Joani Maskell

Board Member | Marketing Committee

2016 Small Business Leader of the Year

The story of Joani and the beginning of Swimming Safari started when I was just a toddler myself. We had a pool in our backyard and my mother would give us a “badge,” every time we had successfully completed a challenge in the pool: swimming the length of the pool – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, or butterfly, standing on an inner tube, treading water, diving into the pool, and doing somersaults & handstands under the water! My friends and I spent hours in the pool and our bathing suits were covered up with badges! It was so much fun! As I got older (11 years), other mothers of young children in the neighborhood, started requesting me to teach their children in this fun way.

Each summer from then on, I taught swimming for my summer job. My reputation broadened and everyone knew “Joani,” was the one to go to for the best swimming lessons in this little town on Long Island, N.Y. After graduating with a degree in Elementary Education from Hofstra University, in N.Y. I went off to earn a Masters Degree in Special Education, at the University of Florida, where I placed an ad in the paper and received many requests to teach swim lessons.

After graduation, I hung up my water wings and went to work teaching children in schools rather than in the water. Many years later after a career of teaching, and one with Delta Airlines, I married and had children of my own. Once again, I found I had to take Life Guard Certification to be able to take my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop to the beach. It all came flowing back to me, how much I loved the water!

“The best job I had ever had was teaching swimming.” I applied for a job with the JCA. They hired me to work at their summer camp, teaching swimming. Of course, I loved it! Soon, I was running the summer swim camp program as well as teaching group and private lessons for hours in a day. Eventually, I went out on my own, because so many parents wanted me to come to their neighborhood.

I started teaching in my pool as well as other people’s pools. When my children became teenagers, I trained them and a few of their friends to help reach more children. Since, it was not just “me,” teaching any longer, I changed the name to “Swimming Safari Swim School, Thus shaping SSSS into a professional swim school” I had an idea to bring quality swim lessons throughout the city, encouraging all to stay safe, so I sought out pools we could teach swimming in the Northside, the Beaches, Orange Park, Southside, Arlington & Downtown, Mandarin & even St. Augustine.

The idea for the indoor pool became evident between thunder & lightning storms to cool weather from fall to the spring. So I found a Scuba Diving Shop with a small, deep pool and developed a bustling business! After a year and a half, and outgrowing the small pool, and an increase in rent, I started looking for a new location. After looking feverishly, we found our present location and started building in 2013. The pool and building were completed in April of 2014. We preregistered and the day we opened on April 15th, 2014, we already had 675 students enrolled!

Presently, after a year and a half of great success in our new facility, we continue to strive for excellence. It’s really not just me anymore; it’s a whole team I have developed. We are constantly adding and improving, working together to be able to bring the very best swim experience to all who enter our doors!