Easy Breezy
Tachibana Makoto • 橘 真琴

Rough but dynamic

His stroke... A rough but dynamic stroke that leaves everyone behind... It hasn't changed at all since then. That's Makoto's stroke.

Matsuoka Rin
Free! Episode 08: Revenge in the Medley!
Although Makoto's signature swimming style is the backstroke, it was not always so. In the light novel, the style he seemed to swim more often was the breaststroke, and he even beat Rin once in a race. With Nagisa eager to join their relay team swimming the breaststroke, however, Makoto switched to the backstroke.
The backstroke is one of the four swimming styles regulated by the FINA (International Swimming Federation). In the individual medley it is the second style performed. In a team medley, it is the first style swum.

Unlike the other swimming styles, the backstroke is the only one that is swum, well, on the back. In addition, the starting position of the backstroke is unique compared to the other styles. Instead of diving in, swimmers jump in the water before the start of a race and take off of the starting block with their backs to the water.

When swimming this stroke, swimmers lie flat on their backs, their arms and fingers stretched out and their legs extended. The arms do most of the work, churning up and down through the water to propel the swimmer forward. Meanwhile, the legs kick, stabilizing the body while also increasing the swimmer's speed.

Generally, the arms alternate from stroke cycle to stroke cycle, with one arm underwater while the other recovers. One variant of the backstroke, however, has swimmers moving their arms synchronically instead of alternating. The average speed of this variant is normally less compared to the average speed of the alternating stroke.

Given Makoto's fear of the water/ocean, the backstroke is the swimming style that suits him the best. Apart from the start, the turns at each lap, and the finish, swimmers performing the backstroke rarely find themselves submerging their heads into the water. Although they still have to pace themselves and breathe evenly, with their faces always above the water’s surface, breathing is also easier to manage when swimming the backstroke.

These aspects alone probably make swimming the backstroke far more comfortable for Makoto compared to the other strokes. Just the illusion that he is not completely in the water is probably a great source of consolation for him.

112 In addition, the sights he sees outside of the water can also be calming for him. Again, knowing that he is not fully submerged in the water can help him cope with the fear he has of it and the ocean.

With his face turned upwards during the backstroke, it is not surprising how often Makoto is associated with the sky, a connection that is displayed prominently during the relay at the end of the first season.