Before proceeding to a more practical description of the simpler forms of swimming, it is well that a few general hints and maxims should be given to which the would-be swimmer would do well to give attention.
Never, when bathing from a strange place, more particularly if from a tent
Elaced any considerable distance from other bathers, omit to ascertain the depth of the water, the set of the tide, and possible existence of holes or sudden shelving of the beach.
Never bathe immediately after a meal. The best time is either before breakfast, if one is strong and healthy, or from about eleven to twelve-thirty in the morning. If the early-morning bathe is chosen, it is wise to drink a cup of chocolate or half a glassful of milk, and eat a biscuit, about twenty minutes before bathing.
Never remain in the water too long at a time-from twenty minutes to half an hour is quite long enough for the strongest, and even this time should be shortened for most people, and the water should always be left when the first suspicion of fatigue or chill is felt.
Never bathe alone if it is possible to avoid doing so. Even good swimmers are liable to cramp, and with them, indeed, cramp is likely to be most serious, as they will probably venture some distance from the shore, and be out of their depth.
Never struggle aimlessly or lose presence of mind if seized by cramp. Try to throw yourself on your back and kick out vigorously with your legs, whilst calling for assistance. A severe and utterly disabling attack can frequently be warded off by these means.
On going to the rescue of persons suffering from cramp, remember to swim clear of them, and do not allow them to seize hold of you. The best way to get them to shore is either by pushing them in front, towing them by the hair, or towing them by placing one s hands beneath their armpits, and swimming beneath them on one's back.
To a good swimmer, either way will be equally easy. The person to be assisted must, however, be made to understand, if possible, that struggling or attempting to aid the rescuer is likely to do more harm than good.
The above hints concerning persons seized with cramp apply equally to saving a drowning person. This is often, however, rendered difficult by reason of the drowning person, though unconscious or semi-unconscious, still having the power to struggle with the would-be rescuer. The Royal Humane Society issue excellent cards containing simple directions for the restoring of the partially drowned, as well as for rescuing them. These should be studied by all who bathe.
Never overtax your strength. It is wise to remember whilst swimming out to sea that the return half of the journey will prove more exhausting than the outward half on account of the expenditure of energy and strength which will have taken place.
If swimming is to be learned in the open sea the selection of a place at which the first lesson is to be taken is of importance. The most suitable is a sandy beach with a gradually increasing depth of water, and the assistance of someone who can swim is very desirable during the early stages of learning.
The beginner should take up her position about breast-deep, facing the shore, with her hands extended straight in front of her, with the fingers and thumbs close together, and the palms slightly hollowed. The arms should next be stretched out so as to form scoops with the knuckles upwards. The wrist of each hand should then be slightly turned inwards, so that when the arms are swept backward and outward the hands push against the water and not merely cut it with their sides, as would be the case if they were held perfectly flat. The swimmer should endeavour to get as good a grip of the water as possible. The arms should then be opened still wider, and thrust back to their fullest extent until at almost right angles to the body. The elbows should be slowly and gradually opened till they are close against the sides.
It will be found, if these movements have been faithfully carried out, that the hands have now taken, by means of an inward twist, a position close in front of each breast, with the thumbs uppermost. They should now be once more thrust smartly upwards and forwards, with their outside edges turned gradually up, till they have regained the . position they occupied at starting-namely, stretched out straight in front of the body almost on a level with the shoulders.
One thing which must be remembered, if one desires to make rapid progress and cultivate a good style from the first, is that the hands whilst making the stroke must never be permitted to pass behind the bend of the elbow. If they are allowed to do so the stroke will be considerably retarded, and if actually swimming one's head is made to dip uncomfortably. The stroke should, in practice, be kept about a couple of inches below the surface of the water, except, of course, when thrusting the arms forward from the chest to recommence the series of movements, when they will at the end of their upward course rest almost on the surface.
When the movements which go to make the arm stroke have been once mastered, it will be necessary to pay attention to those which control the legs. The two can afterwards be combined for the act of swimming.