Shallow Water Swimming vs. Deep Water Swimming

Girl in swimming pool

Whether you're paddling around a wading pool or taking a swim at sea, the essentials of swimming remain the same. When swimming at significant depths, particularly with the use of scuba gear, you must learn and abide by safety precautions and techniques. For beginning swimmers, just moving from shallow to deep waters can be a meaningful transition.

Shallow vs. Deep Water: For Beginners

To the novice swimmer, paddling in deeper waters can be intimidating. Once you reach a depth where it's impossible to touch down with your feet, you must have the ability to keep yourself afloat. While learning to swim under the instruction of a qualified teacher, going straight into the deep end can prove useful because the deeper water gives you space to tread without touching the bottom.

Moving to Deeper Water

Before you begin to swim in deeper water, learn to tread water effortlessly and confidently. Walk out to the spot in a swimming pool where you can just touch down with your toes. Spend a few minutes treading water there, making large and gentle scissor sweeps with your legs, and then move into slightly deeper water. Continue treading in the slightly deeper water, letting your legs extend fully during each stroke. Only practice this maneuver when a swim instructor or lifeguard is available.

Scuba Diving in Deep Water

If you're swimming through deep water with the assistance of scuba gear, your swimming style will change somewhat because you no longer need to regularly move up to the surface for air. While you no longer need to concern yourself with moving upward to breathe, you do need to monitor your oxygen supply system carefully as you swim. Because you must divide your attention between your scuba equipment, your entry and exit procedures, and whatever sights you are taking in, swimming at deeper levels is best done once you are highly proficient at basic swimming strokes and can perform them effortlessly. To get certified to scuba dive, you might be required to swim 200 to 300 yards and demonstrate your ability to tread water for at least 10 minutes.

Water Depth and Speed

For competitive swimming, the depth of a pool and the depth at which an athlete swims can influence performance and speed. The design of the Water Cube pool used in the 2008 Beijing Olympics is 10 feet deep, making it 3 feet deeper than the past standard for competitive pools. According to an August 2008 story at, Rowdy Gaines, an Olympic medalist and swimming commentator, partially credits the pool's depth and overall design with the many records broken during its use in the Olympics. If a pool bottom is too close to the swimmer, the friction between various currents of water can actually slow the swimmer down.