Ever since there were water and humans on earth, people engaged in swimming and diving. There are even ancient Egyptian documents and cave drawings that depict people treading water! At its beginnings, swimming was mostly used out of necessity, to prevent drowning, to cross a river or to hunt for food. However, swimming has come a long way from its clumsy early days. Today, people all over the world swim for recreation and fun or professionally compete in different categories. Let’s take a look at the history of swimming before we hit the water ourselves!
The humble beginnings
Even though swimming has been present in human history basically since its beginnings, it wasn’t until the 1800s that swimming became a real recreational and competitive sport first recognized in England. In 1837, London pools started hosting competitions and there were even swimming societies that helped with organization and provided competitors. England is also a country for a first indoor pool made in 1862! During that time, competitions were mostly held for breaststroke and (a bit awkward and outdated) sidestroke.
Olympics in 1896 was the first event of that kind that hosted swimming competitions. During those games, male swimmers competed in only two categories—100-meter and 1500-meter freestyle in open water. Soon, more events were added such as breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and medley. In 1912, women’s swimming events made their debut at the Olympics. Today we have 17 different races every Summer Olympics, both for men and women (34 in total) and 22 categories in the Special Olympics (44 in total).
No matter if you’re an experienced swimmer or just learning to swim, you will undoubtedly need some form of swimming equipment to keep you safe and comfortable in the water. Today we have a huge range of equipment from swimwear to snorkeling and water sports gear.
Of course, proper swimsuits are the most important part of swimming equipment. These days, swimwear has practically endless designs (both for men and women), but that wasn’t always the case. In the 19thcentury, women had to wear full-coverage swimming dresses that practically made swimming impossible. Later on, after the World War I, first one-piece suits were created and the 60s and 70s brought us bikinis that we’re all familiar today. However, most experts and many recreational swimmers opt for practical one-piece swimwearthat provides good support and flexibility. Plus, they look amazing (Baywatch anyone?).
Men had a bit more freedom since they used to swim in underwear or even nude up until the mid-19th century. Later, they started wearing tank suits reaching down to the elbow and below the knees. In the 1960s, Speedo was invented that started a real revolution in swimwear. Thanks to this brand, men today wear mostly short trunks or briefs.
Other swimming equipment usually involves swim caps and goggles for protection and flippers for speed. Caps and goggles are especially practical and useful since they reduce drag, help keep hair out of the way and protect the head and eyes from chlorine and cold.
As stated above, swimming became very popular in the early 1900s, especially in Britain that held competitions and had swimming societies. At that time, the most prominent strokeswere already invented and widely used. The breaststroke is probably the oldest one of all and it was even depicted in cave paintings that date from the Stone Age. Even though it’s the slowest of all strokes, it’s greatly used and very easy to master. The butterfly stroke developed from the breaststroke. David Armbruster, an American coach, is credited with the invention of this technique when he realized that bringing arms out of the water during the breaststroke increased its speed. On the other hand, the front crawl originated in South America and was brought to England in the 19thcentury. This stroke is very fast and efficient, so it’s usually used in freestyle competitions. From the front crawl developed the backstroke. It’s essentially an inverted crawl performed while swimming face up. These strokes are the most popular and practical ways to tread water, but beginners usually opt for the breaststroke or front crawl. There is also the sidestroke and the elementary backstroke, but they are not used competitively and are thus swum less often.
Now that you know the short history of swimming, it’s time to grab your swimwear and celebrate this ancient skill. It’s super fun, refreshing and very good for the body and mind.
About the Author:
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.