Handy hints for the novice swimmer

Most swimmers get disqualified at some point in their swimming career. Often younger swimmers and their parents are unsure of the disqualification rules. Here are some of the most common reasons for disqualifications:

DQs at the start

  • Moving at the start.  After the starter has said “take your marks”, swimmers must remain absolutely still on the block or in the water, until the starting signal has sounded. This includes fiddling with goggles.

  • Swimmers should not leave the water at the end of a race until authorised by the Referee. If timing pads are being used, swimmers must not climb out over them, but progress under the lane rope(s) and exit at the side of the pool.


  • Swimmers must touch the wall at every turn (ideally with both feet) and with one hand at the finish of the race.

  • Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m.

  • Turn – The swimmer must touch the wall with some part of the body.

  • Any stroke can be swum; generally it is front crawl 


  • Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m, and some part of the body must break the surface throughout the race (until the next turn or finish).

  • Body position – Must remain on the back throughout the swim (shoulders must not go beyond vertical), except when executing a turn.

  • Non continuous turning action. Gliding, kicking or pulling into a turn is not permitted. EXCEPT a continuous single or continuous simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn.

  • Turn; forward roll – here the swimmer rolls onto the front, takes one stroke then the arms pull them into the turn. There must be no kicking once the arm pull has been completed, and no gliding. This turn must be continuous, and is frequently the reason for disqualification in backstroke.

  • Swimmers must have returned to their backs upon leaving the wall.

  • Finish – Must be on the back, not having the shoulders past vertical (onto the front).


  • After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to their legs. Their head must break the surface of the water before their hands turn inwards at the widest part of their second stroke.

  • A single downward dolphin kick is permitted followed by one breaststroke leg kick while totally underwater.

  • Turn & Finish – Both hands must touch together.

  • All arm and leg movements must be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane.

  • Body position – the swimmer must remain on the breast.

  • The hands shall not be brought back to the hips other than at the start and turns.

  • 2 handed touch, swimmers must touch the wall at the turn and the finish with both hands simultaneously.

  • The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive phase of the kick.

  • Incorrect kick - No alternating, scissor or butterfly kicking is permitted.


  • Arms not clearing the water, they must be on or over the water.

  • Arms must be brought forward together and brought back simultaneously.

  • Alternating legs. Legs must move together and remain in the same relative horizontal plane. (no alternating kick)

  • Incorrect touch. Swimmers must touch the wall at the turn and the finish with both hands simultaneously