Kiefer Background

History of Innovation

In 2012 Kiefer celebrated 65 years of "All Things Swimming". Below we would like to share some of our greatest contributions to the sport. We hope you enjoy these short stories highlighting Kiefer's accomplishments.

Saving Lives Made Easier (and softer)

Before the late 1950s, Rescue Cans were considered standard lifeguard safety gear.

These hard-surfaced floating rescue buoys, called rescue cans were used by lifeguards to help swimmers in distress. The cans were difficult to maneuver, and their hard surfaces had the potential of injuring both the swimmer and the guard.

Adolph Kiefer investigated ways to create a softer life saving device that would be easier to manipulate for guards, and more effective in helping struggling swimmers stay afloat. After testing a variety of materials, shapes and sizes, Adolph created a new lifesaving device made from a soft, buoyant, coated PVC foam. The Kiefer Rescue Tube is now the recognized safety standard around the world. Kiefer Tubes come in sizes and styles to suit any pool and guard training protocol.

Our company's passion for swimming has always carried with it Adolph Kiefer's intense focus helping lifeguards succeed at their most important duty: saving lives.

Adolph Kiefer - The Human Life Preserver

Adolph Kiefer was a 23-year-old Olympic Gold Medalist, world-record holder, and pioneering swimmer when he joined the Navy in 1942. After being assigned to the Physical Fitness/Swimming Division as a Chief Athletics Specialist, he discovered a shocking statistic: the Navy was losing more lives to drowning in the early stages of World War II than to bullets or bombs.

Adolph knew instantly that many of his fellow sailors' lives could be saved with better training. He convinced his superiors to allow him to overhaul the swimming and survival program, and designed and implemented training for two million recruits that included basic water survival skills, abandon ship techniques and even how to swim through burning oil.

The program gave sailors the skills they needed to survive, and ended up saving countless lives. "The biggest thrill of my life was having people tell me that I saved their lives by teaching them the 'victory' backstroke," Adolph has noted.

Innovation and a focus on swimming safety have been hallmarks of Adolph Kiefer and Associates since Adolph founded the company in 1946. From creating the first floating kickboard to inventing the PVC Rescue Tube now used by lifeguards all over the word, Kiefer and Associates has a passion for keeping swimmers safe.

Reinventing The Way We Swim

From what swimmers wear in the pool, to the equipment used in and around the pool, Kiefer and Associates has been associated with the "leading edge" of swimming since Adolph Kiefer founded the company 65 years ago. But Adolph, Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion backstroker, has also been a consistent innovator of what we do in the pool, too.

After observing freestyle swimmers performing a powerful flip turn during races, Adolph thought to himself, "If they can do it on their stomach, I can do it on my back." Throughout 1935 and 1936, Adolph worked tirelessly to refine and perfect his innovative backstroke flip turn. Adolph threw one arm across to the opposite shoulder and over his head, bringing his knees up to his chest, spinning with his opposite hand, putting two feet firmly against the wall, and finally taking a hard kick and a long pull to propel himself through the water.

Amazingly, 75 years later, the backstroke flip turn Adolph invented is still commonly used. And Kiefer and Associates continues to be a leader in "all things swimming."

Kickstarting Generations of Swimmers

During his time as a Chief Athletics Specialist in the Navy's Physical Fitness/Swimming Division during World War II, Adolph Kiefer was in search of a device to help new recruits improve the power of their kick during training, an essential ingredient in wartime water survival. Kiefer and his cohorts invented a flat piece of buoyant plastic and fiberglass and dubbed it the "kickboard."

When Adolph started Kiefer and Associates in 1946, he created the first commercial line of kickboards, yet another Kiefer innovation that changed the way we swim. Kiefer kickboards continue to be used around the world for instructional and therapeutic purposes, and many of us can recall our first swimming lessons, Kiefer kickboard in hand.

Vision to Create Superior Swim Solutions

Most swimmers are too young to remember the days before swim goggles included a soft gasket that hugs the face and keeps irritants like chlorine or salt water out of the eyes. But it was only in the mid-1950s, after Adolph Kiefer invented the modern, soft-gasket swim goggle, that swimmers all over the world could swim with vision - and without irritation.

Adolph has been an innovator in swimming equipment since he founded Kiefer and Associates in 1946. His many inventions, like the soft-gasket swim goggle, have changed the world of swimming and made it a more accessible and safer sport for millions of swimmers.

Kiefer and Associates continues to be a worldwide leader in swimming equipment innovation. And our Kiefer goggles continue to be the goggle of choice for swimmers young and old. It's a vision that drives our company and makes us a trusted partner to swimming organizations all across the globe.

The Origin of Swimsuit Innovation

Today's high-tech racing swimsuits trace their origins all the way back to Adolph Kiefer's development of the first nylon swimsuit in 1948. Adolph had won his Olympic Gold Medal in 1936 wearing a silk suit that was standard for racers at the time. A silk shortage some years later led suit makers to switch to polyester which proved to be heavy, stiff and uncomfortable.

Always the innovator, Adolph met with a Chicago garment company that made nylon girdles, looking to craft a swimsuit that was lightweight and flexible. By 1948, Kiefer and Associates was selling the first nylon swimsuits, even customizing colors for college swim teams. Nylon remains the most popular material for swimwear, and is used by Kiefer and every leading swimsuit manufacturer throughout the world.

Kiefer swimsuits are the preferred - and affordable - racing wear for youth, high school and college swim teams across the country.

Kiefer Waves Goodbye to Waves

Waves are a naturally occurring force that pose a challenge for all swimmers. In 1946, Adolph Kiefer's Olympic swim coach, knowing Adolph's penchant for invention and innovation, asked him to come up with a way to quell the waves in the Yale pool so his swimmers could move through the water faster and easier. Some weeks later, Adolph noticed a candle on a restaurant table with a plastic cylindrical covering crosshatched with countless diamond-shaped holes. The flame of the candle was calm and steady, leading Adolph to believe that a plastic sieve-like device could have a similar calming effect on wave turbulence.

After careful modifications and experimentation, Kiefer introduced the world's first turbulence-dampening racing lane in the late 1950s. This revolutionary invention has completely changed the way we swim in pools.

We continue to innovate on Adolph's initial idea, and today, Kiefer's patented Wave Eater and Advantage racing lanes are used in premier swimming venues and events all around the world, including the Olympic Games, Olympic Trials, and the World Swimming Championships.