"totally un-European"
August 8, 2018 2:02 PM   Subscribe

How Europe Learnt to Swim

De arte natandi, or On the art of swimming

History of swimming in the Americas

Swimming From the Beginning - "When Flying Gull winged past Tobacco, swimming the length of a 130-foot pool in thirty seconds, Londoners were flabbergasted.
The year was 1844, and swimming was already established as a popular competitive sport in England. But British athletes generally relied on the sedate breaststroke for traveling in the water, and were rather shocked at the exhibition staged by this group of North American Indians that had been invited to London by the Swimming Society in England."

How Racism Kept The World’s Fastest Swim Stroke Out Of The Pool

A History of Swimming, from CISM
posted by the man of twists and turns (17 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thank you. This is relevant to my interests.
posted by greermahoney at 2:38 PM on August 8


John Arthur Trudgen took the prize for the 100-yard race in a major British swimming competition, using a stroke that combined the arm movements of the front crawl with the frog kick of the breaststroke.

HOW

HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK

That has got to be the worst arm/leg stroke combination I can't believe he made it down the whole pool much less broke a record.
posted by GuyZero at 2:40 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


My front crawl kick sucks, now I'm curious to try a frog/whip kick and see what happens.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:44 PM on August 8


My front crawl kick sucks, now I'm curious to try a frog/whip kick and see what happens.

lifeguard blows the whistle, tells everyone to clear the pool, jumps in to save you
posted by GuyZero at 2:48 PM on August 8 [11 favorites]




That’s just how I imagined it!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:17 PM on August 8


I have to say it works a lot better than I imagined it. He cycles his arms more slowly than I pictured it which is what makes it work.
posted by GuyZero at 4:22 PM on August 8


My parents' generation in the UK was still taught the breaststroke as the learn-to-swim stroke in the 1950s.
posted by holgate at 8:37 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Ok, but his head was entirely out of the water all the time. You just can’t get good streamline efficiency with your head out of the water constantly because your lower half drops down. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fun. But I don’t see how you can be speedy with it.
posted by greermahoney at 9:42 PM on August 8


My front crawl kick sucks, now I'm curious to try a frog/whip kick and see what happens.

lifeguard blows the whistle, tells everyone to clear the pool, jumps in to save you


This exact imagined scenario is what always stops me from trying the butterfly.
posted by pykrete jungle at 10:08 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Trudgen stroke

That is...somehow just exactly the perfect stroke for an Englishman who refuses to debase himself with a more efficient but "un-European" stroke.
posted by The Tensor at 12:03 AM on August 9 [11 favorites]


I don’t find it very plausible that Roman baths stopped people swimming. Did the ancient Gauls or the ancient Brits all go swimming every day before the baths were built - or did they just not bathe much at all?
posted by Segundus at 1:18 AM on August 9


I wonder how much the swimming dropoff in Europe had to do with the Little Ice Age, as well as the social factors. The water temps were probably not so inviting. Imagine feeling the shock of 65-degree water at a beach (on a good day!) and not realizing that it was okay, that you'd get used to it in a few minutes. It could be panic-inducing.

The idea that it was unhealthy for the naked body to be soaked and exposed to air, which would allow evil influences to enter through the pores of the skin, can't have helped either. (People did enjoy bathing in the Middle Ages, but it was carefully done for fear of disease.) As for sailors, they tended to believe that learning to swim would only prolong your death if you fell overboard. Not that I'm sure, but I also suppose that your medieval ships weren't big on man-overboard drills.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:01 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


He referred to Julius Caesar, who, we learn in Plutarch’s Life, had escaped an Egyptian ambush on Pharos by swimming

He left out the best part: "At this time, too, it is said that he was holding many papers in his hand and would not let them go, though missiles were flying at him and he was immersed in the sea, but held them above water with one hand and swam with the other; his little boat had been sunk at the outset" (Plutarch, Life of Caesar, 49.8) Caesar was fifty three at the time.

Besides military training, there was plenty of recreational swimming in republican Rome. Cicero, when defending his friend Marcus Caelius Rufus, and smearing the reputation of Clodia Metelli, states that "You've got gardens on the Tiber, and you've carefully placed them in a location where all the young men come to swim." (See Pro Caelio, a fascinating bit of legal work.

Would be Tiber swimmers in Renaissance Rome had to contend with papal edicts on where and when and who and how well covered. Nude swimming outlawed entirely in 1599, possibly in consequence of the record flood of December 1598. Anything to appease an angry God. (The ban was not but so successful. Either He got over it or the draw of the river on a hot day could not be denied.)
posted by BWA at 8:08 AM on August 9


The Trudgen stroke looks like it would be pretty good if you wanted to keep your head steadily above water. If you were a lifeguard or the like and wanted to keep eyes on a target.
posted by tavella at 8:21 AM on August 9


"I don’t find it very plausible that Roman baths stopped people swimming. Did the ancient Gauls or the ancient Brits all go swimming every day before the baths were built - or did they just not bathe much at all?"

Not bathing much at all seems likely, plus I'm not sure swimming is necessarily really bathing with how funky water can be.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:26 AM on August 9


The Trudgen stroke looks like it would be pretty good if you wanted to keep your head steadily above water. If you were a lifeguard or the like and wanted to keep eyes on a target.

heads-up front crawl is probably faster still and not particularly hard to do, it's what lifeguards are actually trained to do. It's also what water polo players do for the short periods they have a breakaway.
posted by GuyZero at 10:41 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


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