Supporting your swim

Swim plan & Observer

The swim routes NOWSA sanctions all present different challenges to planning and safety. NOWSA will provide the crew with a working Swim Plan for each swim, which will cover safety, navigation, traffic coordination, communication, and rules.

The NOWSA Observer will document your swim and ensure that rules and requirements are adhered to. The Observer is NOT your crew and should not be relied upon for making your feeds and picture taking.

Marathon swimming is a team sport. For your swim, you will need at least one crew member for support. Your crew person should know your feed plan, and be able to anticipate your wants and needs, physical and emotional. A good crew can make or break a swim.

While NOWSA does not put a limit on crew size, you should coordinate with your pilot on how many people can comfortably be on board.


Support Boat

The need for support varies from swim to swim. All NOWSA sanctioned marathon swims require an escort boat. NOWSA can offer guidance in locating an escort boat, but ultimately it is the swimmer’s responsibility to provide an adequate support vessel.

When selecting a escort craft, the following questions should be kept in mind:

  • How many people will be aboard? Be sure to have room for the pilot, your crew, your NOWSA Observer, your paddler, you documentary film crew, your mother, and yourself. Plus all that stuff you’ll be bringing along.
  • What sea conditions can the boat handle? Remember conditions on the water can change quickly, so plan for the worst.
  • Will my crew be comfortable? Comfort is a relative term, but a dry place, a head, and a way to make hot drinks will make you and your crew enjoy the experience a little bit more.
  • How much does it cost? Boat and pilot fees are not covered by NOWSA or your sanctioning fees. You are responsible for negotiating and paying this cost.

Vessels acting as the primary support boat on NOWSA swims must meet the following requirements:

  • be shorter than 51 feet (due to insurance restrictions).
  • be rated to carry at least the entire crew plus the swimmer.
  • be seaworthy and comply with applicable USCG regulations, particularly those related to life jackets, visual distress signals, fire extinguishers, and sound producing devices.
  • be current on registration and insurance.
  • have at least one VHF radio capable of transmitting at 25W, and one spare radio.
  • have sufficient fuel to complete the swim without refueling.


Will you need a paddler? NOWSA doesn’t require a kayak or paddle board escort for swims. While having one can provide an extra level of security and comfort on a long swim, it adds an extra level of complexity to the day. You are welcome to provide a paddler, but this must be factored into the logistics. How will the paddler get to/from the swim? Can they handle rough seas and cold? What if the paddler gets in trouble?