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Knowing how to tread water for long periods of time is a must for anyone who enjoys being in the ocean, whether you’re a local surfer or a casual traveler who goes on cruises. You never know when an accident might happen.

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Step-by-Step Guide on How to Tread Water Efficiently

Step 1: Keep the Body Upright

Floating horizontally might seem like an efficient way to survive getting lost in the ocean, but it’s not. Having your face on the same level as water increases the risk of water entering your nose, mouth, and ears. This is very dangerous.

As such, strive to keep your body vertical and upright. Make sure your head is above the water and that it’s aligned straight from your spine down to your butt.

Step 2: Pace Your Breathing

Once you’re properly straightened your body and found your balance, it’s time to manage yourself psychologically and emotionally.

Getting lost in the ocean is an extremely nerve-racking crisis no one should have to go through, but bear in mind that panicking will do more harm than good. Try to calm yourself down and pace your breathing.

You don’t have to rush yourself. Spending a few extra minutes keeping your emotions in check is much better than treading water for hours on end while your adrenaline and anxiety are at their peak.

Step 3: Tilt Your Head Back

Tilt your head back to prevent the waves from crashing too much water onto your face.

Although, try not to bend your next too far back that you’ll start to feel uncomfortable. Again, there’s no saying how long you’ll have to tread the water, so you have to keep yourself as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

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Step 4: Move Your Hands

Once you’ve found your balance, aligned your body vertically, tilted your head back, and most importantly, calmed down, it’s time to start treading.

Contrary to popular belief, learning how to tread water with just legs is not a good idea. You need to divide all efforts equally to your limbs. Dumping them all on your legs would simply lead to premature exhaustion.

Move your hands horizontally in the water to create a back-and-forth motion—this is the sculling technique. After a while, your hands should start to look like propellers making small downward circles underwater.

Make sure to move your hands back and forth, and not up and down. The latter forces your hands to move against the water current, which can be quite tiring after a while.

Step 5: Move Your Legs

For the legs, you can use multiple movements, including the following:

  • flutter kicks
  • rotary kicks
  • frog kicks (leg movement for the breaststroke)
  • leg circles (circling the legs in a swift manner)

The best, most energy-efficient technique to use is the rotary kick. This movement is where one leg rotates in a clockwise motion while the other in the opposite direction. The only catch is it’s difficult to master.

Step 6: Rest Accordingly

No matter how energetic, energy-efficient, and adrenaline pumped you might be, a human being can only tread for so long. Once you hit your limit, you’ll have to rest. If you need to rest, you can lay down while gently paddling your arms and legs.

Check out this video by SWIMVICE where they share how to tread water without getting easily tired:



Overall, the goal of treading is to keep your legs and arms moving while conserving energy. Don’t let your fear and panic trick your body into going ballistic. Trust me flailing your limbs randomly at full force will do more harm than good—this can spell the difference between life and death.

Remember, there’s no telling how long you’ll have to tread during emergency situations, so efficiency is a priority. Knowing how to tread water is one thing, but being able to do it properly is another.

Do you think this guide will help you survive being dumped in a large body of water? Post any questions you have on how to tread water in the comments section below! 

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