Local Rule Variations in Marathon Swimming

Rules in marathon swimming date to 1927, when the newly-formed Channel Swimming Association wrote its first regulations for English Channel swims. CSA rules (often known as “Channel Rules”) are the basis for most contemporary marathon swimming rules and standards.

Local adaptations of Channel Rules have produced many slight variations on the original. In the absence of a global governing body with global rules, this has sometimes produced confusion about which rules are truly fundamental, and which are open to local modification.

Interestingly, even the “original” Channel Rules are written as local guidelines, not global guidelines. For example, CSA Rules state that after finishing the first leg of a two-way crossing, “Walking 200m along the shoreline to Cap Gris Nez is not permissable.”

The MSF believes there is a fundamental “spirit” shared by the many variations on Channel Rules, and it aims to codify this global spirit while remaining flexible to local adaptations. The MSF also recognizes existing, well-established local marathon swimming rules as legitimate adaptations of the global spirit of the sport.

MSF Rules do not invalidate existing local adaptations. Nor should existing local variations necessarily be applied globally.