Getting In The Swim At Momilani

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - May 03, 2006
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Lori and Ben Komer are expanding their Leahi Swim School
Lori and Ben Komer are expanding their Leahi Swim

Swim float, kick and play in the water - that’s what the mother-and-son team of Lori and Ben Komer will continue to teach at the second branch of their 32-year-old Leahi Swim School, opening at the Pearl City Foundation’s Momilani Community Center on June 5.

The new facility has a large pool which can accommodate swim students ages 6 months to 3 years accompanied by their parents. The beginner classes accept children age 3 to the teen years. There are also swim classes for adults, as the Komers estimate about half of the parents are non- or poor swimmers. Ben notes that about 40 percent of people in Hawaii don’t know how to swim.

A Punahou ‘98 graduate and vice president of Leahi, Ben says future plans for the Momilani Community Center pool include hosting birthday parties.

“Ben is an amazing teacher,” his mom, Lori, says as she keeps an eagle eye on the young swim students, the parents and the teachers.

The school has been at the St. Francis School location for many years, where there are two heated pools. The depth of the shallow teaching pool is from 1 to 4 feet deep. The larger pool is for advanced students.

The school’s philosophy is to have two teachers for five students for beginners. Classes can be taken once, twice, or three times a week with their staff of 22 to 60 teachers (depending on the season). One way the school recruits new hires is to ask for recommendations from Leahi Swim School instructors.

“Nothing replaces hands-on training in the pool,” says Lori. “Even if they’re experienced swim teachers, we still have them train our way, even though we also have training videos and a manual.”

Ben stresses that teachers should be outgoing, energetic and enjoy being with the kids.

“Each child is that parent’s pride and joy, so you could be goofy and have fun and be teaching valuable lessons all at the same time,” he explains.

The staff is close-knit, and they bowl, hike, barbecue, and play glow-in-the-dark golf together, notes Lori. Administrator Jeanne Robinson enjoys the pleasant environment, and everyone is quick to pay attention to any questions the keiki may have.

Lori, a La Pietra grad, says while growing up in Kailua she was in the water so much she mostly wore her swimsuit. It was during her undergraduate studies at Stockton College in California that she took a course on lifesaving and a second course on water safety. It pushed her swimming career to a new level. She completed her degree in sociology at the University of Hawaii and opened Leahi Swim School.

When Ben went to Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., where he majored in psychology and the arts, he became a member of the Pomona-Pitzer swim team. He earned the Southern California Intercollegiate Male Swimmer of the Year award, and he placed three years in a row for the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. An avid surfer, spearfisher and paddler for the Outrigger Canoe Club, Ben had also trained for the 2004 Olympics.

“I didn’t want a job where I’d be at a computer, indoors, and working for someone else,” he adds. “And when my mom mentioned she was thinking of selling the business, I said, ‘You can’t do that. It’s too much of an institution in Hawaii.‘So I decided to take it on, and I love it here. I’m outside. I wear a shirt, shorts, slippers and a hat.”

Leahi Swim School at St. Francis School pool and at Momilani Community Center. For more information, call 735-1666 or log onto

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