Strapless paddles are usually reserved for advanced breaststroke work, but they also work GREAT when you’re learning how to tread water.
Why Do It:
To feel safe and secure in the water, you need to know how to maintain an upright position in deep water by moving your legs and arms. This is called treading water, and once you get the hang of it, it is really easy. In fact, most competitive swimmers could tread water all day long.
But for the beginning swimmer, treading water is a huge mystery that needs to be solved. It’s the primary – and elusive — skill that means the difference between feeling safe in the deep end – and feeling that old sense of panic and desperation.
Strapless paddles give you immediate feedback on how to use your hands and arms to tread water. They make the learning process a lot easier.
How To Do It:
First, make sure you do this under the supervision of an experienced swimmer. You also should put on a water belt if you are a very new swimmer – or a pair of fins if you are a beginning swimmer but not yet very strong.
Get yourself a pair of paddles, or ask someone at your pool if you can borrow a pair. Any shape or size will do, but this will be easier if your paddles are flat and not much bigger than your hand.
Take the straps off the paddles – or turn them over so the straps are on the bottom.
Stand in the shallow end and put one paddle under each hand. Now start moving your hands back and forth in the water, but DON’T LOSE THE PADDLES. Don’t hold on to the paddles in any way – but don’t let them fall away from your hands.
To get this right, imagine that you’re using the paddles to spread peanut butter on a huge piece of bread. You’ll quickly learn that you have to apply a little downward pressure on the paddles, and that the effort on the OUTSWEEP needs to be equal to the effort on the INSWEEP of your hands.
Keep your motions nice and even and steady. Notice how your palms turn out, then in.
When you’ve got the hang of this in the shallow end, move on down to the deep end. If you’re wearing a flotation belt or fins, let your lower body just HANG in the water as you focus on your hands.
Work your hands the same way in the deep end as you did in the shallow end.
Keep practicing for a few minutes, then put the paddles on the side and try it without paddles.
It may take several sessions to be able to tread water without a belt or fins, but strapless paddles will help you get the hang of it.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Keep your arm motions steady and even, and apply constant pressure on the paddles. The IN motion should be equal to the OUT motion.