DURING September of last year, my dad, Tom, was brave enough to suggest I, his sullen, obstinate and moody teenage daughter, should take up a new sport known as 'fin swimming'. Despite responding with expletives and door slamming, I was secretly very interested by my dad's proposal.

While supporting my youngest sister, Imogen, in another sporting event, my dad had seen two members of the British fin swimming team in action, and had been very impressed by the grace and speed of the sport. His description of what it entailed seemed so mystifying that I couldn't help but be intrigued.

From my very first training session at Shirley Swimming Pool, Southampton, I was hooked. Fin swimming, with its exhilaration and phenomenal speed, was a breath of fresh air from the stifled world of traditional swimming.

As the name suggests, the fin swimmer wears a fin, known as a 'monofin'. A monofin is much the same as a dolphin's tail, but is usually made out of fibreglass. The fin swimmer is propelled through the water by oscillating the fin up and down.

The leg movement is similar to the leg motion used in the traditional butterfly swimming stroke. However, the arms remain motionless, but are kept above the head, in the outstretched 'stream-line' position, with one hand clasped on top of the other.

As with ordinary swimming, fin swimming also has different disciplines. As opposed to butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke and front crawl, fin swimmers compete in apnea (fin swimming without breathing), surface (fin swimming with a snorkel) and immersion (fin swimming with an oxygen tank). Apnea is my favourite of the three.

During November of 2002, I had the opportunity to meet the other fin swimmers of Great Britain, while competing in my first competition in Kent. Although I was exceptionally nervous, the atmosphere was remarkably relaxed and I was put at ease by the friendliness of my rivals.

It became a pleasure instead of an obligation to compete, made even better by my breaking the 25 metres apnea British junior record.

Fuelled by motivation, I am training hard in preparation for the European Fin Swimming championships to be held in August later this year. I am greatly looking forward to meeting some of the world's most talented fin swimmers, who, I have been assured, are just as sociable and hospitable as the British competitors.

However, I believe that excelling in fin swimming has not been the best part of the sport. More importantly, it has filled me with great confidence. Whereas last September I was firm in the conviction that I was useless at everything, fin swimming has put me in a positive frame of mind. It has seen me lose half a stone in weight as well as improving my schoolwork, concentration, general fitness and even relationships with family members.

I would like to think the daughter that once was sullen, obstinate and moody has finally gained a sense of direction, and I can only hope that others will be inspired to do the same.

Fin swimming training takes place at Shirley Swimming Pool, Southampton, and is open to those over the age of thirteen. For more information contact Jason Smith (fin swimming coach) on 023 8033 5095.