Introducing the New Backstroke Wedge

Wondering about the introduction of backstroke wedges for backstroke starts? You’re not alone! Here’s everything you need to know about the change.

AMANZI Girl Penny Hayes backstroke start
The new backstroke wedges will add that extra oooomph to your start. Photo credit: @pennyhayesnz

These wedges were approved by FINA during a meeting at last year’s new rules committee gathering during the July sessions in Barcelona. The backstroke wedges first hit the scene at the grand prix circuit last summer and are now starting to be used more regularly.

The purpose of the new wedges is to create a standardisation of the starting foot placement for backstroke swimmers. With all of the different types of pools and touch pads out there, there is a lot of inconsistency for backstroke swimmers and this is an attempt to fix it as well as to reduce the number of slips during backstroke starts.

One of the best things about the backstroke wedge is that it’ll give you a grip that has been unheard of in the swimming world until now. As swimmers, we naturally pull up to the balls of our feet then rest most of our weight there during backstroke starts. The backstroke wedge allows you to put your weight onto an angled piece of material to push off, rather than trying to grip your feet onto a flat wall.

We’ve all seen swimmers who get disqualified at the very start of a backstroke event. They pull their bodies up in preparation for the start but then drop down a bit too far before they take off. It can happen to the best of us! In fact, these unfortunate slips have happened even at the highest levels. One of the fastest backstroker swimmers on the planet, Elizabeth Beisel, qualified for the 2014 US National Championships then was immediately taken out of the race when she slipped off the wall. It’s so unfortunate but so common! It has happened to top swimmers around the world at events like the World Championships and even the Olympics. If it can happen to an Olympics swimmer, it can happen to any of us.

The goal of the backstroke wedge is to act like a high heel shoe and force your feet to stay in place so you never have to worry about slipping and being tossed out of the competition. On top of that, the backstroke wedge also creates a more even weight distribution so you aren’t killing your arms if you pull yourself high out of the water.

On top of creating stability, the backstroke wedge will also give a push factor. When you stabilise your body, you are in much greater control. Since you are completely still on a backstroke wedge, you can push off with greater force at the start of a race. With your body exactly where you want it to be, you will always start every swim meet at your best.

This new change is definitely something that we are excited about. Hopefully we will be seeing more backstroke wedges rolled out quickly at pools across the globe!