Swimming games

by , under life

I had something I wanted to swim on –like normal people sleep on things– but of course I forgot all about it once I was in the water and designed water games instead. Of the collaborative sort, mostly, though some might be played as a race or a contest.

Ministry of Silly Swims

Players: individual
Swimming competence: competent (because of deep water)
Water depth: too deep to stand, or we’d have to explictly disallow walking, and it’s not Ministry of Silly Walks.
Tools: optional

Get across the pool any way you like without doing more than two consecutive strokes of a canonical swimming style. Dog-paddling is allowed, though not particularly silly. Props/tools, like floaters, are allowed. Helpers, either in the water or on the side, are not allowed.

I can do a whole length feet-first so I’d probably qualify.

Way, haul away

Players: team of at least 3 (probably no more than 5-6)
Swimming competence: first player should be competent, rest should be able to keep afloat
Water depth: any, but deep enough to actually swim is best
Tools: a floating line long enough to span the pool

A line is fixed at the near side of the pool (or held by teammates if there’s nothing to fix it to) and the first player swims across with it and fixes or holds it on the other side. The other players, one by one, haul themselves across on the line. The last player undoes the end of the line and is hauled across by the rest of the team.

Note that only the first player is allowed to swim. Variant: the last player also swims, reeling in the line along the way.


Players: pairs, about the same height or the taller partner will have trouble
Swimming competence: not afraid to go under water
Water depth: about waist-deep for the shortest player
Tools: none

Player 1 stands about 2 meters from the side with legs spread, making a gate. Player 2 swims or crawls through the gate and makes a gate in turn. Player 1 now goes under and makes a gate, etcetera. Apart from the starting bit going through gates is the only permitted way to go forward.

Drag race

Players: pairs
Swimming competence: competent for the dragger, floatable for the draggee
Water depth: where the dragger can just stand, because it’s exhausting
Tools: none

Player 1 swims on the back holding Player 2, who is on the front, by the hands or wrists. Player 2 is allowed to help along with leg-strokes.

I used to do this with my daughters when they were small; it’s perfectly suited for an adult and a child. Swinging the draggee round in the water is also fun.


Players: team of 2-5
Swimming competence: any
Water depth: any, depending on swimming competence
Tools: a large light ball or other convenient object that can be thrown, but not all the way across the pool. Inflatable crocodiles, bananas, +4 blunt axes or similar are perfect.

Cross the water with the ball. Any player who has the ball must give or throw it to another player within five seconds. Only people without the ball are allowed to move. Every person in the team should have the ball at least once. If the ball hits the water, the whole team starts over. (Variant: the ball may hit the water without penalty as many times as there are people in the team.)

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