Boy Scouts must be well-versed in a number of swimming strokes, dive maneuvers and floating techniques. When they grow up to show off their abs at muscle beach, it doesn't hurt to also pose a striking figure in the water. Even the hiker, who fancies some out-of-the-way fishing, should know what to do if the boat capsizes and he finds himself in the middle of the lake--alone. What are the best swimming strokes to keep you afloat and alive?
- Breaststroke One of the elementary swimming strokes that are usually taught in lessons, the breaststroke lets the beginning swimmer keep his head above the water. But just like you got over your puppy love crush with the pig tails, the intermediate swimmer leaves the half-baked method behind and immerses the head for the second portion of the stroke. The legs do the majority of the work. While it does not propel the swimmer with a lot of speed, it allows for a steady movement across the water’s surface.
- Butterfly stroke Novice swimmers have a hard time learning this movement from a manual. Butterfly swimming strokes take a lot of practice so as to coordinate the simultaneous movement of the arms with the dolphin kick that propels the swimmer forward. If you perfect this stroke, the eyes of the bikini-clad beauties are on you. Fail at its mastery, and you might have to move beaches. By the way, this is not a good option for the beginner in an emergency situation, since the arm movement requires a lot of physical strength and also some muscle memory to pull off.
- Forward crawl The swimming strokes associated with the front crawl are some of the fastest means of propelling forward in the water. The arms alternate the stroke and the upper body moves from side to side. Completing the movement is the flutter kick. Since the head is in the water for much of the movement, the swimmer must time his breathing to occur in conjunction with an arm leaving the water. Choose a favorite side or become adept at breathing on either side; coughing and wheezing do not look good pool-side.
- Back stroke It looks deceptively simple, but the back stroke only makes the breathing easier--not the movement. The movements speed the swimmer across the water, but only if he coordinates the long arm movements with a steady butterfly- or flutter kick. Orienting himself to a fixed point helps the swimmer avoid getting off course, which just lends itself as a great pick-up line. After all, who is the lady who can resist being made a beacon?
- Dog paddle Even though the legs do the majority of the work, the arms aid the swimmer in keeping his position upright in the water. The hands in particular serve to keep the body steady and prevent veering off course. Use the arms to move out of the way of floating objects. Not very impressive but quite functional while making small talk in deeper water.
Each of these swimming strokes has a place in professional and recreational aquatics. Master them all for maximum safety in--and enjoyment of--the water.