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Rules & Regulations

An overview of the official swimming rules.



  • The Strokes - FINA Basic Rules (FOBISIA interpretation)
  • Turns - FINA Basic Rules (FOBISIA interpretation)
  • Starts - FINA Basic Rules (FOBISIA interpretation)
  • Finishing - FINA Basic Rules (FOBISIA interpretation)

FINA RULES - FOBISIA competitions will follow FINA Laws regarding the above areas of the sport.

4 STROKES - FINA Rules apply in terms of the nature of the strokes.

Rules of the strokes and start/turn/finish of the strokes of FINA

FINA Rules apply to below explanations of the strokes:

FREESTYLE: The swimmer may swim any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall upon completion of each length and at the finish.

Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it shall be permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15metres after the start and each turn.

BACKSTROKE: At the signal for starting and after turning the swimmer shall push off and swim upon his/her back throughout the race except when executing a turn. The normal position on the back can include a roll movement of the body up to, but not including 90 degrees from horizontal.

Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race. It is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn, at the finish and for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn. However, recent developments and trends, swimmers and coaches have developed a “Fish Action” (Fly kick on a swimmers side!) same distance applies and passing through 90°! (This would be deemed as swimming on their front and thus not backstroke)

Upon the finish of the race the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back.

BREASTSTROKE: From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time.

All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.

40 After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke. A single downward dolphin kick followed by a breaststroke kick is permitted while wholly submerged.

The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. A scissors, flutter or downward kick is not permitted except breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward dolphin kick .

At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the, water level.

BUTTERFLY: From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast.

Under water kicking on the side is allowed. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time.

Both arms shall be brought forward together over the water and brought backward simultaneously throughout the race.

All up and down movements of the legs must be simultaneous. The legs or the feet need to be on the same level, but they shall not alternate in relation to each other. A breaststroke kicking is not permitted.

At the start and turns, a swimmer is permitted one or more leg kicks and one arm pull under the water, which must bring him/her to the surface. It shall be permissible for a swimmer to be completely submerged for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn.


In Individual Medley events, the swimmer covers the four swimming styles in the following order: Butterfly, Backstroke,

Breaststroke and Freestyle.

In Medley Relay events, swimmers will cover the four swimming styles in the following order: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle.



  • Swimmers are to start from the side of the pool (starting block, side of the pool or in the water).
  • The same apples to relay events e.g. Freestyle.


  • Swimmers have to start in the water.
  • Toes under the surface.
  • 15 meters maximum under water before surfacing.
  • One false start rule.


  • Starts apply according to entering the water as stated before.
  • Freestyle relays (forward dive)
  • Medley relays will start in the water with the backstroke leg first and backstroke start rules applying!

Relay swimmers must not dive (feet leave starting block) before the incoming swimmer (on their team) in the water has touched the end of the pool in their lane.


Butterfly and Breaststroke finishes must be with both hands touching at the same time and level.

Backstroke finishes must be on the back and can be with one hand

Freestyle finishes (depending on the chosen stroke) tend to be one handed and on the swimmer front

  • A swimmer swimming over the course alone shall cover the whole distance to qualify.
  • A swimmer must finish the race in the same lane in which he/she started.
  • In all events, a swimmer when turning shall make physical contact with the end of the pool or course. The turn must be made from the wall, and it is not permitted to take a stride or step from the bottom of the pool (If the host pool has a shallow end) .
  • Pulling on the lane rope is not allowed.
  • Obstructing another swimmer by swimming across another lane or otherwise interfering shall disqualify the offender.
  • There shall be four swimmers on each relay team.
  • In relay events, the team of a swimmer whose feet lose touch with the starting platform before the preceding team-mate touches the wall shall be disqualified.
  • Any relay team shall be disqualified from a race if a team member, other than the swimmer designated to swim that length, enters the water when the race is being conducted, before all swimmers of all teams have finished the race.
  • The members of a relay team and their order of competing must be nominated before the race. Any relay team member may compete in a race only once.
  • Any swimmer having finished his/her race, or his/her distance in a relay event, must leave the pool as soon as possible without obstructing and other swimmer who has not yet finished his/her race.
  • All turns require contact as this indicates successful completion of each lap.
  • Failure to execute turns properly will result in a DQ (disqualification)
  • Turn judges have to properly notify the start judge of the violation then to warrant if it is a ‘DQ’able violation of the rules.
  • Swimmer and coach need to be notified immediately after the race so that swimmers and coaches are not left in the dark regarding unexplained DQ.’s

Meet officials will use discretion when disqualifying swimmers.

  • FINA Rules apply to medal winning swimmers.
  • If a swimmer is NO T in medal position and is NOT gaining from improper stroke technique the judges should be told of the improper stroke technique.
  • Examples:
  1. “Screw” leg kick on breaststroke,
  2. Arms not clearing the water level on butterfly.
  • If a swimmer is in a medal winning position then FINA rules apply.
  • Or if the swimmer gains a medal winning position from incorrect turns then the FINA rules apply.
  • If the swimmer is not winning a medal and makes an improper turn, the position will stand - No DQ!

NB it is vital to appreciate that the FOBISIA Games are a multi discipline competition and as such some swimmers will NOT be well versed in competitive swimming rules. The host school needs to communicate this to officials and stroke judges and ensure that DQs are not the norm.