NOWSA recognizes the rules of the Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) for all sanctioned swims. Changes by MSF to the swim rules, if any, shall take effect on 1 April of each year.
The Swim Rules shall include any modifications shown below. The remainder of the rules are taken in full from MSF.
- Overview & Purpose
- The Spirit of Marathon Swimming
- Standard Equipment
- Nonstandard Equipment
- Golden Rules of Marathon Swimming
- Swim Rules — as shown below
- Using MSF Rules for Your Swim
- End Notes
- Special Swim Types
This section defines standard MSF Swim Rules for a one-way solo swim (Point A to Point B). Standard rules for multi-leg swims, circumnavigation swims, relay swims, and stage swims are defined in the Special Swim Types supplement.
Individual swimmers or local governing bodies may adopt MSF Swim Rules in full, as shorthand for “standard conduct.” Or, they may adapt the rules to local circumstances, as long as two conditions are met:
- Any modifications of standard swim conduct are declared.
- The modifications do not violate the spirit of unassisted marathon swimming.
The declared Swim Rules must be read aloud by the observer in the presence of the swimmer and all support personnel before the swim begins.
Start & Finish
The swim begins when the swimmer enters the water from a natural shore. If geographic obstacles (e.g., cliffs) prevent the swimmer from clearing the water at the start, the swimmer may begin the swim by touching and releasing from part of the natural shore (e.g., cliff face).
The swim finishes when the swimmer clears the water on a natural shore, beyond which there is no navigable water. If geographic obstacles prevent the swimmer from clearing the water at the finish, the swimmer may finish by touching part of the natural shore.
The swimmer may not make intentional supportive contact with any vessel, object, or support personnel at any time during the swim.
The swimmer may wear a single textile swimsuit with standard coverage, one latex or silicone cap, goggles, ear plugs, nose clips, and may grease the body. The swimmer may not use any additional equipment that benefits speed, buoyancy, endurance, or heat retention.
The swimmer may not intentionally draft behind any escort vessel or support swimmer. The swimmer may swim alongside an escort vessel, but may not intentionally position him or herself inside the vessel’s bow and displacement waves, except while feeding.
A support swimmer (or swimmers) may accompany the solo swimmer for a limited duration. Multiple support swims are allowed, but should not occur consecutively. [NOWSA removes:
The MSF recommends a maximum of one hour per support swim and a minimum of one hour between support swims.]
The support swimmer may not intentionally touch the solo swimmer and must position him or herself at least slightly behind the solo swimmer.
Authority on the Escort Vessel
The observer is responsible for documenting the facts of the swim, interpreting the swim rules, and keeping the official time. [NOWSA adds: The observer will also ensure that the swim is conducted safely, and may cancel the swim at any time, for any reason, including, but not limited to, concerns for the safety of the swimmer or support personnel.]
The pilot of the escort vessel (or lead pilot, if there are multiple vessels) is the ultimate authority in all other matters. The pilot may cancel the swim at any time, for any reason, including, but not limited to, concerns for the safety of the swimmer or support personnel. The pilot is responsible for following all relevant local maritime regulations.
Responsible Environmental Stewardship
Everyone involved in the swim attempt – swimmer, observer, support personnel, and escort boat personnel – must treat the environment respectfully and prevent avoidable harm to marine wildlife and ecosystems.
Continuance of the Spirit of Marathon Swimming
If any issue regarding swim conduct arises that the Swim Rules do not clearly address, the swimmer should act – and the observer should judge – in accordance with the spirit of unassisted marathon swimming.