As a collegiate swimmer at Texas A&M University, Beryl Gastaldello proved herself to be one of the fastest short course sprint butterfliers ever. That includes posting the fastest women’s 50 yard fly split in history. She later verified that with a French Record in the 50 fly in short course meters.
In 2019 she cashed in her underwater kicking ability to the tune of $35,250 in prize money in the inaugural season of the International Swimming League, in addition to an individual European Championship silver in the 50 fly.
Now the Frenchwoman, who still trains at Texas A&M under men’s team assistant Jason Calanog (who was the teenage club coach of Caeleb Dressel) has posted a video of her underwater dolphin kicking 25 yards.
This offers a unique glimpse into the underwater technique of one of the world’s best.
Here are 5 things we can learn from watching Beryl Gastaldello kick underwater:
1) Tempo – Beryl does approximately 27 full dolphin kick cycles (up kick, down kick) in about 9 seconds at peak rate. That’s about 3-per second.
For those who are musically inclined, this comes out to about 180 BPM on a metronome, per cycle. That’s 360 BPM per hit. For comparison, when Usain Bolt ran the World Record in the 100 meter dash, he hit a rate of 257 steps per minute – without water resistance.
You can play around with the Google Metronome here at 180 BPM to see how fast that is. Below is a video of 360 BPM. That’s a much, much higher tempo than the average age grouper kicks underwater with.
Want a playlist of songs that are around 180 BPM? There are lots of them available on Spotify, just search 180 BPM. If you’re not quite at that level yet, start lower – people have made playlists for all kind of tempos, mostly designed for runners or cyclists. Here’s some of our favorites.
- Rock Lobster – The B-52s
- “Curbside Prophet” – Jason Mraz
- “Santeria” – Sublime
- Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
- They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson
- “Hey Ya!” OutKast
- “Jesus Walks” – Kanye West
- “Back in Black” – AC/DC
2. Body Motion – Notice how her whole body gets involved in the streamline. Of course, you all knew this by now, but to see it from this angle really highlights it. When her feet push backward, her hips press forward (toward the surface in this video), and so too do her shoulders. There’s a connection in her body. Hips are connected to shoulders, and chest is connected to feet. This 2nd “break” in the bodyline is where real underwater kicking mastery comes into play. Lots of young swimmers can visualize the break in body line at the hips, but getting that 2nd break between chest and shoulders can be a lot harder.
3. The whip-like motion – Especially in the last few frames, as Beryl gets closer to the camera, you can really see how much of a whip she has with her lower legs. With younger swimmers, you can work on this feel at a slower tempo, and then as they get older (or with better athletes) begin to increase the tempo without losing the whip. This takes real effort – there is a lot of focus from a lot of coaches about “stay under until at least halfway” in workouts. But that’s not the key. The intensity of the tempo + whip is far, far more important than the distance that your athletes stay under. I can go 12 yards underwater dolphin kicking without putting out too much effort, but that’s not going to do me much guild in building the core muscles needed to get this intense whip-like motion in a race.
4. Hand placement – Maybe this is common knowledge to some coaches, but it’s something I’ve never seen before. She’s got the thumb hooked, that’s good, but watch in the last few frames the angle of her hand. The knuckles on her top hand are sticking up, almost making a little spearhead, with a gap between her hands. That’s as compared to the flat hand-to-hand contact that I learned growing up. Is this just a tick of her technique, or has she figured something out? It’s worth more investigation.
5. She does all of the above with very little motion in her head – This is crucial to keeping drag low. I’m not sure I could match that, but it’s something to shoot for. Keeping your neck loose allows your head to roll through the shoulder motion rather than with it.
6. Feet placement – Her legs and feet very rarely touch during the entirety of the video (very briefly at the end as she’s surfacing). While the imagery of a “dolphin kicking” makes us believe that we should make our legs as tail-like as is possible, that doesn’t mean that the best technique actually has the feet touching. There’s some principles of water tension probably in play for why this works, but it also gives more freedom to the feet to get that “whiplike” motion when there is some separation.