woman treading water

How To Tread Water

Did you know that the world record for treading water is 85 hours? That’s about 3.5 days and was set by a 19-year-old in 1997.

Being able to tread water makes you feel more confident – and lets you stop mid-swim to get your bearings and recover breath. Learning this basic swimming technique will also allow you to get a certificate in scuba diving. See how to tread water here…

women in water

The Basics

How to float in water vertically is achieved by using both your arms and legs with your body in an upright position. Keep your head above the water and breathe slowly – this helps conserve energy and lets you tread water for longer.

Move your arms backwards and forwards with hands closed. And move your legs in a circle – or kick back and forth with your feet pointing down. You can rest from paddling by lying on your back and gently sculling.

The Techniques

  • The dog paddle – a simple style moving arms out in front and kicking legs up and down – but you won’t be able to keep it up for long as it’s quite tiring
  • The frog kick – also known as the whip kick as you bring your feet out to the side and then back in – making you bob up and down
  • The flutter kick – keeping your arms outstretched for balance point toes downwards and consistently kick one leg forward and the other back
  • The eggbeater kick – a highly refined and efficient method where you sit in the water and pedal the legs as if you’re riding a bike – a method of how to tread water without hands
  • Sculling – treading water with your hands outstretched to the side and under the water – face palms together until almost touching, then face palms outwards and return to original position

How to tread water for long periods of time involves staying afloat by doing one treading water technique at a time. This leaves your hands free to perform other tasks, and allows you to conserve energy in both your arms and your legs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you tread water?

In average conditions most people would be able to tread water for up to a maximum of two to three hours – however, if you’re properly trained in the technique this can increase to over eight hours.


How many calories does treading water burn?

Tread water as hard as you can for periods of 30 seconds with a rest of 30 seconds floating on your back. Do this for 30 bursts and you’ll burn 300 calories

Why can’t some people tread water?

You need to be able to position yourself vertically – if you’re horizontal you’ll be swimming and not treading water – it just takes a lot of practice and help from an instructor if you’re really struggling.

How to stay afloat in water can depend on your body type and has a lot to do with your buoyancy. Dense bones and muscles aren’t as willing to float and you’ll need to train hard. The size of your lungs relative to the rest of your body can determine how high in the water your body will float.

people snorkeling

Learn to Scuba Dive with Your Treading Water Skills

Get your scuba diving certification with Koox Diving in Tulum. You’ll become scuba certified by starting with home or online preparation. Followed by practising the basic scuba diving skills in shallow waters. You need to be able to float and tread water for 10 minutes to show you’re comfortable in the water.

After completing your confined water dives you’ll progress to open water dives – and then you can begin exploring a magical underwater world.

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