Freestyle does not mean the crawl stroke. Any stroke, from dogpaddle to butterfly, is legal in a freestyle race. Hanging on the wall or standing on the bottom, while not recommended, is legal in a freestyle race. (Hanging on the wall or standing on the bottom is illegal in any other race.) However, it is an infraction to pull oneself along the wall or lane rope, or to jump forward off the bottom – seen occasionally among the youngest swimmers. All forward motion must come from swimming. The swimmer must touch the wall with some part of their body at the end of each length. This is the most common DQ in freestyle races. It occurs when a swimmer performs a flip turn too early, misses the wall with their feet, and continues to swim the next lap. If a swimmer misses the wall they should either back-paddle until they can touch the wall with a toe or turn around, go back, and touch the wall.
The most important rule is that the swimmer must stay on their back. The swimmer cannot curl their toes over the gutter on the start. Beginning swimmers are occasionally DQed for turning over onto their breast so that they can see how far they are from the wall. Frequently they will turn onto their breast when they grab the wall at the finish. They need to touch the wall while still on their backs. Rules governing backstroke flip turns are detailed on the Midlakes website.
Breaststroke is by far the most difficult stroke to do legally. At the start and after each turn the swimmer is allowed one underwater pull and one underwater kick, in that order, and may be completely submerged. Some part of the swimmer’s head must break the surface of the water by the time the arms have reached the widest part of the second pull. Then some part of the swimmer’s head must break the surface of the water on each pull until the wall is reached at the other end. Except for the one underwater pull mentioned above, the arm pulls cannot extend past the hip line. The hands must turn in at the belly and move forward under the breast. The arms pulls must be simultaneous, may be at or below the surface, but must be pushed forward from the breast. The kick must be a “frog kick” with the toes pointed out during the propulsive part of the kick. Flutter kicks, dolphin kicks, and scissors kicks are illegal. The pulls and kicks must alternate. The swimmer can’t do two kicks or two pulls in a row. The most common DQ is the one-handed touch on the turn or the finish in breaststroke. On all turns, and at the finish, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously. The swimmer must be on towards the breast prior to the feet leaving the wall.
On all turns and at the finish the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously. The turn rules are the same as for breaststroke. The arms must recover simultaneously over the water and be pulled back simultaneously. The kick must be a dolphin kick. The feet do not have to be together, but they may not cross. When properly done there are two dolphin kicks for each butterfly pull, however this is not a rule.