Updated: Mar 18
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.
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.”
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.”