Just at this stage of progress you will be anxious to dive. There is great sport in this; but it requires practice to dive "cleanly."
Diving may be performed from the surface of the water, when swimming, by merely turning the head downward, and striking upward with the legs. It is, however, much better to leap in, with the hands closed above the head, and the head foremost, from a pier, boat, or raised bank. The proper attitude for a "clean" dive - which means without splashing more than the sharp cut of the hands - is to place the hands over the head, close together, give a sudden spring, and descend through the air, heels together and body perfectly stiff. Your hands will cleave the way for your body, protecting your head, and you will pass beneath the surface just like the inimitable bull-frog - the master-diver.
By striking with the feet, the same as in swimming, and keeping the head toward the bottom, you can drive yourself to a considerable depth.
If you wish to reach the surface, turn your head upward and work your hands, up and down; you will ascend like a flash.
To turn under water, merely swim in whichever direction you wish.
Some swimmers prefer to keep their eyes open while beneath the surface; I do not consider it wise, as the strain is great, and often foreign substances in the water are liable to injure the eyeball. Of course, if you dive for an object at the bottom, you will need to open your eyes to find it; at other times I advise you to keep them closed.
Swimming under water is accomplished by the ordinary stroke, but take care to keep your head a little downward and strike a little higher with your feet than when swimming on the surface.
Perhaps as easy a way as any of learning to swim under water is by beginning, in shallow water, to simply sink below the surface of the water. This can be done by letting the air escape from the lungs, so that they lose their power of buoyancy. The beginner, having no fear of being unable to reach terra firma, will learn far quicker in this way to be at home beneath the surface than if he attempts to swim at the outset. When once confidence is gained, all that remains is to learn the trick of staying below the surface when the lungs are inflated.
If you have successfully practised these lessons, you are familiar with the three essential elements of swimming, and in prime condition to study a few tricks.
"Treading water" is a fine feat. To tread without the use of the hands, work your feet up and down, precisely as though ascending a flight of stairs, only with more speed and steadiness. You will find this very simple, and oftentimes you can stand where the water is a fathom deep and by treading hold the hands high over the head, and make the uninitiated suppose you to be on the bottom. In this position, also, you can walk a considerable distance, when you are expert. If you want to ease your legs, put your arms under, and work them horizontally right and left, as in floating.
The feat of breast-swimming without the use of hands requires strength in the legs and back. At best, but a short distance can be made in this way. The same may be said of swimming without the use of the legs. But it is well to practise both of these movements - they may save your life in the event of cramp or accident.
To show the feet while floating, bend the small of the back downward, support yourself by moving your hands to and fro just above your breast, and stretch your feet above the water. Now, if you wish to swim on your back, feet-foremost, make precisely the same stroke as in breast-swimming.
To swim with one hand out of the water, say the right, turn on the left side, and vigorously use that arm, and the legs.
If you wish to turn while on your back, keep one leg still, and embrace the water beside you with the other; you will thus find yourself turning to that side on which your leg by its motion embraces the water, and you will turn to the right or left according to which leg you use in this manner.
There are a variety of feats performed by expert swimmers; such as floating on the back with the arms above the surface; taking the left leg in the right hand out of the water when swimming on the back; pulling the right heel by the right hand toward the back, when swimming in the common way; throwing somersaults in the water, backward and forward, etc., for which no particular directions are necessary, as you will be able to do them and any tricks which your fancy may suggest.
A few hygienic hints for swimmers will surely not be out of place here.
Do not bathe too soon after eating; an interval of an hour and a half at least, should be allowed. Do not bathe when tired out, either mentally or physically - always wait till you feel rested. The best time for this exercise is in the forenoon, between breakfast and luncheon.
If overheated on arriving at the water, do not remove your clothes until the excessive feeling of heat has passed, and your breathing and circulation have become regular; never expose the skin to the direct action of the air when overheated.
Keep in motion after you have gone into the water; do not stand around chatting and lounging. As soon as you have swum sufficiently, dry yourself thoroughly, put on your clothes, and keep the blood in circulation by exercise.
Do not stay in the water too long - half an hour is long enough for the strongest man. More delicate persons will find that too much; for some, ten minutes should be the limit. Fifteen minutes is a good average for all.
If seized with cramp, endeavor not to be alarmed, but strike out vigorously with the affected limb, or, turning on the back, extend it forcibly into the air. By paddling with the hands you can easily reach shore, or keep afloat until assistance is rendered.
And, never, never "duck" your weaker brother! The poor fellow might take fright, and never again essay to learn; besides, you might accidentally drown him.
In conclusion: if you have followed these suggestions, not merely mentally, but in the "aqueous element," as the student would say, you will have become dexterous swimmers, and soon shall be able to join Byron in this stanza: -
"How many a time have I Cloven with an arm still lustier, breast more daring, The wave all roughen'd; with a swimmer's stroke Flinging the billows back from my drench'd hair, And, laughing, from my lip the audacious brine, Which kiss'd it, like a wine-cup, rising o'er The waves as they arose, and prouder still The loftier they uplifted me."
BY HARRY E. ROSE.