This article was originally published by The Recorder.
Bobby and Nicki Panfili opened SwimFun in November 2022 and in just a short amount of time they have begun to adapt the mindset surrounding swim safety.
Survival aquatics is the term coined by SwimFun to describe the type of approach they use when teaching infants and young children the life-saving techniques that could help save their lives when around water.
In almost about four months, SwimFun is already up to 170 members and that number only continues to climb, especially as the warmer weather and “swim season” is just around the corner.
Panfili attributes the rapid growth and interest to the fact that they have a unique model that not only includes the swim academy and survival aquatics, but also an array of STEM-related activities outside of the pool.
“We really did this to give something back to the community, because my wife and I just felt that there was something missing,” Bobby Panfili said. “A lot of people see this as a very unique swim school, but I set out from the beginning to reimagine the business and build my own brand. That is what I am passionate about.”
By involving gaming and STEM aspects to accompany the swimming, Panfili has been able to do just what he sought out to do by changing the way the world views swimming academies.
“I know that seems like kind of a quirky idea, but somebody just has to go and originally do it,” Panfili said. “The original idea was to build a state-of-the-art swim school with gaming aspects so that kids had something to do while they were waiting for their siblings to finish their swim lessons before and after.”
As they looked into gaming, they realized the potential was there to do something very different and continue to add to the revolutionary model they had already created on the swim side of things.
“We felt that there was a very unique way to socialize gaming without it just becoming a lot of screen time,” Panfili said. “We built a full-fledged gaming arena with over 20 TVs all with Xbox and Nintendo Switch consoles, as well as virtual reality rides. Taking something that would generally be construed as very introverted and making it more extroverted is something I’m very passionate about. It’s so great to see these kids come out of their shell.”
SwimFun’s mission is to end all child drownings through swimming education and doing so at an early age, especially with the amount of water the state of Florida has within its borders and surrounding it.
However, helping to make a safer world does not have to be at the expense of fun and that is the vibe the Panfili’s have been able to successfully create at SwimFun.
“There are so many layers pertaining to what we set out to do,” Panfili said. “From a swim school perspective, we’ve really tried to reimagine and regulate the idea of survival aquatics for infants and then give them a progression model where they can continue to hone their skills beyond just surviving in the water, instead of just having a six-week program and then being done.”
Babies can take part in a bridge program that takes them from survival aquatics to the swim academy instruction, which can be started as early as two years old and can go until they are 12 years old.
“We will be there for them every step of the way on their journey,” Panfili said.
The pool at SwimFun is indoors and heated so that it is always at 90 degrees which according to Panfili is a comfortable temperature for babies.
One of the great things that Panfili believes his model has is the ability to be replicated and is open to the possibility of franchising SwimFun not just throughout the area but even one day throughout the country.
He knew that was the way he could really create something that could be shared with the masses, and he considered that when he designed the concept, including making the pool above ground to save on cost and make it easier for franchise owners to get started.
“This is a model that has infinite possibilities,” Panfili said. “We’ve already had inquiries from South Korea, Australia, and states like California and New York. It is insane what we’ve been able to do and how we’ve taken everything to the next level.”