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  • Writer's pictureThe Swim Hacker

Tread Water - Steps to Staying Afloat

1 in 5 people in the UK can’t swim, but it is never too late to learn.

So, it’s no surprise to us that the most common questions we get asked are:


How do I swim in the sea on holiday or deep water?

What should I do if I can’t float?

These concerns relate to a lack of water confidence, so what can you do?


Treading water!

Treading water is an essential life skill, it’s the ability to float in one place whilst keeping your head above the water. It’s a useful skill for many swimming situations, especially deep water and it’s just as important as swimming from A to B. Although many people find treading water difficult, it’s all about technique and timing and can be learned in swimming lessons.


How to tread water?

Let’s go right back to basics and focus on the principles of swimming to build confidence first before we learn about the correct technique for treading water.


: Floating on your back.

“Did you just say floating on your back first?”

Yes, that’s right, floating on your back is the first step in learning to tread water. On your back you can completely focus on the correct head and body position whilst breathing comfortably. The transition from flotation aids to floating alone will build confidence in preparation for the next step.


: Floating on your stomach.

Can anybody float?

Many people can swim, but can’t float very well, this causes issues with stopping, changing direction, or going out of their depth, which are all vital skills for swimming on holiday or in open water. Without the ability to float, anxiety can creep in as the question looms, “What if i can’t put my feet down?”

Everyone can float but some people have a genetic disadvantage. Heavily muscled people tend to find it harder to float, it doesn’t mean they can’t float, it might just require an experienced teacher to help learn the skills.


: Sculling

The sculling arm action is as difficult or as easy as you want to make it. If you relax and take your time sculling can be easy, if you speed up the resistance on your arms and shoulders will be greater and you will tire more quickly. To practice sculling, place your arms directly out in front of you, elbows slightly bent. Ensure the palms of your hands are facing downwards and are moving in a figure-of-eight motion. Visualise frosting a cake or conducting a choir! (The hand motions are similar!)


: The Eggbeater Kick

The action is essentially breaststroke kick one leg at a time. The swimmer is in a sitting position, with the back straight and knees bent so that the thighs are parallel to the surface of the water. Each leg rotates in a different direction giving a constant flow of propulsion, pushing the body up out of the water.

: Treading Water

Once proficient at both arm sculling and leg action you can combine the two to tread water. By keeping a rhythmical arm and leg action you can conserve energy, which is ideal for a survival situation where you might need to tread water for a long time.


A practical tip is to perform treading water leaning forwards slightly, as you are not training to play water -polo or to be a lifeguard and you do not have to be totally vertical. If in doubt float on your back, this is the basic “survival-self rescue tactic”.


Let an experienced and friendly swim teacher from Evans Swim School guide you, sign up for lessons now!

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