Floating Motionless In Water Over One's Head

Can any of y’all do this, and if so, how did you learn?

I want to take a scuba course in the Spring and one of the requirements is to be able to float motionless for 10 minutes. Also to be able to put on one’s gear while doing so.

I’m a fair swimmer, but can tread water only for a little while using all my limbs. I can swim on my back too, but if I’m in deep water, the thought of suddenly stopping using my arms and legs terrifies me.

Iwould appreciate your input on this.



You just hold your breath and spread your limbs away from your body. Your natural buoyancy will take over and you’ll float. You will tend to drift upwards and will need to make occasional hand movements to keep still. Its much easier in salt water, if thats where you plan to go diving eventually, though I assume the course is in a pool.

You won’t sink to the bottom like a rock if thats what you’re afraid of.

It’s easier than it sounds, Q, but there’s a trick to it.

I can’t put on scuba gear in the water, but I can do what my dad called the Dead Man’s Float. He showed me, once, when I was about 10.

With face down in the water, you basically just pretend like you’re a dead body–hold your breath, float there, hang there, just go limp. Don’t try to “place” your body, just let it go however it wants. The air in your lungs is what holds you up, but if you fight it and try to hold yourself up, especially by wiggling your legs (like cheating by trying to tread water without actually treading water), it won’t work. The trick is to relax, and go ahead and stick your face in the water. The water will be in your ears, up over your ears, which is what freaks a lot of people out. It feels weird.

Also, what freaks a lot of people out is having to hold your breath while facing down into the bottom of the pool, because it’s an awfully strong instinct to lift your head up, out of the water, and to tread water so your face is clear of the water, but keep those neck muscles loose and it’ll work.

Anyway, you keep your face in the water, and when you need to breathe, you keep your arms and legs still, and you very slowly and carefully turn your face to the side, juuuuust barely clearing the water’s surface and reach sort of up and behind your shoulder for a breath of air, and then you very slowly and carefully put your face back in the water. This presupposes fairly calm water, of course.

Picture of sailors demonstrating. Scroll down.

Once you get the knack of it, it’s actually kind of a cool trick.

And it freaks the lifeguards at the pool no end… :smiley:

Anyway, in Google it’s known as the “prone float”. Not only do they teach it in the Navy–

–but it’s also part of the Lewis County swimming program, for the “Kinder” class, age 4-7, one step above the “Water Babies” and “Water Tots”.

Hee. :smiley:

Also, ya know, Thorbeckes doesn’t teach “tread water” until Level 5, “age 7 and older”, and it’s to kids who already know how to swim quite well, whereas they’re teaching the prone float to preschoolers who only know, so far, how to (A) blow bubbles, and (B) hold their breath. It doesn’t signify one bit that you can “only tread water” for X number of minutes, because the “prone float” uses no energy at all. Theoretically you could keep it up all day, except that you would turn into a giant walking wrinkle and you would have no friends.


Another approach that I used to teach is the ‘back float’. Also, as noted, you will be more buoyant in salt water.

I was assuming a “face down” dead man’s float, since you said you needed to learn how to put on scuba gear underwater, and it sounds like that’s an outgrowth of the face-down prone float. You can’t put on scuba gear while floating on your back, can you?

Floating on your back, the trick is to arch your back just a tiny bit, and to not mind when the water splashes up over your forehead and sometimes into your eyes.

Thanks for the answers and the links, y’all.