Artistic swimmer Bill May, the golden boy of the Santa Clara Aquamaids, has returned home to live in Santa Clara as head coach of the swim club that honed him—usually the lone teenage guy training in the International Swim Center pool—for worldwide swimming renown.
May intends to build on the established success and evolution of the Santa Clara Aquamaids, which began in 1964, to put even more artistic swimmers on university, national and Olympic teams.
A new focus is to grow the Aquamaids male program in this historically female sport.
“The Aquamaids have had strong male athletes in the club, but never a large male program. We hope to change that very soon,” said May.
A winner of 14 U.S. national titles and nearly 20 international titles in competitive swimming, May is uniquely qualified to build the male program. In 2015, he made international history as one of the first men to break the gender barrier in synchronized swimming competition.
At the World Swimming Championships at Kazan, Russia, May, then 36, and retired Aquamaid Christina Jones won gold medals in the first world competition ever to allow a synchronized swimming performance partnering a man and a woman in a duet.
“Mixed duets are just the evolution of our sport, [called artistic swimming since 2017]. It was destined to have men in it,” said May. “We would also like strong male solos, male-male duets, and, of course, an equal male/female inclusion in all events.”
May, now retired from competitive swimming and 15 years performing with the aquatic fantasy show “O” by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, takes over on Feb. 28 as the fifth head coach of the Aquamaids.
“It was always my dream to return to the Aquamaids,” said May. “The pandemic, [which temporarily closed the Cirque du Soleil], became a blessing for my life and my future because it gave me the opportunity to become the head coach of the greatest club in the world.”
May follows in the wake of his long-time mentor Chris Carver, who has been the Aquamaids head coach for 37 years and will stay on as program director.
May began synchronized swimming in 1989 as a ten-year-old in Syracuse, NY. In 1995, he moved to Santa Clara to join the Aquamaids. He trained for nine years with Carver, who convinced a reluctant Board to allow the teenager to join the all-female club.
“She had a forward-thinking idea of where the sport would undoubtedly evolve to—with more men,” said May, a Santa Clara High School graduate.
“Chris has been with me in every aspect of my life, through the joys and heartaches of the sport as well as my personal life,” said May. “She guides me beyond my own perceived limits. She is my mentor, my friend, my inspiration, and above all, she is my synchro mother, giving me unconditional love for 27 years.”
May credits the Santa Clara community for being a huge part of the success of Aquamaids.
“We may travel the world, but our home is Santa Clara and that is where our heart is,” he said. “We could never thank the community enough for all of the support over the past six decades, and we look forward to continuing to grow our relationships within our community.”