When swimming in 10-15 feet of ocean water shortly before shore, the water surges horizontally as the waves move in and out from shore. It is particularly noticeable when swimming at the bottom – when scuba diving or otherwise keeping yourself down.
In this zone, when the water is going against you, you can either kick as hard as possible in the direction you wish to go – or you can slowly kick. Either way, you will stay in the same place.
When the surge moves in the direction you want to go, one good kick will have you surging forward, making great progress.
Clearly the best course is to relax and stay put except when the surge moves forward, and then make the most of your energy for forward momentum. But most of us will instead kick like crazy, wanting to move forward, going nowhere because the water is too powerful. We will tire ourselves out for no good reason, lacking the patience to go the easiest path, which is also the best way to get further ahead.