In essence, the tumble turn is a forward somersault with two quarter-twists. The two quarter-twists are to get you from facing upwards/the wall after the somersault, to facing downwards and away from the wall. Your forward momentum is continued through the tumble turn and then increased by the push off in the opposite direction.

Here’s how:

Step 1
First, swim freestyle towards the wall. For lap swimming purposes, you should be already swimming in a lane, eyeing a long black lines marked on the swimming pool floor. You know when the wall is coming when the black line ends with a T. And in front of you is the “T” target marker on the wall.

Step 2
Half way between the T on the floor and the T on the wall, start the somersault. Your forward momentum will carry you towards the wall, but hopefully you would have tucked into a somersault before it becomes a head-butt.


To do the tuck somersault, tuck your head down towards your chest and bend at the waist. Do one last hand pull through. Your body will follow your head to begin the somersault flip. Your hands will be down by your side, near your hips.

Step 3
When doing the tuck, use your hands in a sculling motion to help you flip over. With your knees bent, your feet should hit the wall. For beginners, anywhere will do, just hit the wall. Ideally, one foot is placed higher than the other. Pause momentarily to allow the momentum of the tumble to bring your head up to horizontal with your bottom.

NB. To stop water from going up your nose, blow out steadily out through your nose.

Step 4
While paused, prepare for a twist off your back onto your side. The is the first quarter twist. You have to push off powerfully with your feet. Have your arms outstretched above your head and pressing them against your ears.

The pause time on the wall will be less as you learn. Aim for no more than 0.7 of a second! (this is quoted from the legendary Shane Gould)

Step 5
Kick with your feet after pushing off from the wall. You should be gliding in a streamlined position with arms outstretched as mentioned above and palms close to each other. Your body will be turning at the same time as you twist off your back to your side, to your front.

When you feel that you are losing momentum from the push off, you should have completed the second quarter twist, which is a continuation of the initial axial turn movement.

Step 6
Before you break the surface, the first underwater stroke is made with the arm closest to the bottom of the pool. With this stroke, your body will level out and you can begin your freestyle stroke pattern. The aim is to do a couple of strokes before breathing.

Salient points

How to judge the distance from the wall to start the turn

The short answer is practise makes perfect. The best answer is “it depends”; it depends on the speed at which you are going. You have to start the turn earlier if you are swimming faster. This is because your forward momentum carries you towards the wall.

You also have to start the turn sooner if you have longer legs than if you have shorter legs. You will have to experiment till you are comfortable to start your turn at the distance from the wall that suits you.

How to do a somersault flip

Start away from the wall. It is a psychological thing. The greatest fear is that you head butt the wall – so remove the wall from the picture when you are just starting out.

So, stand in waist-deep water. No wall in front. Jump.

  • Jump off the bottom of the pool and do a forwards somersault with half bent knees.
  • Slap your calves on top of the water and keep your head moving as though you are doing a sit up.
  • Use your hands in a sculling motion to help you flip over.
  • Repeat this until you feel in control and comfortable, and do it faster then you feel you can.

Then, try it near the wall.

Stand facing the wall, about 1 to 1.5 m away. Do one somersault. Stand up.

You should be closer to the wall than before. Keep doing this until your feet feel the wall when your turn. Let your feet feel for the wall. At this stage, it doesn’t matter how or where your feet hit the wall – just hit it!

When you have made contact with the wall, push off your back with straight stretched out arms and fingers pointing through the water towards the other end of the pool.

If you go too deep on the push off, pause for a second with your feet on the wall to allow time for your head to follow through the somersault.

How to stop water going up your nose

Blow steadily out thought your nose. According to Shane Gould, you can push your top lip upwards to block off your nostrils, but I think it is physical impossibility for me. And yes, I know I would look funny too!

Adapted from Shane Gould’s HOWTO, found at http:// with notations from my own experiences.

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