Terry Laughlin, the founder and Head Coach of Total Immersion Swimming, is considered by many to be the world's leading authority on how to swim efficiently. He was credited with “revolutionizing how the Navy Seals teach swimming."
The Army Rangers, Air Force Pararescue team, Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, and U.S. Border Patrol have all sent instructors to Terry for Total Immersion training. Terry was also notably mentioned by best selling author Tim Ferriss in his TED lecture “Smash Fear, Learn Anything"
Back in September 1988 Terry met the innovative coach Bill Boomer. His unconventional ideas, capsulized in the maxim “the shape of the 'vessel' matters more than the size of the engine in swimming", would become the chief influence on how Terry would swim and coach forever after.
Terry devoted 10 years to shaping his own vessel, acting as the primary 'guinea fish' for refining the techniques taught at TI workshops. During this period he made a distinct shift from 'working out' to practicing, and experienced marked gains in efficiency, insight, and self-perception. This led him to embrace the ethos of kaizen, a Japanese philosophy that no skill is ever static or fixed but can be improved continuously.
In 2002, to celebrate having turned 50 a year earlier, Terry swam the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Marathon. His decade of work on efficiency was reflected in completing a loop of Manhattan in 26,000 strokes (8 hours and 53 minutes at an average of 49 strokes per minute) compared to an average of 39,000 strokes for the rest of the field. On the strokes he saved, Terry could have swum another length of Manhattan! He completed the swim pain-free and felt fully recovered the next day. That's despite only training about five hours or 15,000 yards per week, a fraction of the training others had done.
After his Manhattan swim and a decade of vessel-shaping, Terry began to focus on propulsion skills. Four years later, at age 55, Terry's transformation as a swimmer culminated in a 4-month stretch of accomplishments that would have seemed wildly improbable 35 years earlier.
In May 2006, at the U.S. Masters Nationals, he recorded pool times faster than he'd seen in 13 years. During the open water season, between June and August, he completed his second Manhattan Island Marathon, much faster than before (and in 25,000 strokes). He won four National Masters Open Water championships, from 1 mile to 10km. He broke national records for the 1 and 2 Mile Cable Swims. He also placed 8th in the World Masters Open Water Championship.
At 64, Terry is ever more focused on swimming for health and happiness, though he still enjoys competition, particularly in open water events. Some of his open water swimming is for adventure. In October 2013, Terry and two TI compadres swam Gibraltar Strait. In October 2015, the threesome swam from Corsica to Sardegna. One thing is unchanged: Terry still begins every swim (even long swims like the 18km Gibraltar crossing) with an explicit intention to improve his swimming, believing fully that he can be a better swimmer at the end of practice than at the beginning.