Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Swimming Sensation: Former Olympian Adolph Kiefer Has Revolutionized the Aquatics Field-One Fin at a Time

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Swimming Sensation: Former Olympian Adolph Kiefer Has Revolutionized the Aquatics Field-One Fin at a Time

Article excerpt

If you are in the aquatics field, you probably work with equipment invented by Adolph Kiefer. The former Olympian and world record holder in the 100-meter backstroke has spent his life inventing water safety products and equipment. He might be known best for his 1967 non-turbulent racing lane invention, which calms quakes in water, thereby allowing a swimmer to glide through faster.

But the man who would be king of the aquatics world owes his ideas to the U.S. Navy. After Kiefer graduated from the University of Texas, he joined the Navy and subsequently led a nationwide change in naval swimming instruction. "Here we have the Navy with non-swimmers and that didn't make sense to me at all," Kiefer says.

Once Kiefer learned that in the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, more sailors died of drowning than bullet wounds, he went to Washington, D.C., and convinced an admiral with the U.S. Naval Operations that a change in swimming instruction was needed to prevent further drowning. He was 23.

"I was very unhappy with the course," Kiefer says. "It was incomplete, it didn't have anything about how-to-rescue activities; it didn't have ... many, many things."

In addition to writing four instruction manuals for the Navy, he also updated the lifejackets they wore from the Kapok tree ("burned better than paper") to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foam. But the significant contributions Kiefer made to the Navy cannot overshadow his commitment to water safety for civilians. By the time he was 27, Kiefer started Kiefer & Associates, an aquatics supply company that has been the distributor of hundreds of safety products.

In 1948, he developed the first nylon racing suit, which was a huge upgrade from the cotton suits he used to wear as a competitive swimmer. Speedo later manufactured the suit making it pervasive in all athletic attire. …

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