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How To Do Starfish Float – Basic Swimming Technique


The starfish float is a basic swimming technique. To do so, you float on your back or your chest in a horizontal position with the arms and legs spread apart.

Seen from above this position reminds one of a starfish.

Once you have mastered this swimming technique, you could theoretically float forever in this position on your back.

A child doing the starfish float.
A child doing the starfish float

Having the legs and arms spread apart gives your body additional stability while floating in the water.

How to Do It

Here’s how to do the starfish float, on your back:

  • Stand in the shallow area of the pool, so as to have the water at waist level.
  • Crouch down so that the water gets at shoulder level.
  • Spread your arms horizontally apart from the body.
  • Lean back in the water to get into an oblique position.
  • Push yourself away from the ground with your feet, with enough momentum so that your legs move upward to the water surface.
  • Lean on your back and straighten your body so that it forms a line from head to toes, with arms spread apart.
  • Slowly spread your legs apart.
  • Keep your head, back and hips aligned, stay relaxed and breathe calmly.

Additional Tips

It is best to learn starfish float on your back in a calm environment. Otherwise, waves will splash into your face and disturb your breathing.

A friend or family member can be helpful to correct your position, for example by supporting your back.

A mother teaching her child the starfish float.
An adult can help the child achieve a good horizontal position.

Having mastered horizontal balance first is helpful to learn this technique. You can do so with our head-lead supine balance drill.

A kickboard held overhead can also help in finding the correct horizontal position. Just let go of the kickboard and spread your arms once you feel balanced on your back.

Being able to do the starfish float helps in learning elementary backstroke.

Not everyone can do the starfish float. For example, my legs always drop down to the ground when I try this technique.

A friend of mine, however, can stay in the horizontal position without a problem. It depends on your morphology it seems.

Related Pages

You may also be interested in the following articles that cover basic swimming techniques:

Ashok Kumar

Saturday 14th of September 2019

I am over sixty years old. I started learning swimming in June this year only. I am happy to say that after three and a half month period, I am able to swim in all styles now, thanks to your website ENJOY SWIMMING which has been greatly useful to me throughout. It has served me better than a coach. Thanks a lot.


Wednesday 18th of September 2019

Thanks Ashok!


Thursday 21st of December 2017

I am just learning to swim for the first time at age 77.

I can do the starfish just fine, but I can't seem to get how to stand up from it.

My teacher is very patient and says just put your feet down. Unfortunately, my feet shoot to the surface.

Has somebody some ideas for me? Thanks.


Thursday 21st of December 2017


I just curl up, drawing my knees toward my chest, and pull the arms in toward the body. Doing this makes my body roll so that my feet face the ground. I then extend my legs and can stand up.

Hope this helps.


Tuesday 1st of November 2016

Thank you so much, I have I learned many types of swimming styles and techniques.

Silke Gebauer

Thursday 13th of October 2016

Great way to try to float on your back. Thanks for mentioning that not everyone floats completely like on the picture. I find tilting your head back a little helps to keep the chest up making it easier to float.

If all else fails, for ultimate floating find a brine spa - everyone floats on salty water!

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