Open Water Swimming Rules

Open Water Swimming Rules

If you’d like to have your open water swim officially recognised, find out about the open water swimming rules and regulations from your local association. In South Africa, all long distance open water swims are officiated by the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA).

Which swim distances are recognised?

  • Sea swims over 7km – Bronze medal
  • Sea swims over 10km – Silver medal
  • A record for any officially recognised swim – Gold medal
  • In land swims need to be at least 10km

Open water swimming rules for official recognition

The CLDSA officiates all swims in accordance to the rules of the World Open Water Swim Association, which include the following: 


  • Swimmers are not permitted to use or wear any device or swimsuit that may aid speed, buoyancy, heat retention or endurance (such as wetsuit, webbed gloves, paddles, fins, etc.)
  • You are allowed to grease your body before the swim.
  • You may wear goggles and one cap (silicone). Neoprene caps, or others made from or any other material which offers similar heat retention properties are not permitted.

Swim Wear

  • You may wear one swimming costume that conforms to the following specifications: 
    • Costume’ A Standard Swim Costume’
    • The costume – for both males and female – shall be of a material not offering thermal protection or buoyancy. The costume needs to be sleeveless and legless. “Sleeveless” means the costume may not extend beyond the end of the shoulder onto the upper arm. “Legless” means that the costume may not extend on to the upper leg, below the level of the groin.
  • No wetsuits allowed
  • No body suits allowed

Swim Procedures

  • The swimmer must enter the sea from the shore of departure and swim across to finish on dry land. 
  • The timing of a swim starts from the moment the swimmer enters the water until he completes the swim.
  • During the swim no physical contact with the swimmer is allowed. The swimmer may not touch the boat or accompanying craft.

Minimum Age

  • The minimum age for an official CLDSA swim is 12 years old on the day of the swim.
  • Between the ages of 12 and 18, swimmers must complete a qualifying swim/swims. This is determined by weather conditions on the day of qualifying. General rules are – swim for 1 hour in 12 degrees. If the water is warmer, the swimmer is required to swim for 1 ½ hours. 

Differently Abled Swimmers

  • A swimmer with a disability will need to supply a letter from their physician giving them medical approval prior to an extreme swim.

Enjoy Your Swim!

Now that you know the rules, you can go and achieve your swimming goal!

Remember to test all your swimming gear and equipment during training – never try anything new on race day.

Need help reaching your swimming goals? Find out more about our Open Water Swimming Activities in Cape Town.

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