Unless otherwise noted, all illustrations can be found in the appendix of FINA Rule Book.
Now, let’s learn the second required element of the tech routine.
Unlike the walkover, where you may have another way to begin the figure, you have to start the porpoise from a front layout.
Let’s begin from the canoe scull. As you can see from the illustration below, lay flat on your stomach with your neck arched so your head is above the water. Press up on your heels to keep your feet at the surface. Your hands will be flexed at the wrist like you’re pushing something away. Actually you will be pushing the water away as you scull under your hips with fingertips pointed on an angle to the bottom of the pool. You should travel forward in this position.
To assume the front layout position, extend your neck to gently lay your face in the water. Next, slide your hands forward until they are in front of your head and angling toward the bottom of the pool at about a 45° angle. Cup your hands like cobra heads and scull in and out in what’s called an Alligator or Russian scull. You should look like the below illustration and traveling forward.
To pike, bend only at your hips while reaching forward. Your hands should barrel scull over your head like you’re trying to knock a top hat off as one coach describes it. The scull keeps your momentum going as you pike. This is important because you want your hips to replace your head. Your ending position will look like this:
Notice where your hands end. As you pike, you’ll pull your arms in and down to your sides. Your palms will be up (relative to you) like you’re holding a tray. They will scull in and out in Support Scull.
If you’ve read the walkover post, you’ll note that the take down to the pike position is exactly the same as it is for this figure. Now we’re ready for the difference.
Instead of lifting one leg as you did for the walkover, you’re going to lift both legs at the same time to a vertical position like this:
To hit the vertical, you have to make sure that you start with a good pike. Many people tend to over pike. This means that your hips have passed your head so you’re no longer in an “L” shape, but more of a “V.” If you lift your legs from this position, you’ll end up on your back and you’ll descend at an angle if you’re able to keep from flopping all the way over. This is why you want to hit a good pike position.
To lift your legs, it’s a little easier to start from a paddle scull. Reach your hands in front of you and drop your wrists a little bit. Alternating hands, use a bicycle (or paddle like) motion as you lift your legs by contracting the muscles in your butt.
As your legs get higher, pull your arms in to your sides and begin to support scull. You won’t need too many paddle sculls before you need to switch. Pay attention to your body instead of worrying about timing. When you have the “oh crap” moment, that’s when you switch.
When you hit the top, the moment your body is the highest you can get it and the straightest, all you have to do is descend. If you need a fast descend and you’re not especially buoyant, you can stop sculling. This does not mean that you relax your body. You have to keep your core tight all the way down or the figure will collapse.
If you are really buoyant (like me) turn your hands over and do a head first scull down. The figure is over once your toes are under.
Once your toes are under bring your knees to your chest and tuck out of the vertical and surface. There are a couple reasons for this. First, it gets your legs under you pretty quickly so you can continue swimming the same direction you were before. Second, it stops you from piking out of it and relaxing your core before the figure is finished. You lose major points if you don’t do the complete figure.
And there you have it! Your first porpoise. The complete figure looks like this: