How to Float in Water

Knowing how to float in water is beneficial in a number of scenarios. It is a useful skill for casual swimming, and necessary for situations in which you might need to be rescued. If you need to know how to float in water, try these tips.

Safety: First things first, safety is the most important aspect of learning to float. You should always practice with a coach or friend until you feel comfortable enough to try floating on your own. It is also important to practice floating in shallow water. Practice in water that is waist or chest deep, so that if you feel nervous or anxious while floating, you will have the option to stand.

Floating on your back:

  • With a coach or friend, venture into shallow water that is waist or chest deep. If you are nervous about the process it may be helpful to initially stay close to the edge of the pool.
  • Bend your knees to squat down in the water, so that your head is as close to the water as possible.
  • Tilt your head back so that the back of your head is touching the water, and your face is pointed toward the sky.
  • Lift your feet off of the bottom of the pool and let your feet and hips rise to the surface of the water. At this point, if you are nervous or anxious, you may want your partner to place his/her arms under your body for reassurance.
  • Stretch your arms out on each side forming a “T” or cross, and position your legs so that they form a “V”.
  • Relax your body and keep your muscles loose. If you are tense, or struggle to try and make yourself float, then you will not float properly.
  • Have your partner move his/her arms out from under your body. Tell your partner to stay close in case you need assistance.
  • Now, you are floating!

You can use these same principles to adapt the back float into a front float in which your face is down in the water. This float is often called the “dead man’s float.”

If you cannot float: Keep in mind that not everyone will be able to float the same way. If you have more muscle mass than body fat you may not be able to float properly. Your head and chest should stay afloat naturally, but your hips and feet may sink.

In a rescue scenario, if you cannot float on your back in the traditional sense, you still have a floating option if you need a break from treading water. Pull your knees into your chest, and wrap your arms around your knees, forming a ball. This will cause the body to roll forward so that you are face down in the water. Relax, and allow yourself to float. When you need to take a breath, roll your body up to face the sky, take a breath, and then resume floating face down.

Learning how to float can be a stressful situation for some, but overall it is a fairly simple process. While you are learning to float, remember to keep safety the top priority. Stay in shallow water, and work with a coach or friend.


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