CLDSA Swim Rules

Effective: 1 JULY 2021

1. Official Swim Procedure

  1. For a swim to be officially recognised, the swimmer must walk into the water from the shore of departure, swim across until the swimmer touches the other side, with no water beyond. Swimmers may be assisted on the shore over jagged rocks, if there is a likelihood of injury being caused by breaking waves. Starting or finishing on a man-made object is permissible, so long as that object is in direct contact with land (e.g. slipway, breakwater, pier.)
  2.  During a swim no physical contact with a swimmer shall be made by any person.
  3. The timing of the swim shall start from the moment a swimmer enters until the swimmer touches the opposite coast, with no sea beyond.
  4. A maximum of three (3) swimmers are allowed per boat, we do however recommend that for first time swimmers a maximum of two (2) swimmers should be considered.
  5. Swimmers sharing a boat will be expected to remain close to one another throughout the swim (max 25 meters), should this not happen the observer has the right to call in one or both swimmers and abort the swim.
  6. The swimmer may not make intentional supportive contact with any vessel, object, or support personnel at any time during the swim.
  7. An Observer and Skipper are required to be selected for the swim. The Skipper can be the Observer at the same time along with the option of support crew.

2. Multiple Crossings

  1. A multiple crossing must adhere to single crossing rules.
  2. At the end of one leg the swimmer is allowed not more than 10 minutes on shore before embarking on the next leg.
  3. No assistance is allowed at the end of any leg, however, feeding is allowed.
  4. Each leg will count as a single crossing in one’s crossings count.
  5. The first leg will be timed from start to touching dry land. The second leg gets timed immediately thereafter (i.e. the rest time between legs is incorporated in the second leg time)

3. Circumnavigation Swims

  1. Circumnavigation swims would incorporate swimming around an island.
  2. The swim begins when the swimmer enters the water from the island’s shore. If no beach is available on the island, the swimmer may begin the swim by touching and releasing from part of the island’s shore (e.g., cliff face).
  3. The swim finishes when the swimmer swims around the island and then clears the water beyond the starting point (or touches the island’s shore beyond the starting point, if no beach is available).
  4. If access to the island is restricted, the swimmer may start and finish offshore, as long as the swimmer “closes the loop” by swimming beyond the starting point, as measured by GPS.

4. Relay Teams

  1. Relay teams may only swim routes that are listed as official CLDSA recognised relay routes.
  2. The CLDSA shall recognise male only, female only, mixed, wetsuit and assisted swim categories. If one swimmer is in a wetsuit or other form of assistance it shall be regarded as a wetsuit or an assisted swim.
  3. Relay teams may consist of a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 6 members.
  4. Team members' names and swimming order shall be given to the official observer before the commencement of the swim. Thereafter, substitutions will not be permitted.
  5. All relay team members must be aged 12 years or older on the day the swim commences and at least half (50%) of the team must be 16 years old or older on the day the swim commences. Teams consisting of fewer than 4 persons, all members must be over 16 years of age.
  6. On receipt of a time signal, a take-over must be made within 5 minutes of the ending of the preceding swimmer's leg. In order to affect the take-over, the new swimmer shall swim up from behind the preceding swimmer. (No touching between swimmers is allowed.)
  7. Each swimmer in the relay team must swim for a minimum of 1 hour. Each swimmer must swim for an equal amount of time agreed upon at the beginning of the swim (except for the final leg that may be shorter).
  8. Other than the relay handover, no other swimmers are allowed in the water with the current swimmer. The only exemption to this is no more than 500m from the end when all swimmers are entitled to swim together – here, the swimmers need to swim behind the current swimmer at all times.
  9. Team members shall rotate in the same order throughout the swim.

5. Swimming Attire and Swimming Aids

There are 3 categories of swim attire:

  • Standard “Skins”
  • Wetsuits
  • Assisted

Each category has their own permissible swimming aids.

Standard "Skins"

