Help Me – I’m a Sinker


The world is full of people that think they are sinkers.

Two people of the same sex that appear to be the same in size, build, etc.  may find their bodies behave in a totally different way in the water.  In certain positions, you may feel that you are a ‘sinker’.  Some people, especially some men,  are often more muscled, have denser bone etc., and this makes floating and swimming in certain positions a little more difficult –  no big deal – just needs a bit of thought.

Now here is something you maybe not believe to begin with.

Trust me when I say you’re not a sinker.

Before I say more I’m going to truthful and say that over the years I have seen one man, and only one, that was a true sinker.  Of course there are more but I’d stake my life on the fact that 99 out of a 100 people that think they are sinkers, aren’t!


The Mushroom Float will soon show you that you are not a sinker!  If you are confident enough, you can try it on it’s own otherwise you can try it as part of the drill to Find Your Pivot Point, with your instructor or a buddy.


Consider this

If you were to keep perfectly still deep water in an upright position as shown, you would no doubt find yourself in one of the positions shown.  Don’t try this at home folks!  (Well not without your instructor)


If you’ve tried the mushroom by now, you might just believe me when I say if you’re in 12 feet of water, a 6 foot man will stay at the top 6 feet and not sink towards the bottom.

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, your nose will probably be under the water by 1 or 2  inches, maybe 3 if you’re really unlucky.  So it follows that if you relax it won’t take much in the way of arm and/or leg motion to keep you afloat (oh and good balance which we will soon teach you!)

Back to why you think you are a sinker.

  • Tension makes a big difference to buoyancy. I know it’s almost impossible for a non-swimmer to relax but please just bear this in mind before you cry ‘I’m a sinker’ and give up.

  • To varying degrees, everyone will ‘sink’  in that part of the body will go down and part will stay up. How much of your body is above the water depends on many things including position.  Look at these examples above and you’ll see what I mean.  Now we don’t swim in that position of course so here’s the most important bit.

  • Competent swimmers instinctively know when to shift their balance in the water,  beginners don’t.  With a small amount of momentum and good balance, even a true sinker can swim with very little effort.  Balance is something that most swimmers achieve occasionally by instinct but mostly by accident.  They spend enough time in the water that when the body ‘accidentally’ finds the right balance, the cell memory says ‘that was good – must remember that’.

  • When you struggle or are fearful, the minute you feel off-balance, the mind says ‘that’s it – I’m sinking – stop’!  In traditional lessons, at this point you’ll probably be given a float or a sponge noodle, or even water-wings, and what a disaster that will be.  Now you’ll learn how to move through the water out of balance, using the float as a crutch,  instead of correcting the problem.

  • Traditional swimming lessons seem to think that balance can’t be taught.  Not only can it be taught but it should be taught as the very first thing after learning to get your face wet.

Now you might well be saying at this point, ‘BUT my legs sink when I float‘.  So what?  You know by now that won’t go down to the bottom and apart from looking good on your holidays,  does it really matter if you float at 45%?

Fair enough – it bothers you.  It’s not a major problem but let’s look at why it happens.

Here’s our swimmer from the Find Your Pivot drill.

Imagine her on a pivot a bit like a see-saw.  Without the water  the pivot might be placed as we have it in the clip in order for her to balance evenly. 

Now let’s take her sister who is a little heavier round the hips and we would have to move the pivot point to the right for her to be able to balance.

And now let’s take her brother, who’s quite a muscular chap, and we have to move the pivot to the left.

OK, that’s very simplistic.  Bone density, muscle mass, weight, height, build and lord knows what else comes into the equation.  But you get the point?  Everyone has a different pivot point because we’re all different.  We can adjust our pivot point in the water but we need a little momentum to facilitate it.

First let’s see what we can do while we’re floating to experiment with our pivot point. 

Have a look at this.

See what’s happening?  As the arms move and the body shape changes so does the pivot point.  For people who’s legs sink (and I’m one of them) as the arms move the legs will usually begin to rise.  So maybe when we’re swimming, if we keep the weight forward, our sinking legs won’t be such a problem?  mmm  Food for thought.

You’re probably getting the idea by now, that I’m not a big fan of the school of thought that suggests you thrash up and down the width with a float and if you kick fast enough – you can move on to holding it with one hand and see if you can swing the other over and make it look as if you’re are close to swimming.

It will take you years to swim 4 lengths freestyle by learning that way, if indeed you ever learn at all.  So what I am saying is the alternative?  Learn to balance and compensate for  your internal ‘pivot point’.

Just one last thing before you decide you’ve got enough to think about.  How do we shift our balance/pivot point?  Well very simplistically we ‘push’ down into the water somewhere around the back of our shoulders (or chest when we’re on our front).


It’s not an easy thing to do when you’re stationary, but add a little momentum, a good instructor and a little patience  ……..

Got it?  Now you’re in with a real chance.  No more sinking!