adn challenge strapline

Weird stuff about swimming

Everything you didn't know and probably don't need to if you're signing up for the swim leg of the Challenge.

1. Dog paddle was the first human stroke: newborn babies perform it instinctively. Breaststroke was the first of the four main strokes to be swum competitively. The Australian crawl wasn’t really invented in Australia. A group of American India swimmers used “the front crawl” to smash the Brits in a competition in London in 1844, so – naturally - the British swimmers poured withering scorn on the style, calling it “barbaric”. Australian, Richmond “Dick” Cavill, saw Solomon Islander, Alick Wickham, use it in the early 1900s. He experimented with, and modified, the stroke that became known as the Australian Crawl.


2. Humans have been swimming for at least 10,000 years. We know that because of rock paintings in ''the cave of swimmers’’ near Wadi Sura in south-western Egypt. Archaeologists have also found depictions of swimming in art from the early Minoan, Incan and Babylonian empires. The Egyptians, Persians and Greeks all swam. Swimming wasn’t included in the ancient Olympic games though. The Japanese were holding swim meets in 36BC. Medieval English knights swam in armour as one of the ''seven agilities’’.


This UK woman can float when she's vertical. 

3. The tumble turn was invented by an American, Tex Armstrong. He was the coach training Adolph Keifer for the 1936 Olympics. In 2,000 races, Keifer lost only twice.

4. Captain Matthew Webb (1848-1883) made the first unaided crossing of the English Channel in 1875 using breaststroke. His course was so erratic he swam 63 kilometres (twice the direct distance). He died during an attempt to swim the Whirlpool Rapids below Niagara Falls. [The mustachioed picture of him on the England’s Glory matchbox was used by Peter Sellers as the inspiration for his portrayal of Inspector Clouseau – with thanks to The QI Book of the Dead.]

5. Martin Strel, aka The Fishman, holds the record for the longest swim. In 2007, he swam the entire length of the Amazon River (5,268km) in record-breaking time. It took him 66 days.

6. In 1538, Nikolaus Wynmann, a German professor of languages, wrote the first swimming book, A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming.


7. The first heated pools began being built in the 1930s. There are now more than 10 million swimming pools in the world. The world’s largest swimming pool, the Crystal Lagoon, is in a private resort, San Alfonso del Mar, Algarrobo, Chile. It’s 1,013 m long (20 Olympic swimming pools), covers 8 ha, contains 250 million litres of seawater, and is 3.5 m at its deepest. The water is pumped from the Pacific Ocean, filtered, and treated. The sun keeps it at a temperature of about 26C. It took five years to build, opened in December 2006 and cost about AU$4.3 million.

8. Why do swimmers shave? Being completely shaven makes the swimmer slicker in the water which can improve swimming times. It also makes the swimmer more aerodynamic while in the water. But more importantly to professional swimmers, shaving removes the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of the epidermis so the skin becomes more sensitive and the swimmer then has a heightened “water sense”. Some professional swimmers also shave their hands and feet.

9. The world’s fastest swimmer is the sailfish. The sailfish, which resembles both the marlin and the swordfish, can swim up to 110 kph and has a spectacular ability to jump out of the water.  It can also change its body colour  to confuse its prey so it can catch food more easily.


Watch out for whales in Middle Harbour. This one (August 2015) was looking for someone to remove a plastic bag from his head.