Coast Aquatics is a year round competitive swimming team located on Florida's spectacular Emerald Coast with training sites in Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Niceville. Coast Aquatics is committed to offering area swimmers the opportunity to succeed in the sport of swimming at whatever level their talent, desire and dedication will allow. Coast Aquatics offers a comprehensive training environment allowing swimmers to develop their physical fitness, discipline, and drive in a fashion that will greatly enhance their lives both now and in the future.
Bluewater Bay Swim Team began as a summer Amateur Athletic Union team in 1986. Six years later, Head Coach Betty Ballasch transformed the team into a year-round USA swim team, known as the Bluewater Barracudas. That first winter, the team had just 25 swimmers.
Her son, Coach Tom Ballasch, joined the team in 1992 and worked with swimmers until 2004. Pam Braseth joined the team as an assistant coach in 2003 and took over the coordination of the team when Betty moved to England. In 2004, the team consolidated its name to Bluewater Barracudas Swim Team, with practice sites at Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Bluewater Bay.
During its rich history, the Bluewater Barracudas produced a number of swimmers who achieved Top 5 times in the Southeastern Swimming LSC and brought home countless honors, both locally and regionally.
In 1975, a small swim team began to practice at the Playground Area YMCA on Mayflower Avenue, in what is now a Buddhist temple. When the YMCA built the new facility on Hospital Drive, the team followed. Under a succession of head coaches, the PLAY swim team continued to grow. In 2005, the team’s board of directors voted to change the team’s name to Emerald Coast Swimming, to include other YMCA pools and teams.
Head coaches including Maxine Byers, Pam Braseth and Len Strom all left their mark on the team. The team hosted 36thconsecutive Sandollar meets in May of each year and dedicated its meet the last weekend in January to two former Booster Club Presidents who died too young: Rick Byers and Allan Wankowski.
The team, whose ranks at one time were as 20, grew to become a force at the semi-annual Southeastern Championship meet and to claim its share of honors and recognition.
Over the 30-plus years that this area boasted two major swim teams, it was inevitable that a merging of the two was considered. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2011, when the teams agreed to combine their senior groups for a rigorous summer practice schedule that the idea began to take serious shape.
By the fall, members of both booster clubs were meeting regularly to brainstorm the possibility and find ways to merge the two distinct entities. There were obstacles in merging teams with fundamentally different operating models. ECS had always been based at the Y, with swim fees going to the Y and coaches volunteering their time. Bluewater Barracudas had always hired their coaches and held practices across the Emerald Coast. But a core group of board members and parents worked together to find solutions.
On January 1, 2012, COAST Aquatics was formally born after both booster clubs voted to merge the teams. The team, which started with more than 150 swimmers and a dozen coaches, was under the leadership of Head Coach Brad Kale and supported by a combined board of directors.
In January 2012, COAST hosted its first home meet, dedicating it to the two men who had been a part of PLAY’s history. In its first six months as a team, COAST successfully hosted three home meets, with parents, swimmers and coaches working together to make each a success.
COAST practices in four pools, with training groups ranging from novice to senior, and the team continues to grow. COAST is also a non profit, 501(C)(3) organization.