Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion, dies at 66

IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

Total Immersion was the second method I followed when, as an adult onset swimmer, I tried to improve my stroke. (First was Emmett Hines with his Fitness Swimming book. Latest, and most loved, is most of the Swim Smooth system.)

While I no longer followed TI, I did read Mr. Laughlin's articles when they appeared in H2Open Water (now Outdoor Swimmer) magazine. He was on my FB and Twitter feeds. He sounded like a wonderful man, father, husband...

Requiescat in pace, sir.

Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!



  • While I didn't always agree with him, he was the THE method for so many "adult onset" swimmers. Way too young. #cancersucks


    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach

  • I always found his advice interesting and well-thought out, and some of it helped me greatly. I also had some good fun with him about ten years ago when I wrote a fictional piece including him and some others in the OWS community, and poked some fun at his serious advice. He was good natured about it, and I think his passing is a loss to our community. Rest in peace, Terry.

  • SuperfishSuperfish St. John US Virgin IslandsMember

    I met Terry and the TI crew on the many camps in St. John. I enjoyed his company, his conversations and the swims we did together. Many many many people found a way to move in the water through his programs. He will be missed.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin

    Considering the sheer volume of humans TI has introduced to swimming, and promoted confidence in the water, Terry should probably be considered right up there with the most important coaches in the history of swimming.

    It sucks that he passed so young, and I feel bad we never met in person, and I suspect I'd have enjoyed his company.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    edited October 2017

    I met Terry some 20 years ago when we swam with the same masters club. We occupied adjacent lanes and were doing a set of 50's descend. We were about half way though, and I was quite pleased with myself for squeezing out a second on each repeat ; then Terry threw down the challenge.... Can you finish the set without increasing your SPL?
    Wait.... what is SPL?

    No, I failed that challenge, but it was the first time I ever considered that other dimension. I found it odd that my lane mates would never consider adding this data point (SPL) to any portion of their workouts... EVER, when it is so obviously the perfect measure of effort/efficiency.

    Terry always sought new ways to quantify and communicate the relationship between effort and efficiency in terms accessible to the novice and expert alike. He did so with a contagious enthusiasm. He never dismissed an honest inquiry with a curt response and would spend hours each day returning emails.

    Terry was a swim buddy at the ready on short notice to knock out a few miles at one of our local watering holes. He made everyone present a better swimmer.... because you know he was watching!

    We have a lot of miles together.... Maui, Dover, St John, Eleuthera, Texas, Florida, California......

    It was difficult watching his energy level fade these past two years, but his optimism and enthusiasm never did.

    Missing him much already........

    evmoBridgetmalinakaKarenTIronMikeaafairmanMike_GemelliMaryStellaKatieBunKarl_Kingeryand 1 other.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    I started recommending Terry's books when I taught swimming at a community college-- and was delighted to meet him at the Betsy Owen's Memorial swim in Lake Placid, NY. He was a great sport. He also got in touch with me within the past two years when I tried to offer an adult swim clinic in our area-- happy to do anything to help, and even mentioned future collaboration of some sort. Very encouraging of both swimmers and coaches. Our area isn't loaded with swim enthusiasts, but we had each made efforts, and commiserated a bit. ;-) It was a brief crossing of email paths, but I had been feeling a bit isolated, and he was very kind to take a few minutes and send a note. He commented on my Facebook page having the starting chute from the Betsy, and I'm putting that up again now.

    I'm looking forward to "the Betsy" next year, and am so glad I went this past August. As he mentioned in his blog, he may not have been at his fastest, but he was feeling joy in the swim.

    For those of you who knew Terry far better than I, my most sincere condolences.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Mem​ber

    @david_barra and others who knew him, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, though I never met or interacted with him.

    Losing any friend is a blow, and losing a swimming friend is losing someone with whom we share experiences not always appreciated or understood by non-swimmers.

    I used to read and appreciate Terry's blog where I found someone with a sympathetic and similar thought process to myself on the contemplative side of open water swimming, whether you want to call that reflective, mental, emotional or spiritual. I think he would have enjoyed a visit to my caves and I would have told him to increase his stroke rate for the cold water!



  • I was luck enough to meet Terry at one the first 2 Bridges races in Poughkeepsie, NY. We chatted for a while after the race. I remember saying to him that I enjoyed open water swimming, and he replied that our community should refer to it as marathon swimming. That was the first time I had heard that term and I immediately embraced it.

  • I hope he knew how much he was appreciated. I hope his spouse and family are aware of the respect he was held in in the community. It's small comfort but it's comfort.
    If you have someone you appreciate or love.. TELL THEM TODAY.
    It does no good when they're gone.


    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member

    I had the fortune to meet Terry at Nick Adam's Camp Eton earlier this year. He told me I had a very relaxed stroke. I thought that meant I was a lazy swimmer and apologised. He then patiently took the time to explain to me that it was a good thing. He seemed a top bloke.

    For those who knew him better and called him friend I am very sorry for your loss.

  • scottscott East Sussex, UKMember

    Total immersion was my "mid-life crisis" route into swimming. Before it I couldn't swim more than a few lengths without being out of breath, last year I managed Lake Zurich. I met Terry at a workshop once and thanked him, he was as inspiring in real life as he was in his books and videos. Very sad news indeed.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    edited October 2017

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

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