The Origin of Freestyle, The Australian Crawl

Australian’s credit Alick Wickham with the invention of the front crawl (aka freestyle), but some debate who was the first to use this style of swimming.

Some analysts say it has been used since antiquity.

London, 1844, Native North American’s were witnessed using the style, defeating the British with ease. The Brits used the breastroke style and continued to use it because they thought the thrashing crawl stroke was barbaric and “un-European” according to wikipedia.

In 1873, John Arthur Trudgen took a trip to Argentina and developed a crawl stroke mimicking the native South Americans, but he used the scissor kick — wide and inefficient — instead of the flutter kick. This hybrid stroke became popular and was called the Trudgen stroke.

Australian, Richmond “Dick” Cavill, was inspired by Solomon Islander Alick Wickham in the early 1900s. They watched Wickham and experimented, developing a modified Trudgen stroke which ultimately became known as the “Australian Crawl”.  

Charles Daniel is credited with adding the six-beat kick, which further developed the stroke into what some call the “American crawl”

This biggest innovation since the six-beat kick is, arguably, the straight-arm recovery.

FREESTYLE IN THE MODERN ERA – 2012 Olympic Games in London, 100m Freestyle with Nathan Adrian, James Magnussen & Brent Hayden:

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1 year ago

I love swimming that stroke, albeit with a lazy 2-beat kick, just to keep the back end aligned
betwixt posterior vortices that set up, etc. Can do that one all day, as if at least some of our ancestors
have been doing for thousands of years. Or does procedural memory regarding a far more recent kinesiological development in our species seem that familiar? Go swimming roughly every day for ~20 years. Then stop for ~20 years. Then resume. This is my record: the answer is ‘yes’.

Aussie Richie
Reply to  Rex
1 year ago

An interesting story about the advent of the freestyle swimming stroke. As a proud Australian and a sporting nuffie who else but an Aussie invented freestyle. After all the old Australian crawl is the stroke used today.

Ovetta Sampson
7 years ago

The front crawl was first introduced to the British by Native Americans. How could you leave that out? That’s essential.

10 years ago

Wonderful goods from you, man. I have have in mind your stuff prior to
and you’re just too fantastic. I actually like what you’ve got right here,
certainly like what you are stating and the best way in
which you are saying it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise.
I cant wait to read far more from you. That is actually a wonderful website.

10 years ago

“This biggest innovation since the six-beat kick is, arguably, the straight-arm recovery.”

Why do you say so? Straight arm can improve aspects of your technique, but is generally considered an inferior technique overall. At the top level today, it’s only used by a relatively small group of 50m swimmers and a few 100m swimmers.

I’d say the biggest innovation in Olympic swimming has been the butterfly kick off the turns or the filp turn itself, but that isn’t really an improvement on the actual Australian crawl stroke. Everything else has been a gradual and relatively minor improvement, and it’s arbitrary to pick one as the biggest.

10 years ago

Thanks for posting GMM! You ought to be in pictures! Maybe as the next Batman ! ! !
Garrett can be Robin ! !

Reply to  Jiggs
10 years ago

Wait, wait! Have they made Aquaman yet?? That would be so great.
First there was Duke Kahanamoku, then Weissmuller, and now…
Melvin Monroe Stewart is: Aquaman

10 years ago

Hey – no fair! At 2:03, she’s wearing a LZR while no one else could get their hands on one!!

Aussie Richie
Reply to  MarkB
1 year ago


Last edited 1 year ago by Aussie Richie

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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