Course & Rules

A sanctioned swim covers the distance between the Northeast buoy at the Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge, either direction is acceptable. Land is never to be touched at the Islands, since they are a National Wildlife Refuge.


Rules that Establish Officially Recognized Swims

With respect to the precedence set by Ted Erickson’s historical swim and the unique environment that embodies the Farallon Islands the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation (FISF) set in place rules and parameters to officially recognize Farallon Island Swims.

These rules are recommended as a guide for any swimmer or relay swimmer who hopes to establish a Farallon Island swim that is officially recognized and recorded by the FISF.

Prior to all Farallon Island swim attempts please notify the FISF and when complete submit your observers report for recognition.

Following the completion of a swim a review by the FISF board will classify a relay or solo swim into one of three categories:

  • Unassisted Swim
    • Swimmer completes the swim under their own power, with only the optional use of goggles, wearing one porous swimsuit that does not assist to retain body heat or aid in buoyancy.  For males, the suit must not exceed below the knee or above the waist.  For females it must not extend below the knee, onto the neck, or beyond the shoulder.  The swimmer is allowed ear plugs, nose clips, wrist watch, safety lights, sunblock, body grease and one swim cap that is made either of Lycra, latex, silicone or neoprene.
    • The electronic transmitting devices known as Shark Shields are allowed.
    • The use of electronic devices such as mp3 players and similar devices audio devices are not allowed.
  • Staged Swim
    • Applies the same use of equipment listed for an Unassisted swim
    • In the case of a shark sighting a staged swim allows for the swimmer to exit the water one time for a period of 10-minutes or less.
    • The observer must record the coordinates of the start and finish of the stage locations.
  • Assisted/Adventure Swim (established for potentially physically challenged circumstance with approval by the FISF)
    • In addition to the list of equipment used for an unassisted swim the swimmer is allowed:
      • Wetsuit, floatation device, fins, snorkel, dumping warm water on the swimmer, underwater streamers and or a full time swim guide


Rules and parameters for recognized swims:

  1. A completed swim covers the distance between the Northeast buoy at the Farallon Islands and the eastern side of the Golden Gate Bridge, either direction is acceptable. Because the Farallon Islands are a National Wildlife Refuge land is never to be touched at the Islands.
    1. Farallon Island swims that start or finish in land locations at examples such as Point Reyes, Stinson Beach, and Muir Beach will be recognized and recorded with details describing the alternative route.
  2. No contact with the swimmer that either supports or moves the swimmer in any direction is allowed.
  3. Timing the swim will start when the swimmer begins swimming from either the Northeast buoy or the eastern side of the Golden Gate Bridge depending on direction of the swim.  The observer will stop the clock when the swimmer touches the Northeast buoy or crosses under the Golden Gate Bridge to the eastern side depending on direction of the swim.
  4. The observer is the official timer and is responsible for documenting the swim and submitting the observer log to the FISF.  In addition the observer is responsible for understanding the rules and clearly communicating them to the participants and their crews.
  5. *The pilot of the escort boat has absolute authority of the swim, the crew and passengers.  The pilot may cancel the swim at any time, for any reason, including, but not limited to, concerns for the safety of the swimmer or support personnel. The pilot is responsible for following all relevant local maritime regulations.
  6. Escort swimmers are allowed for solo swim attempts only.  They can accompany the swimmer 3-hours following the start of the swim for a period no longer than 1-hour.  Following an escort swim 2-hours must pass before another swimmer can accompany the swimmer.  Only one escort swimmer is allowed in the water with a swimmer.
    1. For sake of safety the boat pilot has the discretion to allow for additional escort swimmers outside the parameters described above.
  7. The swimmer shall not use the assist of a draft and shall not draft off an escort swimmer, a boat or any other object.
  8. FISF shall not observe or recognize attempts to swim by persons under the age of sixteen.
  9. The Farallon Islands are a National Refuge and part of a fragile and sensitive ecosystem.  All swim attempts must maintain accordance to the laws that protect this marine environment.  Under no circumstance will the FISF recognize any swim that as a result brings harm to the island or the surrounding wildlife.
  10. No Firearms are allowed on any person or vessel that pilots the swim.
  11. The swimmer, crew, observers, support and boat personal must avoid causing harm to all marine wildlife and their ecosystem.
  12. As defined by The World Anti-Doping Code performance enhancing drugs are not allowed.


*Relay Swims –Special Swim Types

  • A swim undertaken by a team of two or more swimmers, swimming in successive turns of a fixed time interval, in a fixed order

For a relay swim, add the following two rules:

  1. Relay teams may choose the number of swimmers (six is standard) and the turn interval (one hour is standard), but the team roster, order, and interval must remain fixed for the duration of the swim.
  2. The swimmer exchange takes place in the water, with the new swimmer approaching the previous swimmer from behind. The swimmers are allowed five minutes to complete the exchange, starting from the scheduled exchange time.



* Defined by Marathon Swimmers Federation