I blogged a bit in the last post about learning as an adult to enjoy swimming. As I wrote there, lately I've been reading about swimming, trying to get better at it in part by understanding its fundamentals.
One skill that I never mastered in lessons is sculling. It was in books, not lessons, that I first encountered that word applied to swimming. As far as I can tell, "sculling" refers to the type of motion you're supposed to be doing with your arms when you tread water properly. The distinguishing feature of that motion is that the forearm travels in one plane, driving the water perpendicularly through that plane: the arm is more like a turbine blade than like a paddle or oar. My swimming instructor described the treading-water arm motion as a "figure eight," and that's what the books mostly said about sculling too. I tried and tried to get it to work and it never felt right. What finally got the point across was an article that described sculling as "a bit like spreading icing on a big cake with your hand". OK, that motion made sense to me. I guess because I've iced cakes before. Whereas I've never, you know, been a fan blade, even though I've seen plenty of them.
Anyway, I bring this up just to point to a really cool video that shows a synchronized-swimming athlete using sculling to keep herself in a variety of positions. I guarantee you will never think of this sport as frivolous again, if indeed you ever did.