How to Do the Swordfish in Synchronized Swimming

The swordfish is a short figure that’s over relatively quickly, even if you’re going slowly. This 12 and Under Age Group figure only has four moves!

For the swordfish, the judges will be especially looking at your ability to arch (back flexibility). In addition, remember that they are always keeping an eye out for control, height, good extension, and an even/slow tempo.

The most challenging part of this figure is lifting your leg off of the surface at the beginning, and then continuing smoothly until your leg is halfway over. This guide will take you step-by-step though the swordfish. Then it will provide some drills for working out the kinks to the tricky first part.

Front Layout to Bent Knee

The beginning of this figure is unique. You may actually keep your head up in your front layout after you start.

  1. Start in a front layout, using canoe scull. Your hips should be in line with the marker. Hold your head up facing forward so you can breathe.
  2. Begin to bend one knee, most likely your right. Slide your toe along the inside of your straight leg toward the knee of your straight leg.
  3. You have a choice here. You can either lower your face into the water before your knee is done bending, or you can leave it up and begin the next step with your face above water. Either way, after you reach the bent knee position, you aren’t allowed to move your head anymore.
  4. Finish placing your toe on your leg exactly where you intend to keep it for the rest of the figure.

Bent Knee to the Halfway Point

This is the most difficult part of the figure. Practice patience while you work on this movement.

Imagine that your hips are pinned in place at the surface, similar to how a clock’s hands are held in place at the center. Your body and legs should both rotate around this imaginary center point.
  1. Lift your leg off the surface by arching in your hips.
  2. Your head should go under at the same time you start lifting your leg.
  3. Reach your hands under your hips one at a time to begin paddle scull. Keep your arms long, and your palms open to the bottom of the pool.
  4. Maintain an arched body position as you continue to bring your legs up and your body down.
  5. When your leg reaches vertical (or when you feel balanced), switch to support scull. At this point, your body will have not yet made it to vertical because you are maintaining your arch position.

Into the Nova Position

At this point, you should have a much easier time controlling your movement since your body can stop rotating.

  1. Continue rotating around your center while using support scull.
  2. Switch to split arm scull when your leg passes a one o’clock angle on your back. If you are flexible enough in your back and shoulders, you may scull with both arms overhead and supporting under your thigh.
  3. Once your body gets to vertical, you should hold it there while you keep lowering your legs toward the surface.
  4. Arrive in the nova position and hold still using split arm scull, or both arms up.
  5. Check to make sure that your bent leg’s thigh is vertical. Maximize the airspace under that knee by getting higher! Squeeze your hips up to the surface by arching and sculling!

Even though swordfish can swim up to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour), you shouldn’t get any ideas about speeding up your figure. What you should emulate, though, is a swordfish’s ability to move smoothly through the water.


Extend the Bent Leg & Surface

This motion is small, but requires efficient sculling in order to look the best it can.

  1. Slide your bent leg’s toes toward the toes of your other leg.
  2. By the time your toes join, your hips should be at the surface. In order to do this, you will probably have to let out some of the arch in your back.
  3. Remember to keep sculling yourself forward to counteract any foot-first travel that may occur when you release your arch.
  4. After showing your surface arch with a pause, you can start traveling foot-first intentionally.
  5. Switch to torpedo scull. You won’t have to flex your wrists much to travel; taking the arch out of your back will cause you to travel naturally.
  6. Gradually roll your body up to the surface.
  7. Your face should come up in line with the marker.
  8. Stop yourself in the line with the marker by doing a couple of gentle reverse torpedo sculls.
  9. After a pause, sit up as gracefully as you can. Now you’re finished!

Helpful Drills

The beginning half of the swordfish gives a lot of synchro swimmers trouble. Try these drills to help speed up the learning process.

Using the Pool Wall

  1. Start in the bent knee front layout position on your stomach.
  2. Put the top of your straight leg’s foot on the pool gutter’s edge. If your pool doesn’t have a gutter, try using a teammate’s hand.
  3. Without moving your torso, lift your foot up off the gutter only by arching your hips.
  4. Try to raise and lower it with control. A common tendency is to do this part of the lift too harshly.
  5. Repeat 10 times before you rest. Then try it without using that wall.
  6. If you find yourself reverting to old habits, revisit this drill — even on the day of the meet! This drill is a good warm-up for the swordfish.

Get Help from a Partner

  1. Start again in the bent knee front layout position on your stomach.
  2. Have your partner place one hand under your straight leg’s thigh and the other hand on your upper back.
  3. As you start lifting your leg, have your partner help you by pushing your thigh up and your body down. This will give you the feeling of your legs and body moving simultaneously. It’s common for people to get stuck somewhere in the middle when they don’t keep their bodies moving.
  4. Repeat this three times while maintaining awareness of how it feels to rotate around your center/hips.
  5. Try the beginning of the swordfish through the nova position off the wall. Return to this drill if you are still having trouble.

Wrap Up

The swordfish is not a compulsory figure. This means you won’t have to perform it in every figure competition. However, you’ll likely have to soon rise to the challenge of mastering it. So dive in and practice this figure, including the drills. Then, it won’t feel like it snuck up on you if it’s drawn as an optional figure at your next meet!

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