  1. You shall not be assisted by an artificial aid of any kind, includes taping/strapping;
  2. You may wear one cap, but it must not extend below the bottom of the earlobes. The cap must be made of latex, silicon or cloth and only one cap may be used at a time. Neoprene caps, or others made from or any other material which offers similar heat retention properties are not permitted.
  3. You may wear one pair of standard goggles. Smart goggles are allowed.
  4. Ear plugs and nose clips are permitted.
  5. At least two light sticks or flashing lights are required for safety at night.
  6. A watch may be worn at swimmer’s discretion.
  7. A heart rate strap may be worn.
  8. You are permitted to grease your body and/or apply sun screen before a swim.
  9. No music or communication devices are allowed.
  10. Shark repellent devices are permitted to be attached to the boat or the swimmer.
  11. Jellyfish sweepers are allowed.
  12. Tow-floats are allowed only if prior permission is received from the CLDSA Committee. If used, they can only be used as a safety device (for the purpose of marking the swimmer) and cannot be held onto.
  13. The following are not permitted: flotation devices such as pull buoys, wetsuits, booties, gloves, hoodies, rash vests, stinger vests, body suits, flippers and hand paddles.
  14. You may wear ONE swimming costume that conforms to the following specifications:
    • The costume shall be of a material not offering thermal protection or buoyancy and shall be sleeveless and legless and not extend onto the neck;
    • "Sleeveless" shall mean the costume must not extend beyond the end of the shoulder onto the upper arm; and
    • "Legless" shall mean that the costume may not extend on to the lower leg, below the level of the groin.
  15. The swimmer must make sure that their costume and cap are of an approved type before commencing the swim, as the swim may not be recognised should the cap and costume not conform.


  1. A neoprene wetsuit is allowed with a maximum thickness of 5mm on any area of the body.
  2. No gloves, booties or hoodies are allowed.
  3. This category also covers bathing costumes that don’t conform to a standard “skins” swimming attire
  4. You may wear up to two caps, but they must not extend below the bottom of the earlobes. The caps must be made of latex, silicon or cloth and a maximum of two caps may be used at a time. Neoprene caps, or others made from any other material which offers similar heat retention properties are not permitted.
  5. Certain floatation devices (for example a pull buoy) may be allowed with prior approval on presentation of a doctor’s certificate under this category.
  6. Tow-floats are allowed (if prior approval is received from the committee). If used, they can only be used as a safety device (for the purpose of marking the swimmer) and cannot be held onto.
  7. No propulsion devices (such as flippers or paddles) are permissible in this category
  8. A burkini will be considered in this category.
  9. The wearing of rash vests or stinger suits are allowed in this category.
  10. No music, pacing or communication devices are allowed (for safety reasons).


  1. Any other assistance required on a swim will be classified as “assisted” these incorporate, but are not restricted to the following:
    • Equipment that increases warmth not allowed under wetsuits: wetsuits thicker than 5mm, gloves, booties, hoodies  (including neoprene caps);
    • Equipment that increases speed including: flippers, paddles;
    • Equipment that increases buoyancy including: tow-float, pull-buoy; and
    • Auditory pacing aids and music ear pieces are not allowed (for safety reasons).
    • You can use an artificial aid, for example taping/strapping;
  2. For this category, an application needs to be made to the CLDSA committee before the swim. The application should state all swimming aids to be used on the swim.

The following table summarises what is allowed in each category. Anything omitted from this table can be enquired upon in writing.

 Allowed in category?
Swimming aidStandardWetsuitsAssisted
Goggles (including smart goggles)YYY
1 capYYY
Heart rate monitorYYY
Nose clipsYYY
Ear plugsYYY
Sun screenYYY
Shark repellent devices attached to boat or bodyYYY
Jellyfish sweeperYYY
Nightsticks and flashing lightsYYY
Tow-floatY (with permission)Y (with permission)Y
Pull buoy Y (medical note)Y
Wet suits ≤5mm YY
Burkini YY
Rash vest/stinger suit YY
Body suit YY
2 caps YY
Wet suits >5mm  Y
Flippers  Y
Hand paddle  Y
3+ caps  Y
Neoprene hat  Y
Gloves  Y
Booties  Y
Auditory pacing aids   
Music ear-piece   
Artificial aid (e.g., taping/strapping)  Y

6. Swimmer Requirements

  1. The minimum age for an official CLDSA solo swim is 12 years old on the day of the swim limited to swims under 10km.
  2. For relay swims the minimum age is 12 years old on the day of the swim.
  3. Swimmers between the ages of 12 and 17 years old must complete a qualifying swim/swims, this will be determined by weather conditions on the day of qualifying. General rules are – swim for 1 hour in 12 degrees or should the water be warmer, the swimmer is required to swim for 1½ hours. This will qualify the swimmer for a swim of 7.4-10km.
  4. For swims over 10km, swimmers between the ages of 12 and 17 years old must apply to the CLDSA committee for approval prior for an official CLDSA solo swim.
  5. A swimmer with a disability will need to supply a letter from their physician giving them medical approval prior to an extreme swim.
  6. A swimmer must complete a CLDSA Swim Application when they sign up for a swim which will include an indemnity form.
  7. Swimmers must declare that they have prepared to the best of their ability having the relevant experience and training regime, abide by the international doping policies and have adequate clothing, nutritional requirements and support in place.

