Main Body

1. Water Safety

Basic water safety is important for anyone using an aquatic environment, which can include pools, lakes, rivers and oceans. It is important no matter your swimming ability to understand and be able to perform “lifesaving” strokes which require little energy expenditure by using your body’s natural buoyancy and minimizing the amount of movement.

If you are swimming in a river or an ocean, please be aware of the following:


If you are floating down a river and encounter rapids, you should go through them feet first with your body facing up. Your feet need to remain up so they do not get caught in rocks or debris in the water.

Rip Tides

If you encounter a rip tide in the ocean, remain calm. Swim parallel to the shore in order to escape the pull of the current. Never attempt to fight a rip tide by swimming to shore in the current. When you no longer feel the pull of the tide, you may then swim towards the shore. In order to remain safe in the ocean or at the beach, keep track of where your belongings are and do not let yourself float too far down the shore from them.

Below are five different energy conserving techniques that can utilize in any depth of water in order to conserve energy in an emergency situation:

Prone Float

The prone float consists of lying face down in the water at your body’s natural center of buoyancy.

  • Remain with your face in the water exhaling slower than normal.
  • When you need another breath gently lift your head to the surface, take a slow inhale of air and resubmerge your head. 
  • The body’s natural center of buoyancy can vary from person to person, so prone floats may appear with the whole body on the top of the water, or just the back and head at the top of the water with the legs floating below.  

Supine Float

Supine floating is one of the more important skills to master as this will allow you to call for help as well as breathe outside of the water.

  • Opposite of the prone float, you start in a backstroke body position and make your body as flat as you can on the surface of the water while maintaining a neutral neck.
  • You may kick intermittently as needed in order to keep your feet towards the surface of the water with your chest.

Elementary Backstroke

Elementary backstroke is a good energy conserving stroke as you utilize symmetrical body motions is order to propel you in a forward direction, while remaining on your back to increase oxygen uptake. The steps for elementary backstroke are as follows:

  • Step 1: At the same time, bring you knees back to your butt (same as in breaststroke) and your hands along your side stopping at your shoulders.
  • Step 2: Simultaneously extend your legs out into a V (similar to breaststroke) and your arms out (making and X position with your body).
  • Step 3: Slowly brings your legs and arms back together pushing the body away from you. Maintain your glide until you begin to slow down, and then initiate the next arm and leg movement.

Head- Up Freestyle

Head-Up freestyle in important in situations where you may need to call for help or track the shore (such as in an ocean environment, if you are in open water you should always head for the nearest shore). Head-Up freestyle is performed with traditional freestyle arms and legs, except the head is raised so the chin is out of the water. It is most efficient to keep your head as still as possible when swimming (i.e. don’t swivel your head from side to side).

Treading Water

Treading water is an important skill to master in order to become proficient in swimming in deep water.

  • To tread water, you begin in an upright position in the water. Your hands remain under the surface of the water creating a simple sculling movement pushing the water in and out.
  • Your legs can kick in either a traditional freestyle kick, breast stroke kick, or egg beater kick. The egg beater kick resembles a breast stroke kick, except that the legs alternate during the movement.
  • The body will be propelling upwards by a strong and stead kick and the arms will keep the upper body upright to support the head.


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Ch.1 - Swimming Copyright © by UGA PEDB Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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