The ToB, presented by Field Notes, is here!

It's the 2023 Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes! And it's finals week! Dig in!

Reader Letters

Watch Your Head

“A backwards plus upside-down freestyle stroke, for which many swimmers wear goggles. Why?” If it is all right, I would like to answer the question. I swam competitively from 1996-2001 and I enjoy telling people about the world’s most under-appreciated sport. (You can find out more at your local YMCA swim club.)

Swimmers wear goggles while they do the backstroke for a couple of good reasons. Competitive swimmers, specifically good competitive swimmers, may begin a race by launching themselves off the wall. While they are submerged temporarily, they often times will glide while kicking underwater. This is done to lighten the fatigue of a swimmer’s shoulders from the actual stroke. The constant windmilling of the arms is rough on the rotator cup, especially if the swimmer is old or out of shape. The second reason a backstroker will wear goggles is for navigation. Those who face forward while swimming have the benefit of seeing the pool ahead of them and knowing when they need to turn around at the pool’s bulkhead so that they can swim the other direction. Back-strokers, by lifting their heads backward, compromise hydrodynamics, so they typically look at a pool’s ceiling (provided that they are competing at an indoor pool) or a piece of rope that runs the pool’s length (if they are outdoors). To alert a backstroker that the wall is nearby and that he or she must be ready to turn around, a banner of flags runs perpendicular to the backstroker’s course. While it is arguable that a backstroker can swim, glide under water while kicking, and navigate without the aid of goggles, keep in mind that the average pool has hydrochloric acid dumped in it. Also, children pee in pools.

Hope that answers the question-that-you-asked-but-maybe-you-could-have-lived-peacefully-without-knowing. If my writing fails to convey the information to you, I apologize. I haven’t written anything for months. For a Braid 7”, a modest lunch, and a bottle of domestic beer, I will travel to New York and provide a demonstration.

Russell Troyer
blog comments powered by Disqus