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Hank Wise

Title:  Founder and Director of Swim Focus and SWIM Long BeachHead Coach of Rocket Fish Swim SchoolCo-Head Coach of SWIM Long Beach Masters

How I got into swimming: My youth was spent in and out of the water in Laguna Beach. My folks bought and fixed up a ramshackle trailer on El Moro Cove beach when I was seven years old. These were halcyon days of swimming and skin diving, body surfing and boogie boarding – spent with a small gaggle of groms - all beach kids, just running around and experiencing the ocean and surf, beach and rocks, just real natural and beautiful, learning about and loving the beach and ocean. 

During the school year on weekdays, we'd do the school/work thing up here in Long Beach, and on the weekends and all summer we'd hit the pristine, squeaky clean sands of El Moro. Prior to El Moro, from age 6 months to age 6 my family took me to the calm waters of Alamitos Bay in Long Beach - playing on paddle boards and running in and out of the water.  

In 7th Grade, I began playing water polo with Beach Swim Club at CSULB. It was my first introduction to organized sports and it was pretty fun. At the end of my first season our coach recommended that we swim in the off-season to stay in shape. I tried swimming and liked it a lot, even better than water polo. I liked the simplicity and straightforwardness of moving fast through the water. I continued to play water polo each season through 11th grade but I really thrived and felt most natural with swimming, learning the strokes, and challenging myself to go faster.

High SchoolWoodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach, class of 1986. Klaus Barth was our high school swim coach and Bob Gruniesen was our water polo coach. At the time, the legendary Klaus was at his peak of triathalon greatness and was a big inspiration to all of us.  He had many stories and a great sense of humor. In humorous ways he taught us about being determined to come to practice and try our hardest in spite of needing sleep, doing homework, and other high school distractions. Our Wilson Varsity swim class of '86 was a class of dedicated student-athletes. I also team captained my junior and senior years, set school records and won many races, including a team win at CIF relays, held at Belmont Plaza, and a personal CIF win in the 200 yard IM at East Los Angeles College. After graduating Wilson, four of us on our team went to Stanford and pursued aquatics. Three of my buddies played water polo and I swam. 

Klaus gave me plenty of room to continue swimming for my club team, Beach. Klaus, who also coached at BEACH, understood the balancing act of participating with high school swimming and then really getting the work done with club swimming. During these years I was coached by Everett Uchiyama, Jim Brumm, Dave Salo, Tim Shaw, Jon Urbanachek, and others. Each coach offered a little different perspective on personal and aquatic greatness and I still remember their lessons. Two of my teammates from junior high and high school days are still my teammates now: Matty Mitchell and Katie Rowe. It’s pretty cool to still be swimming and working with these two today!

During school and swimming, my surfing, skin diving and beach time was still part of my lifestyle but became more rare than in my youth and as such, more cherished and appreciated. 

CollegeAfter being a big fish in a medium-sized pond at Wilson, Stanford was all about swimming with the really BIG fish. During my freshman year, 1986-87, our team won NCAA's with the likes of Pablo Morales (USA Olympian and world record holder 100 Fly), Jeff Kostoff (USA Olympian and American Record Holder in the mile), Anthony Mosse (New Zealand Olympian - 200 Fly), and Sean Murphy (Canadian Olympian-200 back).  This was an unbelievable experience based around living the most hard-core student-athlete lifestyle imaginable. Our swim team was really unified and all the older, fast guys were very approachable and friendly. I swam in the 1988 Olympic Trials and although I wasn't even close to making the USA Olympic team it was great to watch and support my Stanford teammates make the team or experience their near misses and heartbreaks. I learned so much from watching them swim and listening to them out of the water. Each year we would swim (and win) Pac-10's at Belmont Plaza and it was fun to have all my Stanford teammates come check out my hometown and meet my family and friends.

As for the academic challenge, I was attending super-interesting classes with awesome teachers, the best in their fields. For example, Condoleeza Rice, soon to be selected as Secretary of State for the Bush Administration, was a highly captivating Political Science teacher. I had brilliant classmates from all parts of our country and the world, all set in a utopian, setting with buildings dating back to the 1890s. 

