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Beginners are often uncertain about the rules surrounding a triathlon swim. Essentially, any swim stroke is permissible. Obviously, the front crawl is the most efficient swim stroke but you may sidestroke, backstroke, or dog paddle if necessary to finish the swim. It is o.k. to tread water or float if desired. Also, you can make contact with the bottom so it is legal to walk out as far as you would like before commencing to swim. You may grab inanimate objects to rest, but gaining forward progress from such objects will result in a penalty or disqualification. In case of an emergency, similar to the rule described above, a swimmer who gets into trouble can receive assistance from a race official without being disqualified so long as forward progress is not made. Simply put, you may hold onto a boat manned by an official without the risk of disqualification, just don't ask to be pulled around the swim course!