How to Dolphin Dive

By: Patrick E. George
Competitors dive in at the start of the women's 50 meter butterfly at the Australian Swimming Championships in Sydney.
AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

In competitive swimming, one of the most essential elements of getting a good time is diving technique. Swimmers are taught to stand on the blocks or at the edge of the pool, bend their knees, push off, and enter the water at an angle with their hands forward. A bad dive -- hitting the water on your belly or diving too deep -- can cost you valuable seconds and even make you lose a race.

That type of dive works fine if you're competing in a swimming pool, but what should you do if you're running in a triathlon? That often requires running on a beach and entering the shallow water of a river, lake or ocean, then swimming a long distance. Even here, entering the water properly can make or break your race. So how do you enter such shallow water quickly?


One way to make this happen is to do a dolphin dive. Dolphin diving, also known as dolphining, is a technique used by triathletes to make fast entry into the water and to start swimming right away. Master the dolphin dive and you can have a five to 10-second improvement over your total time in the water [source: Dobkanzie].

The technique is called dolphin diving because it involves diving into the water, gliding a bit under the waves, then launching yourself out of the water and into the air, similar to how dolphins jump up and out of the water [source: Kent].

In this article, we'll describe the proper dolphin diving techniques and how they can benefit triathletes and other competitive swimmers.


Dolphin Dive Technique

Swimmers churn the water as they begin the Ironman Triathlon World Championship race in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

A proper dolphin dive is a great way to shave several seconds off your total triathlon time. The dive is used as a way to enter shallow water and gain momentum for when you start swimming. Unlike diving into the water in normal swimming, the best way to gain speed is to perform several "dives" using the dolphin technique.

Once the race begins, start running towards the water. Enter the water and run as far as you can, which, for most of us is about knee-deep.


Then plant your feet in the ground and jump into the air at a 45-degree angle with your arms extended and hands joined, much like a dive off the blocks in a regular pool swimming.

Now comes the fun part -- once you enter the water after the dive, dig your hands into the sand. You're going to pull yourself forward using the sand as an anchor point. Once you've pulled yourself forward underwater, with your hands past your chest, plant your feet on the ground and bend your knees. It's important to keep your knees bent to maximize the power of your coming jump.

Now push up with your legs and launch yourself up and out of the water once again. You'll go flying upward like you did on your initial dive. Repeat these steps and keep dolphin diving until you're ready to start swimming. Remember, on that last dive before you start swimming, stay closer to the surface, because you won't be able to swim rapidly if you're deep under the surface.

Up next, we'll learn about the benefits of using the dolphin dive technique.


Benefits of the Dolphin Dive

Competitors at the start of the men's 25km open water race of the European Swimming Championships at Lake Balaton in Balatonfuered, Hungary, on Aug. 7, 2010.
AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky

Dolphin diving has several benefits for triathletes. Knowing how to properly dolphin dive can put you far ahead of other swimmers who don't know how to use this technique. It allows you to build up a tremendous amount of momentum before you start swimming. In addition, when swimming against strong waves, dolphining will help ensure you aren't taken back to the shore by the current [source: NYC Swim].

You can even use dolphin diving to return to the shore when you finish swimming as well. When coming back, dolphin dive a few times as you approach the shore and ride the current in. This will help you transition from the swimming stage to the next phase of the triathlon.


Keep in mind that doing the dolphin dive has some drawbacks as well. Some swimmers argue that it's just as fast to walk or run into the water and start swimming right away. Also, if you're swimming in a big group of triathletes, you may not have enough room to perform the dolphin dive. Some triathlons even ban the practice of dolphining.

One warning: If you decide to do the dolphin dive at your next triathlon, remember to keep the diving shallow. If you dive too deep, you could seriously injure yourself.

For more information about dolphin diving and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Dobko, Duane. "Dolphin Dives 101." (Sept, 3, 2010)
  • Kent, Hazen. "Open Water Swimming Tips for Triathletes: Overcoming Your Fears." Tri-Newbies Online. (Sept. 1, 2010)
  • NYC "So You Want To Be An Open Water Swimmer?" July 1, 1993.(Sept, 3, 2010)