaching and useful tips to help you with your swimming. But there's more to Sam than his big smile and ultra slick stroke. We spoke with Sam on his passion for the sport, his own journey into the water and about his aspirations for the future.
How did you first get involved with swimming and why?
When I was young, I grew up in a family that loved the water and we spent most days by the beach or by the pool. Though it wasn't until I was 10 that I really got myself into swimming after deciding to make changes for my health.
This was because when I was 4, I was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, a type of cancer which chewed away at my bone marrow. I spent over two years at Princess Margaret hospital and growing up looked like four walls inside of a ward. At one point, things got so bad that the doctors wanted to amputate my leg, but fortunately that didn't happen and I healed completely.
When I left, I was playing catch up on a lot of things including school and sport. I was also carrying a lot of weight from all the treatment but thankfully my family were very supportive and encouraged me to try different things. That's when it happened and I tried the sport of swimming with my Dad. I found myself loving the sport straight from the start as I felt so free in the water and felt very little stigma or pressure to perform. For Dad, it was a big step for him too as he was also experiencing a few health scares, however he saw how much I enjoyed it and together we decided to commit to the sport."
What brought you in to Open Water Swimming?
"Not long after starting, we were progressing well and swimming became very special to both of us. It was our chance to spend quality time together as father and son. We created our own training regime in the pool to keep us fit which was great, though as time passed I looked to take on new challenges and set my sights on open water swimming.
Having grown up in Perth, I'd seen the Rottnest Channel Swim each year and felt it was the ultimate challenge in WA swimming. I excitedly told my Dad about it one day and explained that I badly wanted to do it. Luckily for me, he was also just as keen!
This led to our first tester experience in open water where my Dad and I swam the Busselton Jetty swim together as a duo. We successfully navigated our way round the jetty and still buzzing from the whole experience, we decided there and then that we would go all in and commit to Rottnest Channel Swim solos for the following year.
What have been some of your favourite Swimming memories?
"After Busselton Jetty, we joined a squad to provide us with structured training that could help us prepare for open water events. After a year of diligent swimming, we both raced Rotto and were successful with our crossings. Similarly to Busselton, this further wetted our appetites and we continued onwards and upwards from there.
I've since swum 5 successful Rotto crossings, one less than my Dad, and we also became the first Father-Son pair to swim across the English Channel, setting a new World Record in the process. Accomplishing this knowing that we’d been on this journey together from the start was very special and something I will always be particularly proud of.
Another incredible thing has been the chance to swim alongside my siblings Esther and Luke. They also took up swimming and as a family, we have gone on to swim in events together all around the world. All four of us swum the 25km ultra-marathon Port to Pub in 2016, and as a team, we raced in the world’s oldest Open Water race, the Capri to Naples 40k. The “Smoothy Train” placed first in the mixed team category and we received a huge trophy for our efforts. It was really cool!"
How has swimming impacted your life?
"Swimming has been something that has not only changed my body and my health, but has completely changed my life. For me, it was never about becoming the quickest or the best swimmer out there, but instead swimming became a cornerstone of life that provided routine, enjoyment and structure that I could always count on and enjoy with others.
Family is also a focal point in my life and I feel that swimming's something that brings us all together. To be honest, I just love the water and I love being able to share that same passion with others."
How and why did you get into swim coaching?
"I got into coaching after a chance conversation with my friends Mum who was an instructor with a local swim school. I'd never worked with kids before, but was presented with the chance to try it out and I instantly fell in love with it.
A few years have passed now and I find that I still have that same love and passion for teaching others. The way I see it, it's all about community and building others up. Growing up there were plenty of people who really impacted my life and to me swimming is my way to reciprocate this and do the same for others.
Through coaching I also see so many opportunities to help others recognise their own potential and enjoy life more as they do things that they may never have initially believed were possible in sport. It’s also very rewarding to partner with people along their journey."
What made you join the team at Swimclan?
"After my very first chat with the Swimclan team, I knew what they were doing was something unique. Their priority was to bring about life change using sport as the catalyst and it was evident that they really wanted to partner alongside people during that journey.
That particularly resonated with me and I saw that the coaches there used their passion for the sport primarily to build community and help others. I was sold and signed up!"
Do you have any future swimming goals in mind?
"In terms of future goals, I’m definitely open to more challenges. With my father, I plan to explore more opportunities to race as a duo and try establish new records.
However the big one for me is to swim across Lake Victoria in Africa with the Swimclan team. By doing this, the purpose would be to raise money and much needed awareness for water safety and infrastructure in the surrounding countries as well as doing something that has never been done before."
Outside of the pool what are your hobbies and interests?
I’m not going to lie, I love food (whether or not that’s a hobby)!! I also love to do DIY projects around the house, being creative with my hands and I enjoy photography.
Though secretly I am absolutely mad about board games. If we ever have the opportunity to come face to face in my favourite game Settlers of Catan, it’s game on!