Swimming is essential to the job of a lifeguard, there’s no way to get around that. The fewer number of strokes it takes to get to the person in need of help, the better. Time is also essential. When you can combine fewer strokes with a shorter time to get to someone, you are more likely to save lives. Not everyone is built like an Olympic swimmer with long bodies, weblike hands, and special suits designed to cut through the water aerodynamically to get the fastest times in the world. With a little understanding of the science of swimming and the right equipment, saving lives with speed is certainly possible.
When swimming, it is all about force and reducing drag. Force refers to the notion of using your hands to push the water back to propel yourself forward. The harder you push, the faster you go. However, if you are doing this with your body in an improper position, you will create drag. Drag slows you down. It is akin to a cyclist sitting upright while trying to go fast. In the vertical position their body will slow them down by creating drag, which is why you see them crouched over instead. They want the air to flow over them smoothly to reduce any kind of body interference. Likewise, when swimming you want to stay in a horizontal position to reduce the amount of drag. In fact, according to Explain That Stuff’s website, “In practice, this means making your body completely horizontal, so (in the case of front crawl) your head is well down in the water rather than poking up with your body sloping down behind it. (That’s why you have to learn how to breathe in at the side and breathe out underwater.) You can also minimize drag by slicing your hand in and out of the water to make your strokes and, in front crawl, you can learn to swivel your body as you swim from side to side.” The less drag there is and the smoother the stroke, the faster you go.
When it comes to saving lives, historically the most common stroke has been the breaststroke. The science of the breaststroke can get cumbersome and confusing. And it can also take practice to perfect it. According to Swimming World Magazine, the breaststroke involves the consideration of three arm tactics, three leg tactics, and time, force, and acceleration. They outline each one in great detail. For example, in discussing the out-kick tactic for the legs, they state, “When the feet move outward, the out-kick begins. This is the start of the propulsive phase of kicking. Similar to the up-kick, the hips should remain in a straight line from the torso to the head to minimize water resistance.” This is just one consideration. The bottom line they emphasize across the board is keeping the body in a straight line through the movement and knowing when to do what with each movement and how to maximize acceleration. This can be a lot to consider in an emergency situation such as saving a life.╚