I swam three out of my four years at Stanford and enjoyed my senior year without the burden and joy of the hard-core swim lifestyle. I surfed in Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and San Francisco much more that year and I'm grateful that I had that year to experience the life of a "normal" college student.  

In June of 1990, I graduated Stanford with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. In May of 2006, I graduated with a Masters Degree of Recreation and Leisure Studies from California State University Long Beach.

Current swim jobs/activities: I organize, direct and am Head Coach of the Rocket Fish Swim School for ages five through 5th grade. I do the same for our master's swim program, Swim Long Beach. Prior to Rocket Fish and Swim Long Beach, I was the youth activities director and Head Swim Coach for the Long Beach Yacht Club for fourteen years.

Awards: At Wilson, I was awarded the Greg Winchell Spirit Award given to the most inspirational team member. Greg Winchell was a legendary swimmer who attended Wilson in the 70's and held the national boys high school record in the 100 yard breaststroke. He died in a motorcycle crash during his senior year. He still holds the Wilson record in the 100 yard breaststroke.

Ocean Swimming Competitions: Annually in June, Huntington Beach hosts an open water swim race around the pier. In 1986, I set the record for the fastest person around the Huntington Beach Pier. This swim record (8 minutes and 46 seconds) has held intact for 21 years. By swimming fast around the pier and then catching waves to the beach, our Masters team has achieved many individual wins in the various age and gender groupings. As a result, our team has won the team championship, (the Gene Belshe Memorial Award) at this swim over a dozen times.

In October of 2010, I solo swam the Catalina Channel (from Catalina to the Palos Verdes) in 8 hours and 7 minutes and became the 5th fastest person at that time to ever swim the Catalina Channel. Support boat owner and Captain Greg Wise and First Mate Fred Wise (my brothers), and a solid team of paddlers, Jon Jon McMullen, Matty Mitchell and Cliff Kjoss, helped me find my way to the mainland. My wife Kristin, who was pregnant at the time, was also on board and assisting with my feedings. Open-water swim journalist and mentor Steve Munatones was also on board and recording the night.

In October 2011, members of our master's team entered the Catalina Channel Swim as a relay.  We swam from Palos Verdes to Catalina in a fastest-ever recorded relay time of 6 hours and 53 minutes. The six swimmers on our team were myself, Matty Mitchell, Lyle Nalli, Parks Wesson, Ted Bramble and Lexi Kelly with Sammy Sears as our back-up swimmer.  We started in windy conditions from Palos Verdes around 9 PM and progressively the ocean calmed down and arrived in Catalina around 4 a.m. Our paddlers were the brothers, Matt and Ben Landis. My brother, Greg, again supported us with his vessel and what a straight line he drew!

Certifications: United States Masters Swimming Recognized CoachAmerican Swim Coaches of America – Level 2, CPR, First-Aid, Lifeguard Certified

TravelI've been through the South Pacific Islands and Down Under (New Zealand and Australia), Mexico, Central & South America on self-designed surf travels during my post Stanford Days.  I’ve also hit bits of Europe and many spots in the USA.  I still enjoy time swimming and surfing with the whales in Baja California Sur on their annual migration.   

Skills bringing to the program:  My career has been based around sharing my love for the water.  Its from this place of passion and multitudes of experience in a few realms of aquatics that I mentor, teach and coach people of all ages.

Personal philosophies or thoughts about swimming/aquaticsI believe that underlying most happy people there is a harmonious balance of factors:

1. School:  They are continually learning, bettering themselves and their careers through expanding their knowledge base;

2. Sports:  They get enough exercise and fitness on a weekly basis; 

3. Self:  They take care themselves by eating right, getting enough rest, and personal maintenance; 

4. Social:  They cultivate a strong support network - a group of friends, teammates and family with whom they interact in healthy relationships; 

5. Spirit:  Their thoughts, words, and actions are coming from a positive place - a healthy, helpful and vibrant, can-do attitude with a generous heart filled with loving kindness towards all. 

This is what I call the 5 Ss of Balanced Excellence. These categories serve character development for our swimmers. There are five points in a traditional drawing of a star. In order to be an "All-Star,” we mentor our swimmers to strive towards balance and excellence in these five categories. We mentor and teach this more explicitly with our youth, explaining and teaching with words, drawings and examples. With our master's swimmers, our coaches model this philosophy providing inspiration and direction.