7. Procedure for CLDSA Official Swim Application

  1. Every application for recognition of a swim must be accompanied by the observer’s report. But the committee may call for additional evidence if they require it.
  2. Applications to swim must be made timeously.
  3. You must be a MEMBER of the CLDSA for the current season which runs from 1 July to 30 June.
  4. It is imperative that applicants read and sign the CLDSA Indemnity Form (this within the registration process on the CLDSA website).
  5. The Swim Co-ordinator(s) must be notified at least 48 hours (2 full days) before the planned swim.
  6. For Robben Island crossings, our official Swim Coordinator will handle the organisation with the Robben Island authorities for those who do not have pre-existing arrangements with the authorities directly.
  7. For record swim attempts, there should ideally be at least two CLDSA observers.

8. Recognition of Swims

  1. In order to receive official recognition for a swim you will have to be a current member of the CLDSA and comply with all of the prescribed CLDSA rules subject to any exemptions. You will also have to have paid your swim registration fee (in addition to valid membership).
  2. Awards (certificates) are handed out at the end of each season (30 June) at the annual general meeting (AGM). If you cannot attend the ceremony, your certificate will be sent to you as a PDF via email.
  3. Medals must be purchased before 30 June each year and ordered specifically. After that date, you would need to make arrangements (at your cost) to receive your medal.

The medal categories are as follows:

Skin Swims

  • Sea swims over 7.4km receive a Bronze medal;
  • Any sea swim over 10km receives a Silver medal; and
  • A record for any officially recognized swim receives a Gold medal.
  • False Bay Solo swim a Gold medal
  • False Bay 4 person Relay swim a Bronze medal
  • False Bay 2 person Relay swim a Silver medal
  • False Bay New Record for a Solo or 2 person relay or 4 person relay Gold medal

Wetsuit Swims

  • Sea swims over 7.4km receive a Bronze medal designated in the “Wetsuit” category;
  • Any sea swim over 10km receives a Silver medal designated in the “Wetsuit” category;
  • a record for any officially recognized swim receives a Gold medal in the “Wetsuit” category.
  • False Bay Solo swim a Gold medal
  • False Bay 4 person Relay swim a Bronze medal
  • False Bay 2 person Relay swim a Silver medal
  • False Bay New Record for a Solo or 2 person relay or 4 person relay Gold medal

Assisted Swims

  • Sea swims over 7.4km receive a Bronze medal designated in the “Assisted” category;
  • Any sea swim over 10km receives a Silver medal designated in the “Assisted” category;
  • A sea swim in this category will not receive recognition as a record because there may be too many variances within this group.
  • You may apply for a medal for a long-distance open water inland swim though inland swims would have to be at least 10km.

9. Observers

  1. All CLDSA observers shall be appointed on application to the CLDSA committee.
  2. The CLDSA committee members shall automatically qualify as observers.
  3. The observer shall be requested to confirm that the swimming attire regulations have been adhered to. This should be done before the start and during the swim
  4. The observer will complete the checklist supplied for the CLDSA’s records within a month of the swim.
  5. Please note that it is the swimmer’s responsibility to ensure this checklist is completed and signed by observer in order for the swim to be recognised.
  6. The appointed observer, shall be in sole charge of the timing of the swim and shall be responsible for observing compliance with the CLDSA Rules, subject to ratification by the CLDSA Committee if needs be.
  7. The decision of the CLDSA observer shall be binding.
  8. The CLDSA shall accept no liability for the acts or omissions of the observers.
  9. It is recommended that the observer is qualified in first aid.

10. Skippers

  1. The CLDSA shall not formally approve skippers but shall maintain a list of  CLDSA recognised skippers for benefit of our members. Skippers should all have first aid and CPR training.
  2. The CLDSA shall accept no liability for any act or omissions of the skippers.
  3. The Skipper can be the Observer for the swim with the option of support crew.

11. Environmental Responsibilities

Everyone involved in the swim attempt including the swimmer, the observer, skipper, support personnel must treat the environment respectfully and prevent avoidable harm to marine wildlife and eco systems.

12. Recognised Swims

  1. The current CLDSA recognised solo swims can be found on the CLDSA website record database. Any other swim will need to be pre-approved by the CLDSA before attempting.
  2. The current list of official CLDSA recognised relay swims is as below:
    • Across False Bay (33km)
    • Preekstoel - Mykonos - Preekstoek (24km)
    • Robben Island - Dassen Island (52.5km)
  3. For swims not on our recognized list of swims, the recognition will be awarded at the discretion of the CLDSA Committee.

