1902 Encyclopedia > Swimming and Diving > Learning to Swim

Swimming and Diving
(Part 1)

SWIMMING AND DIVING. In the case of man the power of swimming is acquired, not natural. As compared with the lower animals, to most of which it comes perfectly easily, he is at a disadvantage in its acquisition, owing not to his greater relative weight so much as to the position of his centre of gravity, along with the fact that in the case of quadrupeds the motions which serve to support and propel them in the water are very similar to those of locomotion on land. No race of mankind, however, can be mentioned to which the art is unknown, and in many barbarous countries it is more widely diffused and carried to greater perfection than amongst the civilized nations of the world.

For learning to swim, a quiet sandly beach is the best place, as sea water is more buoyant than fresh. All artificial aids, such as corks, air belts, cork jackets, inflated bladders, and the like, may be avoided; they raise some parts of the body too high above and so sink others too far below the natural plane of flotation, whereas the first fundamental rule is that the month only should be above water, and the legs close to the surface. Belts, &c., are also apt to become misplaced and so cause trouble and annoyance as well as danger. It is best for beginners to take some instruction from a practical teacher, though many have become adepts by merely watching good performers. Confidence in the floating power of the body is the first thing to be acquired. The easiest way of floating is to lie on the back (which should be slightly hollowed), the arms being stretched out beyond the head but not lifted out of the water ; this attitude not only facilitates respiration but counterbalances the weight of the lower limbs. The knees may be bent outward, the toes also pointing sideways, the hips rigid, so assisting to keep the legs up as close as possible to the top of the water. By easy breathing one will soon be convinced that, properly balanced and with lungs kept charged, the body will assert its buoyancy.

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