With swimming, I believe that age, speed, and prowess are not what’s important. It is that kids and adults come to the pool, the bay or the ocean to get better at swimming and get stronger and fitter in mind, body, and spirit. Our youth and adult swim programs are designed to help everybody get better at swimming in a safe-fun, productive, friendly, supportive, team-oriented environment. We find that our process of pursuing personal betterment in swimming leads to living a happier, healthier lifestyle.  

Family:  I am from a close family with two older brothers and one older sister. I am thirteen years younger than the brother closest to my age. My dad Fred Wise, was a World War II bomber pilot who flew 59 missions in B-26 Marauders in the European Theatre between 1942 and 1944.  After returning from war, Fred finished college and worked a couple of jobs before settling into building a mid-sized, customer-service-oriented, wholesale paper company based in Garden Grove, named KWW paper company. My mom, Dorothy Wise, native born Long Beach, was a career volunteer for the American Red Cross, Junior League of Long Beach, and other causes.  She received the Rick Racker Woman-of-the-Year award in 1976. My parents and their six sisters as well as my siblings are all alumni of Wilson High School. I married a scholar-athlete-artist named Kristin Moro in February of 2007. She creates paintings and teaches art classes to kids and adults (check out her work at Our son, Fox, was born in 2011 and he’s so much fun, a great joy in our lives.


Natalie Schutt

High School: Wilson Classical High School

College: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

How you got into Swimming: Hank Wise dropped me in the pool at 8 years old and told me to swim across the pool short length with the rest of the team: head down, big arms. He looked at my dad and said "don't worry, she'll catch on soon!" Hank opened up a whole entire world for me at 8 years old: I've been a water girl ever since.

Current Aquatic Activities: Surfing, Swimming, Run-Swim-Runs, SUPing, Sailing, Coaching

Awards/Accomplishments: Valedictorian 2010, California State Champion Girl's Longboard Team 2010, Wilson MVP Longboarder 2010, Wilson MVP Shortboarder 2010, Outstanding Scholar-Swimmer 2010.

Certifications: Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate Associate: BRE#: 01959021, Cal Poly SLO Alumni: BA in Communication Studies, BA in Photography, Chi Omega Fraternity Alumni

When not swimming: Shooting photography: Family, Holiday Card, Portrait, Graduation, Maternity, Engagement, and Just Because Sessions! I am also a big painter. Love painting people and nature! Check out for photography/painting inquiries. I enjoy surfing, snorkeling, running, hanging with kids, babysitting.

Personal philosophies about swimming/aquatics: When we live so close to the ocean, or any big body of water, we can benefit so much from understanding, practicing, and respecting the nature of swimming & other aquatic activities. Developing a love for the ocean & the pool at a young age allows for a true appreciation for sports, competition, discipline, and what this Earth has to offer us. The Aloha Spirit is infused naturally, and our perspective widens. Becoming familiar with the water not only makes us a more refined & established athlete, but a more self-aware, benevolent contributor to our community. 


Matthew H Mitchell


High School: LB Wilson

College: UCLA

How you got into swimming: I learned to swim in the little outdoor pool at Belmont Plaza. My mom took us to swim regularly in the bay at "Mothers Beach.” My parents put me in the YMCA Grey Y sports program and I played football, basketball, wrestling etc. The YMCA had an open meet for their swim team and other programs. I won 4 of the 5 events in that meet so my parents thought, "maybe we should put him on a team?” I joined Beach Swim Club when I was nine years old and still swim regularly today. 

 Current aquatic activities: Swimming, Surfing, Paddling, Water Polo, Coaching Water Polo and Swimming. 

Awards/Accomplishments: National Record Holder 1981(Relay), So Cal Swim Age Group Record Holder 1985, Current Wilson HS Record Holder Butterfly, All American, Current UCLA Record Holder Butterfly, Masters Swimming National Champion, Lifeguard National Champion Rescue Race (1990,1993), Catalina Record Holder (Relay Fastest Ever Crossing) 

Certifications: USA Swimming Certified Coach, Emergency Medical Tech, CPR

When not swimming: I'm a Dad, Coach, part-time Artist, Sports Announcer and am currently developing a swim brand. 

