Strokes of Borrowed Genius
Mimicking Mother Natures Swimmers
by Eric Smith
Is that a dolphin? There, plunging through the warm Bay water. Like a dolphin, it arcs in and out of the waves. Like a dolphin, it pumps its body up and down. And dolphins were sighted just a month ago in Rockhold Creek. But look again. This dolphin is slow, awkward, and a little
Not a dolphin at all, but a swimmer! A person in a bathing suit, swimming cap and goggles, swimming the butterfly.
The butterfly resembles the movement of dolphins, with its arcing stroke and powerful, wiggling kick. Elite swimming humans can make it up to four and five miles per hour doing the butterfly. Thats fast, but dolphins, with their own variation (without the arms) can make it up to 22 mph.
With two feet, two arms, no webbed limbs or flippers and without a streamlined body shape, people are better adapted for walking than swimming. So often we imitate those animals that are designed for water when we swim.
The kick used in breaststroke is called the frog kick because it resembles the bend-at-the-knees, thrust and squeeze kick used by our green, lillypad-hopping friends.
Beginning swimmers sometimes learn to swim on their backs using the T-stroke, stretching their arms straight out then pumping them back to their sides. It is much like the billow-and-push motion used by jellyfish.
One Olympic swimming coach, Gennadi Touretski, even takes time to study the motions of fish to learn the best way to move through the water. And swimmers he coached won Olympic gold medals using his techniques.
Whether you want to win an Olympic gold medal, swim with a pod of dolphins, or just make it safely to the edge of the pool, know that no one knows swimming better than Mother Nature. So have some aquatic animals give you a lesson. Perhaps not jellyfish. Most dont like their
teaching style. (Id stay away from the sharks, too!)
History Crawls Forward:
ORIGINS OF THE FRONT CRAWL
In 1837, when modern competitive swimming started in London, England, everyone swam the breaststroke and sidestroke. Then, some American Indians swam in a London meet in 1844. The British said they moved their arms like a windmill, a new stroke that was totally un-European. Even though Flying Gull beat everybody else by 30 seconds to win a medal with this early form of front crawl, Europeans didnt catch on. It was Australian Richard Cavill who finally convinced Europe about freestyle. They called it the Australian front crawl.
Thursday, August 15
Music Under the Stars
Enjoy Sun Yus music stylings of opera and show tunes under the stars. Bring a blanket and a picnic. 7:30pm @ Historic London Town & Garden, Edgewater. $15 w/ age discounts, Rsvp: 410/222-1919.
Ever wonder what your grandparents wore when they were younger? Now is your chance to find out. Take a peek at some old-style swim suits and sports uniforms as well as everyday clothes. 10am @ Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. Ages 6-16. Free; Rsvp: 410/257-3892.
Saturday, August 17
Get a look at Marylands beautiful butterflies, such as the monarch, and learn about their role in the ecosystem. Water to drink, hats and field guides recommended. 8:30am @ National Wildlife Visitor Center, on Powder Mill Rd. in Laurel. Free: 301/497-5887.
Sit around a campfire and tell stories, even roast a few marshmallows (bring your own tools for roasting). Its a great way for the family to sit and chat and have a few laughs. 7:30pm @ Watkins Nature Center, Upper Marlboro. Ages 3 & up. $3. Rsvp: 301/218-6702.
Sunday, August 18
Pond & Stream Exploration
Search out and identify frogs, turtles, fish, dragonflies and other aquatic animals. Be sure to wear shoes that wont fall off and can get wet, a change of clothes and a towel. 2pm @ Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Lothian. $2.50 w/ age discounts, Rsvp: 410/741-9330.