Chalk Talk: Lachlan Byrne

The Penn State senior offers tips for those who seek to learn or improve their flip turn.

illustration of a flip turn in progress by Joel Kimmel

Turn for the Better

Lachlan Byrne photo by Willis DellPenn State senior Lachlan Byrne, who owns top-10 program records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events, knows how fast you go in the water doesn’t mean much if you can’t head quickly back in the other direction. “Flip turns are probably the hardest thing in swimming,” Byrne says. The Brisbane, Australia, native shares some pointers for those looking to improve—or learn—the flip turn.

Steady as It Goes
Byrne says getting into the turn correctly requires heading toward the wall at a controlled speed. “The biggest thing swimmers underestimate is being able to judge the wall.”

Head Over Heels
To initiate the flip, drive your head down as if you’re doing a somersault. Once you’ve completed the flip, wait to turn until you’ve pushed off with both feet.

Over or Under
The race length determines the exit point from the water, Byrne says. “If you’re doing a distance event and need the oxygen, you want to come up 5–10 meters after you’ve pushed off. For sprint events, it’s around 10–12 meters.”

Down, Not Out
Swimmers sometimes refer to time underwater as “the fifth stroke.” If you push down off the wall instead of out, you can stay under longer and make up time. “It can actually be the fastest part of your race,” Byrne says.