Learn Sculling Water, a Basic Swimming Technique

Sculling water is a basic swimming technique where you use quick horizontal movements of your arms in the water to maintain your head above the water surface.

Basically you are in a vertical position with the arms extended to the sides at shoulder level, elbows slightly bent. The water is kept at shoulder level with the sculling motion of the arms.

Sculling Water Technique

If you have ever extended one of your arms out of the open window of a driving car and played with the wind to lift your arm, you already know how to scull in the water.

The sculling motion goes like this:

  • Extend the arms to the sides at shoulder level, elbows slightly bent.
  • The palms turn 45° to the front, then the elbows bend some more and the arms move simultaneously to the front. The arms stay close to the water surface.
  • When the arms have moved halfway to the front, the palms turn 45° backwards and the arms move backwards, still close to the water surface. The angle of the elbows decreases but they never become completely straight.
  • Finally the palms turn 45° forward again and the arms move to the front again.

The pressure of the arms and palms angled at 45° against the water is basically what creates lift and keeps the body afloat.

Swimming Exercises Video

Here's a video that demonstrates the various exercises described below to learn how to scull water:

Learn Sculling Water

To learn the sculling motion, you can do the following progression of swimming exercises:

  • First simply practice the motion standing on dry land, visualizing how it will feel like to push with your arms against the water.
  • Go the shallow end of the pool, duck so that the water arrives at your shoulders' level, and practice the motion as described above.
  • Grab a water noodle, put it under one armpit, wrap it around the back and make it exit under the other armpit. Assume the same sitting position as previously, draw your knees towards your chest, and use the sculling motion to float in the water.
  • Once this works well, remove the water noodle, duck in the water, start the sculling motion, draw your feet towards your chest and use the sculling motion to keep your body floating in the water.

After you have practiced the exercises above for some time and feel that your sculling motion supports your body well, you can venture towards the deeper area of the pool with the next exercises. In the beginning, only attempt these exercises under supervision of the lifeguard or an experienced swimmer!

  • Grab the swim noodle again and place it around your back as described previously. Make sure the swim noodle can support your weight in the water all by itself. Now head towards the deeper area of the pool. When your feet lose the ground, start the sculling motion with the hands and at the same time start to flutter kick vertically with your feet. Practice for some time.
  • When you feel confident enough in your sculling motion and flutter kick to support you, return to the shallow area of the pool. Remove the swim noodle, head to the deeper area of the pool again, and repeat the previous exercise. In the beginning, only do short repeats to build endurance and confidence.

Once you can do this with confidence, congratulations! How have learned sculling water and as a bonus you also have learned how to tread water!

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