In 1974, Hawaii-born Lori Komer started a swim school at the foot of Diamond Head (Leahi).
Fast forward 50 years and Komer has created a legacy. Leahi Swim School is Hawaii’s premier private swim school and has taught thousands of people, from keiki to kupuna, how to swim. The business continues in the Komer name with Lori’s son, Ben, as the company’s president.
It all started when Lori returned home from college on the Mainland and decided to pursue her passion of teaching people how to swim.
With her husband, Jaymark, as her business partner, Lori asked the headmaster of her alma mater, La Pietra – Hawaii School for Girls, if she could use their pool to start her business. The headmaster agreed, and the rest is history.
Lori Komer teaching at Leahi Swim School's original location at the La Pietra - Hawaii School for Girls in the 1970s.
Lori started teaching swimming on the La Pietra campus at the Old Dillingham Pool. It was a small, above ground pool that was five feet deep. As the sole employee of Leahi Swim School, Lori had 28 students during her first summer in business. Today, each of Leahi's locations in Pearl City and Manoa see as many students in just one half-hour session.
Lori says that everything about her swim school journey has been special.
“As we celebrate 50 years, I’m filled with gratitude and appreciation for this community that we’ve built. We’re able to teach people such an important skill in a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment. It’s been such a joy to work with each and every one of our students and see our swim teachers find fulfillment and growth in their roles,” Lori says.
Lori Komer teaching summer swim lessons in the 1970s.
Ben was born after the school started and grew up at Leahi. He started teaching swimming at age 14 and worked his way up from a teacher to head instructor. He’s served as the company’s president since 2012.
“My entire life has been in and around the water here in Hawaii,” Ben says. “It’s been such a great experience to watch my mom lead an incredible organization and to work here all these years and continue to be part of this legacy.”
Ben Komer (left) with mom Lori Komer at Leahi's flagship location in Pearl City.
Over the last five decades, Lori and Ben have seen students become teachers, and teachers become managers. Jenna Kagimoto is one of those cherished Leahi team members. She grew up at the swim school taking lessons, became a teacher, worked her way through management, and is now one of the company’s vice presidents.
“Ultimately, love is the reason why Leahi is still around after 50 years,” Kagimoto says.
Lori added, “After 50 years, I’m most proud of Ben and my swim teachers, especially those who have turned into leaders of our company and are running the school while always caring about how things turn out and being there for everybody.”
“It’s incredible,” says Jaymark. “Wherever you go, everyone you meet has a Leahi Swim School story or experience. And it’s very special. To me, that makes everything worthwhile.”
Leahi Swim School
(808) 234-SWIM (7946)
Photos courtesy Leahi Swim School.