Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Swimming in short wavelength waves and high wavelength waves

  1. Feb 12, 2010 #1
    Hi all.

    Just wondering. Any difference - from the viewpoint of a swimmer - when one swims in water waves of short wavelength as compared to large wavelength?

    I read about this somewhere before in a newspaper article. The difference will be apparent when the length of the swimmer's body is comparable to that of the wavelength. (Why?)

    (disclaimer: I understand that the higher the frequency of waves, the more energy it contains. But still i don't see how it affects to the ease of swimming in them.)

    Can forummers shed light on this issue. I am a high school physics teacher. Someone once remarked that once i state down my job title (ie a teacher), people will be more forthcoming with their replies. :cool:
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2010 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Interesting question. As an open water swim competitor, I can tell you first-hand that waves around your body length make breathing harder, and waves a few times your body length make it hard to sight the buoys.

    Are you asking more from a swim stroke efficiency point of view?
  4. Feb 13, 2010 #3
    Thanks for asking me to narrow the question...

    I guess, central to my concern, my question is:

    All things being equal, which type of water physics will aid a swimmer (eg make him swim faster, stroke efficiency etc), and what is the underlying physics behind it?
  5. Feb 13, 2010 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Assuming the swimmer is already using an efficient stroke (the skulling stroke -- see www.Active.com for more swimming tips), then I'm only aware of two water physics things that can help:

    ** Drafting -- When you swim closely behind another swimmer, you get the benefit of reduced drag because the lead swimmer is pushing the water a bit, which presents you with water that is already moving in your direction some. The lead swimmer also tends to knock down any oncoming wake or waves, so you have smoother water behind them.

    ** Surfing -- If you swim at the right place to the side and behind another swimmer, you can get a little surfiing help off of their wake. This is why you see competitive swimmers move over to the side of their lane, when they are slightly behind a swimmer in that other lane.
  6. Feb 15, 2010 #5
    Thanks for the valuable input....
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook