IT has been a painful six months for Sawtell swimmer Geoff Eastwood, but he is hoping the worst is now behind him.
Eastwood was forced to go under the surgeon's knife in September after he dislocated his left knee for the third time earlier in the year.
The injury had kept the 16-year-old swimmer out of the pool since May, his largest break from the sport for three years.
"I was out of the water for a long time, which had a big affect on my swimming," he said.
"It was a pretty frustrating time, but hopefully now it is all behind me.
"I am still doing a bit of rehab to get strength back into the muscles.
"I should be fully recovered by January.
"My knee feels pretty good at the moment, but it still affects me in the jumps and turns."
Eastwood made his return to competitive swimming last month and the signs were there to suggest his old pace is not far away.
Geoff's coach and mother Leigh said he is progressing well, but it will take time before he reaches his peak.
"He has been doing the Mid North Coast championships and his times have been quite pleasing," Leigh said.
"He is close to his times from last year, but he still has a fair way to go.
"He is still limited by the things he can do, but he is getting there slowly but surely."
Before the lay-off, Eastwood was enjoying an outstanding time in the pool.
At the Australian Age, Australian School, NSW All Schools and NSWCHS championships, Eastwood bagged a massive haul of medals.
He also got a taste of competition at elite level, swimming at the Australian Olympic trials at Homebush.
Unfortunately, he performed below par at the trials due to another injury, this time to his shoulder.
"It was a good experience to be there with all the top swimmers," Eastwood said.
"But I didn't go too well because I injured my shoulder doing the Jetty swim."
Eastwood has also received one of the inaugural SwimStudy scholarships from Swimming Australia, an educational program designed to keep talented swimmers in the sport.
The school-based traineeship scholarships enable gifted swimmers to gain a certificate two in sport and recreation, a coaching certificate and a level one sports trainer qualification while completing years 11 and 12.
The students will also get experience from 500 hours paid employment during this time.