How Swimclan Was Created

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Swimclan session at Scarborough Beach Pool in Perth

While Swimclan swimming sessions have been expanding rapidly across Perth’s pool facilities over the last few months, the business idea was born years ago and stems from a near backyard drowning incident.

Swimclan Director, Martin Smoothy, has developed, owned and managed numerous businesses for more than 30 years. It wasn’t until swimming genuinely saved his life that he decided to turn his passion into his career.

Martin recently revealed his plans for Swimclan and how he hopes to use the sport as a vehicle to help Australian adults from all walks of life improve their skills, fitness, mental health and happiness.

The Smoothy Train
Some members of the Smoothy family. Luke, Martin, Raquel, Sam and Esther (left to right).

What industries have you worked in throughout your career?

“I’m actually a chef and pastry cook by trade. I’ve owned a bakery and been involved in a number of industries including coffee shops, family entertainment centres and packaging companies. For the last 23 years though I’ve been involved in business mergers, acquisitions and evaluations for accountants, banks and courts. However, I’ve always wanted to turn my biggest passion of swimming into my career.”

When did you first start swimming?

“My mum and dad realised after a near drowning incident in our backyard dam that I needed to learn how to swim. At age three they placed me into a very small and private swim school in someone’s backyard.

Growing up in Queensland a lot of the schools had pools, so I started training and racing there. By the time I was 13 I was very competitive. My squad had trained with the Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams. I didn’t quite reach that level, but I got to train with them and became heavily involved.

After that I moved into full time business management and my health issues started to arise. This started to heavily influence my life, family, mental and physical wellbeing and this coincided with the swimming aspect of my life starting to disappear.”

What was the turning point in your life that made you re-embrace swimming?

“At age 50 I had spent around two years in hospital with one of my sons who had cancer. He was really struggling with his weight from the medicine he was on and life in general. I decided I wanted to help him recover some health and happiness through sport.

Around that same time, I had not been exercising and was around 35kg heavier than I am now. I ended up in hospital with a sore foot only to discover that my kidneys had failed. Seven days later I jumped out of hospital to watch my son play his first game of soccer and eventually found myself back in the hospital with heart failure. Experiencing a heart attack and kidney failure within a week was a serious wake up call.

My doctor made it clear to make a change or die. I chose to jump back in the pool and get my life back. It was the only place I knew, and swimming genuinely saved me.”

The Smoothy Train Adriatic Sea
The Smoothy family swimming in the Adriatic Sea

How did the idea of Swimclan come about?

“After I jumped back into the water I had gone ahead and done a lot of events and found my whole life changing as a result of swimming. It had a positive effect on my business, my family, my marriage … literally every aspect of my life was changing for the better.

Along the way I had found myself assisting adults that were going through tough life challenges similar to what I faced. Whether that was getting them in the water or helping them start a journey to improving their lives with swimming.

I had a very strong interest helping these adults because I knew what it was like to watch your health and happiness slip away. Swimclan came about when I decided to make a change in life and turn my passion into work.

I reconnected with my friend Andrew Donaldson who is now my business partner. We both wanted to target the adult sector after we discovered a major hole in the market where adults struggled to find their way into a swimming environment.

It was exceptionally difficult for an adult to jump in the pool with a group of kids who were more advanced with their skills. We just thought this is what we believe is good for people and is purposeful. Swimclan was created to help adults change their lives by using swimming as the vehicle.”

What kind of people did you target to join you at Swimclan?

“Passion is the most important aspect, although I wanted to bring in people who were not just passionate about the sport but also knew the incredible benefits that swimming can bring.

All of the people that have come aboard with Swimclan have left great paying or stable industries to help as many people as possible regardless of their age, ability, experience or goals in the pool. Not to mention all of the guys on board are incredible swimmers themselves.

Most have accomplished remarkable accolades throughout their career, so having them on board is very exciting. We have multiple Australian swimming champions, international representatives, former world record holders and Rottnest Channel Swim winners in Jarrad Lawford, Andy Donaldson, Jason Evans, James Hickman and Rhys Mainstone.”

The Smoothy family after winning the Italian Capri to Naples Open Water Swim in 2018.

What are your short and long-term goals with Swimclan?

“Our short-term goals are focused on refining our product and ensuring we have the right product that can be tailored for everyone at convenient times while exceeding their expectations.

We realise that many people may be frightened to enter the water or attempt swimming, so that’s why we created three categories with Learn to Swim, Stroke Development and Swim Fit sessions. Some people may just want to learn the survival skills of swimming and learn how to feel comfortable in the water, others may want to perfect their technique from our expert coaches or improve their fitness and skills with our advanced sessions.

Long term, we’re hoping to expand our business nation-wide into regional areas where water sources or pools are limited. We’re also hoping to work with people of all cultures, backgrounds and special needs.”

How are you hoping to make Swimclan the best and most unique swimming experience?

“In one word? Community. No matter where you’re at or where you’ve come from, Swimclan will have others who are on a similar journey or position. Most of the people we’ve worked with feel very comfortable knowing there are many adults with the same level of experience as themselves.

We’ve noticed these people connect together very strongly because our sessions are intended to be low pressure and enjoyable so everyone can have a laugh and chat while learning from the best swimming coaches available.

You’ll meet people you never thought you’d connect with, but you’ll complete a very unique journey with them while having an experience you’ll be able to transfer into every aspect of your life.

We want to help people improve their family, business and wellbeing, it’s not just about improving their fitness. It’s about embracing the community spirit and continually improving. Every time you come down to our sessions, you’ll improve on how efficiently you move through the water. That’s a great journey in itself and these improvements have a profound effect on the mental and physical wellbeing of everyone involved.”

How has Swimclan grown since it was created?

“We’ve managed to successfully engage a large number of people into the water that had never set foot in it before or even considered it. We’ve encouraged people to set new goals and managed to have our procedures and products become refined to the point where everyone who comes along is loving it.

Personally, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is people may come down scared, apprehensive or curious as to what we’re doing, but they always walk away happy, energised and keen to continue their swimming journey with Swimclan.”

How often do you currently swim and what effect has this had on your mental and physical health?

“I currently swim five days per week and if I miss a session it’s not the end of the world, but it’s certainly noted! I do find it’s such an important aspect of my life because it profoundly benefits every other aspect of my life.

If I’m swimming frequently, I’ll sleep better, have improved focus and find I can overcome different obstacles easier. Swimming gives you a great sense of commitment in that you don’t want to get out or leave your friends before you finish what you intended to do.

That aspect of swimming carries over into everything that you do, so it will positively affect your family, business, marriage and anything else you’re involved with every day. These are the things I didn’t think swimming would affect but it’s amazing to encounter how many benefits it can provide to you.”

What are your favourite hobbies and passions outside of the pool?

“I’m definitely a family man. I’ve got five kids of my own and three grandchildren. The oldest child is 34 and my youngest is 18. My three youngest are all heavily involved in swimming and are all coaches, instructors and prominent swimmers themselves. Together, my three youngest and myself actually won the oldest open water swimming race in the world two years ago in Italy, which is one of my proudest family moments.

I’ve also crossed the English Channel with one of my sons and we were the first father-son duo to accomplish this. My whole family loves anything aquatic, so we really enjoy our fishing and ocean sailing. In my downtime I love just spending time with them and relaxing at home when I’m not on father duties!”

#swimclan #jointheclan #community

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