FINIS Tip Of The Week: Surf Drill


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Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s tip is surf drill, a drill for butterfly that works on developing forward propulsion from the pull and a low, quick breath. 

The drill literally asks swimmers to try “surfing” after completing the underwater portion of a butterfly pull. Starting flat in the water with your arms extended in a prone position, use a light flutter kick to maintain balance before sculling out into a strong underwater pull. In this drill, you will only pull until your arms reach your hips, at which point you’ll stop (i.e. – do not bring them out of the water into a recovery).

The point of this drill is to maximize the forward propulsion from your pull. This is difficult, as you are not getting the same full body undulation as during normal butterfly. To compensate, swimmers need to stay engaged through their core and focus on anchoring their arms well in their catch to set up a powerful pull that will help them accelerate forward. That means setting up high elbows in the pull, pulling underneath the body, and maintaining strong contact with the water through the entirety of the pull. 

When done well, swimmers should feel a surge forward with each pull that they can try to “surf” on before resetting for their next pull. When applied to full stroke butterfly, it will help swimmers find the feel of pulling themselves forward within the rhythm of the stroke, avoiding the trap of directing momentum up or down that can happen in butterfly. This is not a drill about speed, but rather repeating consistent small and powerful movements. It is also a great way to practice a low profile breathe in the water that is quick to get the head back in line and ride the surf after each pull. 

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.