Channel rules are a general description of the rules, regulations, policies, procedures, protocols, and traditions of the channel swimming community.
As a matter of tradition, the rules refer to a solo swim or relay where the swimmers are not assisted, supported or touched by other swimmers or individuals on boats, kayaks or paddle boards, do not wear wetsuits, and continue unassisted from start to finish. The tradition of channel rules began with Captain Matthew Webb’s successful crossing of the English Channel in 1875.
Later in response to individuals who did not adhere to tradition and who actually did not swim across the English Channel, the rules were proposed, adopted, formalized in 1926 by the Channel Swimming Association.
The rules were later promulgated by organisations such as the British Long Distance Swimming Association, the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation, and numerous national governing bodies from Australia to Ireland.
However, as the sport continue to evolve throughout the 20th century, differences were accepted by local associations. Currently, channel rules are not universally standardized. There remain differences in specific examples of the channel rules as accepted and administered around the world.
Evan Morrison of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association outlines these differences in the Marathon Swimmers Forum (click here). These acceptable differences range from the use of neoprene caps and jammers to the use of a pace swimmer and stinger suits. The adjudication of drafting, the format of Observer Reports, and the handling of shark encounters are also examples of the differences among the dozens of governing bodies in the sport.
Channel rules can also refer to the rules, regulations, policies, procedures, protocols, and traditions of the marathon swimming community as well as specific rules of the Channel Swimming Association, Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation, Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, ACNEG (Asociacion de cruce a nado del Estrecho de Gibraltar), Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association, Cook Strait Marathon Swimming, Hawaiian Channel Swim Association, Lake Tahoe Swimming Society, Farallon Islands Swimming Federation, Rottnest Channel Swim Association, Cape Long Distance Swimming Association, British Long Distance Swimming Association, Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, Croatian Long Distance Swimming Federation, Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association, FINA, Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association, Menorca Channel Swimming Association, New England Marathon Swimming Association, Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association, Southern California Eight, Oceans Seven, Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, Townsville Open Water Swimming Association, Vancouver Open Water Swimming Association, and other channel swimming and marathon swimming governing bodies, associations, organizations, and race committees.
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