13. Swim Events

  1.  “Swim Events” are defined as swimming races that have more than 10 participants and are linked to a specific date.
  2. Individual application will have to be made to the CLDSA for the CLDSA to recognise your swim during a swim event.
  3. In addition to observing the general CLDSA swimming rules, exceptions will be made to enhance the safety of these Swim Events that include...
    • Use of tow floats for safety purposes to indicate presence of swimmers but they must not be used as a floatation device.

14. Exemptions

  1. Organisers of Swim Events and swimmers may apply from exemption from any of these rules for prior approval in advance of any planned swim.
  2. The exemptions will be decided upon by the CLDSA Committee and issued on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Exemptions may not be applied for after any proposed swim.

15. Liability

  1. All members have accepted to be bound by these rules by virtue of their membership application.
  2. The CLDSA and its committee members shall not be held liable for the interpretation and application of these rules.
  3. The CLDSA and its committee members shall not be liable to any swimmers, observers or pilots for any expense, cost in terms of any swim.
  4. The CLDSA and its committee members shall not be liable to injury, death, disability caused, loss or damage to property or other loss or costs incurred.

16. Swim Fees 2023/2024

  1. Long distance swimming aspirants shall pay a fee as set out by the Committee to cover administrative expenses of the CLDSA and the issue of the official certificate. Non-refundable swim fees should be made before the commencement of the swim.
  2. CLDSA fees will be reviewed annually and any adjustment will be announced at the AGM.

Annual Membership (due before 30 June each year): R300
Swim Fee: R200
Medal: R450

Foreign swimmers are requested to pay when they are in South Africa.

17. Medical

  1. It is strongly recommended that the medical assessment is completed by a physician (preferably a sports physician with cold-water/long-distance endurance sport experience). Alternatively (and based on the availability of specialist physicians), the swimmer’s personal physician or a GP can complete the assessment.
  2. The medical will still apply for swims longer than 25km, regardless of the expected time in the water, water temperature or swim route.
  3. A resting 12-lead ECG is required. This is not required by all international marathon swimming associations, but the CLDSA Medical Officer feels that this is prudent and in the interest of the swimmer’s safety. A 12-lead resting ECG can be done by a physician or many GPs.
  4. If you are planning a swim longer than 25km, the CLDSA recommends that you should have your medical completed in advance, as it will be valid for a full 12 months and can be used for multiple swims during the year.
  5. Completing the medical in advance will avoid any last-minute rush to have the assessment once your swim window is confirmed.
  6. If you are planning a marathon swim under a different swimming association rules which require a medical, we suggest that you have any additional medical forms completed at the same time as your CLDSA medical to save on admin and cost (the doctor should be able to complete one medical in order to sign forms for multiple swim associations, e.g. both CLDSA and CSA forms for English Channel swims, or even ISA medicals for ice swimming, at no extra cost).
  7. You will be required to submit your completed medical form (at least one week prior to your proposed swim date) to the CLDSA Medical Officer via a specific mailbox ( Your information will be saved securely and will be reviewed only by the CLDSA Medical Officer.
  8. The requirement for the swim medical will come into place from 1 July 2023, for the new swim season.

Any further queries can be directed to

The CLDSA Medical Requirement Form (see pdf link below and on the CLDSA website here).

We wish safe and enjoyable training to members and prospective members who are training for or planning marathon swims. We look forward to following your swim attempts.

18. Support Swimmer / Pace Swimmer

  1. During solo swims of more than 10km, a swimmer may be accompanied in the water by one person only and not accompanied at all until after the first 3 hours.
  2. This accompaniment will be for a maximum of 1 hour and cannot be repeated until at least 2 hours have elapsed after the cessation of the accompaniment.  Any individual pace swimmer is permitted to swim for no more than a total of three hours per crossing.
  3. The second swimmer may swim alongside, but not in front, of the solo aspirant and must not impede the solo swimmer.
  4. For health and safety reasons the CLDSA pilot/skipper must agree to any request for a support swimmer before they enter the water to accompany the swimmer.
  5. The pilot/skipper may, at his or her discretion, request that a second swimmer join the solo aspirant outside of these times for a short period on the grounds of safety. (i.e. if a swimmer suffers severe cramps).
  6. Similarly, the pilot/skipper may ask for accompaniment at the very end of a solo swim if the conditions dictate. This is to be allowed even if the request is within 2 hours of a previous accompaniment.
  7. No support swimming is to be allowed on a relay swim.