Petaluma mother Morgan Filler: From open-water swimmer to entrepreneur
World Cup ranked marathon swimmer Morgan Filler desired collaboration in her career ― something the competitive open waters lacked. This is just what she found, along with female connections, when starting her business, See Her Swim.
Coming up with the name was a joint effort, as were many other details in her business’ creation.
“That’s where it takes a step past swimming. Swimming is me and my performance, but this is engaging with other people, collaborating,” Filler said. “I want it to be global like my swimming, but it’s really community-based, grassroots-driven and just so much more personable,” she said.
Filler grew up in Maryland spending summers at the neighborhood pool. She was interested in several sports but decided to focus on one where she could excel. Swimming was an individual sport, which she liked.
She joined the year-round swim team in high school and eventually went to Colby College in Maine to continue her sport. She discovered a love for open-water swimming and broke records at Colby, taking her to nationals.
“It was great that I was a late bloomer, because a lot of people peak in high school or college, and I was still getting really excited and getting faster,” Filler said.
The global circuit winner most enjoys swimming in the ocean because of its unpredictable nature.
During a race near Atlantic City, New Jersey, Filler experienced the sense of excitement the ocean offers.
“There were these tiny jellyfish, like marble balls that went down my swimsuit. I didn’t have time to take them out or anything,” she said. “So I had to swim with these gelatinous blobs on my belly, and I’m like, ah, that’s so gross! But it kind of makes the adventure.”
Filler has raced all around the globe, yet has a connection to swimming in Manhattan.
“It holds the most special place because my family is from New York City,” she said.
In a race starting where the World Trade Towers once stood, Filler’s family came to cheer her on.
“That was the best because in most of my races I was traveling by myself,” Filler said. “When I was on the National team representing the U.S., I had to source everything, find my way.”
When competing, the swimmer had to find a coach and boat to feed her and navigate her through the water.
“It was neat because I would meet other international swimmers and we’d travel together, share hotel rooms, eat dinner, go on buses from race to race,” she said. “But I never had my friends or family, and so (the Manhattan race) was me combining my professional racing world with my family and on their home turf.”
Filler loves the separation from society that swimming brings, being out in the water removed, relying on yourself. For the athlete, part of swimming is human performance and another is the relaxing, beneficial nature of the lifestyle.
“If I can dedicate all my time to one thing, how good can I be? So there’s that performance,” she said. “But swimming outside of the pool, in natural bodies of water, I feel like that’s there therapeutic aspect of it.”
Filler has now found a way to share and connect with others in her line of work. In 2020, Filler officially began the formation of See Her Swim. Being a lifelong athlete, the swimmer has experienced the ups and downs of athletic clothing, including the lack of fashionable yet comfortable activewear.
“As my body was changing after having a kid, as a maturing woman, I could still wear a bikini and feel comfortable. But I don’t always want to wear one,” she said. “When swimming with my kids and boogie boarding in the ocean, I’m always adjusting.”
The inspiration for See Her Swim came from wanting to help women feel feminine and confident in their swimwear while also being comfortable.
“For the active woman, where you don’t have to worry about your suit,” Filler said. “You worry more about yourself in the water and enjoy playing with your kids, not whether the suit will hold up.”
After taking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College to learn about pattern design and how to sew, Filler decided she not only had to hand-make her suits, but she should be able to swim in them. The swimmer sourced fabric from Italy, was inspired by classic designs from the 1920s and ‘30s and accomplished her goal to make five suits for her business.
“They looked very handmade,” said Filler, who eventually found a professional pattern maker and learned brand marketing through a Facebook Live program she described as her “saving grace.”
See Her Swim is a collaborative company, utilizing the skills and ideas of Petaluma mothers.
“I’m trying to collaborate with all women and locals,” she said. “Working with other people makes it much more fun, much more community. I get inspired, I want to make this all fun. I’m not in any rush.”
Filler lives with her family in Petaluma where she balances swimming, coaching, raising two girls, being a domestic partner and running a business.
“It’s all about stealing moments,” she said. “There are so many different angles that I don’t know what’s next until all of a sudden I realize what is. And so those times of being a parent I look for clues of what needs to be next for See Her Swim.”
Filler coaches for her daughter’s swim team, Thunder Coast Aquatics in Novato, which will soon be at the Active Wellness Center and the Swim Center in Petaluma.
“It’s this great age. I love my daughters and their friends and they like swimming,” she said. “Giving them really great swimming skills and learning life skills through sport.”
Filler has organized a swim where the Thunder Coast team will be able to swim from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to Aquatic Park — all while wearing her suits.
“It’s like this fusion of my personal family,” she said. “My girls swimming, with my own love of swimming, with my suits.”
Emma Molloy is an intern for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.