Whenever I swim, I get water up my nose swimming freestyle. This is how it happens: when I rotate my head and body to the right or left out of the water to breathe, I feel water going into the first part of my nose. I'm usually a bit uncomfortable at this point. When I turn my head out of the water again to get air, the water shoots into my nose, and I'm forced to stop.
I've been taking a beginner's swimming class, and my instructor told me he has never had someone with my problem. He even asked another instructor, who told him that some people "just have that problem and have to use a nosepiece". I refuse to accept that I have to wear a nosepiece, though.
Is there a way to alleviate or eliminate this problem?
Wearing a nose clip is a short-term solution to your problem, and it may help, but it may not solve it in the long run. There is no reason you cannot learn to breathe correctly without the use of a nose clip.
From the information you have given, it seems likely that you are breathing through your nose. For the front crawl breathing technique, you should always inhale and exhale through the mouth.
The simple fact is that the mouth is bigger than the nose; therefore, more air can flow in and out in the short second you have to take a breath.
You may well think that you already breathe using your mouth, but it is very common to breathe through the nose without thinking about it. We are only human, after all, and breathing through the nose it what comes naturally.
Water does not involuntarily travel up your nose, even if you roll your head to the side to take a breath. The air inside your nose causes an airlock under the water, preventing water from travelling up there. You will get a sensation of water around your nostrils but try to get used to it and not let it put you off.
Water will only travel up your nose if you inhale through it while underwater. The fact that ‘water shoots into my nose’ (to use your own words) only proves that you are, in fact, breathing through your nose and not your mouth.
Try simple breathing exercises, either standing in the water or swimming slowly, holding a float. Move through the water, breathing out gently and slowly through your mouth, raising your face and breathing in again through your mouth. Exhaling through your mouth will blow bubbles which will slightly tickle your nose. Don’t be put off, and try to get used to it.
Once you become comfortable with this breathing action, incorporate it into your swimming stroke. Swim slowly at first, allowing you plenty of time to breathe and become comfortable with the technique.
Another point to consider is how much you roll your head to the side. It must roll enough for your mouth and nose to clear the water and breath. Even when you master breathing through your mouth, if you do not clear the water enough, the water entering your nose will enter your mouth instead!
Try exaggerating the movement of the head when breathing. In other words, roll your head to the side far more than you need to. This will ensure that you clear to water and get a clean breath. Then with practice, you can reduce the movement to an amount you are comfortable with.