Personal philosophies or thoughts about swimming/aquatics: Swimming makes me feel good and balanced!

Why you like working with kids:  I like to get goofy and weird with the kids and have fun while teaching them useful skills and life lessons. 


Adrian Straight


High School: Long Beach Wilson High

College: UC Santa Barbara, Bachelor of Science in Hydrology 

How you got into swimming: When I was 7 years old Hank taught me how to swim and I have never looked back.

Current aquatic activities: Swimming, Open Ocean Paddling, Surfing, Kitesurfing, and Body Whomping  

Awards/Accomplishments: Captain of the UCSB Kite-surfing Team

Travel/Competitions: In the last 10 years I have competed in competitive surfing, body surfing and kite-surfing

When not swimming...: Surfing, Kitesurfing, Biking and most importantly, Gardening! 

Personal philosophies or thoughts about swimming/aquatics: Being water and ocean safe is something that is necessary for everybody. Seventy percent of our earth is covered by water, might as well be able to explore it safely and with confidence. 

Why you like working with kids: I enjoy working with kids because of all there fresh energy that they bring to the pool.  Seeing their stoke on just getting in the water and dunking their heads gets me all stoked out. My inner child always seems a little larger after coaching.


Canon Smith

High School: Long Beach Wilson

College: San Diego State University

How you got into swimming: Growing up near the water in Long Beach, CA

Current aquatic activities: Surfing, Paddling, some sailing and trying to improve my fishing skills HA!

Awards/Accomplishments:  Some Surf, Paddle and Academic.. Gotta keep working hard! 

Certifications: CPR and First Aid 

Travel/Competitions: Mexico, Central America, Indonesia, Caribbean, Australia. High School/ College Surf Team, Lifeguard Competitions and Prone Paddling races

When not swimming: staying active, working, traveling, and hanging with family and friends. Eating at Super Mex!

Personal philosophies or thoughts about swimming/aquatics: Love it and it'll love u back!   Best place to be is in the water. 

Why you like working with kids: Good Positive Energy


Michael Garr

High School: Los Alamitos High

College: Cal State, Dominguez Hills

How you got into swimming: Triathlons

Current aquatic activities: Swimming/Triathlons

Awards/Accomplishments: Medals for top 3 finishes in Triathlon. Qualified for Age Group Nationals in 2014 for 1st and 2nd place finishes in 2013.

Certifications: CPR/First Aid

Travel/Competitions: All around the U.S., Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, England, Germany, South Africa. Local Sprint & Olympic Distance Triathlons. U.S.A Triathlon National Championships 2014.

When not swimming...: Outdoors, Guitar/Music, Cycling, Motorcycles, Running, Triathlon, Kickboxing.

Personal philosophies or thoughts about swimming/aquatics: I love anything aquatics related. I used to be the kid screaming and crying at swim lessons then I fell in love with swimming and being in the ocean.

Why you like working with kids: I enjoy working in such a positive environment. I find it difficult to leave a practice without a smile on my face.


Ben Landis

High School: Wilson Classical High School

College:  Golden West College

How you got into swimming: Parents started me young, they knew I was part marine mammal.

Current aquatic activities: Swim Coach, Gondolier, Swimming, Paddling, Surfing, Surf Skiing, Sailing, and the list goes on...

Awards/Accomplishments: American Red Cross Hometown Hero Award, 3rd place Island-to-Island Waterman Relay, 2012. 

Certifications: CPR and basic first aid, Emergency Medical Technician, Pursuing Captain’s License. 

Travel/Competitions: Lifeguard competitions, Regionals and Nationals

When not swimming...: Anything in the water, as well as Dirt biking, woodworking, sewing, and playing music.

Personal philosophies or thoughts about swimming/aquatics: Aquatics is not only a great way to exercise, but also a way to take yourself out of the whirlwind that seems to be everyday life. You can take a moment for yourself when your following that black line and just "decompress" and lose yourself in it briefly, like an out-of-body experience, then *boom* right back into the routine. 

Why you like working with kids: I like being able to teach kids ways to be comfortable with the water and how to feel natural in it, like my coaches had shown me as a young swimmer.