Top 10 Reasons Against Swim Bootlegging

Posted by Scott Zornig, 4 October 2013

no bootleg For some strange reason, a number of people are bootlegging marathon swims this season. I know of five intended bootlegged swims from California Channel islands during 2013. For those of you who do not know, a “bootleg swim” is defined as “Swimming or attempting to swim across a body of water without utilizing the governing organization, where there is a prevailing body, to sanction and ratify the swim.” I know for a fact that all 5 swimmers used the resources provided by the SBCSA and CCSF to plan, organize, and conduct their swims.

While the oceans are free to any person who wants to swim, here are my top 10 reasons why bootlegging a swim in an area governed by a sanctioning organization is wrong and goes against the spirit or out sport:

10) Sanctioning organizations verify and record each successful swim for historical purposes.

9) A sanctioning organization provides an observer who has been trained in observing and CPR. Observers are experienced and know what to do during a marathon attempt.

8) A sanctioning organization provides certified and trained observer who document that the swim is done according to prevailing channel rules

7) A sanctioning organization has appropriate rescue and first aid equipment on the boat.

6) A sanctioning organization has a wealth of knowledge about the swim and provides resources which increase your chance of success. Did you know that local history shows that only 40% of bootleggers make it across the channel compared to an 80% success rate for sanctioned swimmers?

5) A sanctioning organization only suggests vessels which have been vetted, know the lay of the land and have experience escorting swimmers across the channel.

4) A sanctioning organization is typically a 501c-3 nonprofit organization which is made up of volunteers. Marathon swimmers should support these governing organizations or else we will all fade away.

3) Marathon swimming needs sanctioning organizations to collaborate, set and enforce rules. Otherwise, the sport would evolved into a free for all with everyone setting their own rules.

2) A sanctioning organization is typically well insured and provides insurance for all parties. Do you know that in the U.S., every person on the boat has legal exposure in the event of an accident (i.e., swimmers, support crew, family and friends). It is not cool to subject these people to possible exposure when they are there to help you with your swim.

1) Using a sanctioning organization is considerably safer that doing a swim on your own.

There are approximately 180,500 islands and 307 million lakes in the world and marathon swimmers have not attempted swims from even 1% of them. Why is it necessary to bootleg a swim from Catalina for example, when you can drive 90 miles south and do a swim from one of four Coronado islands which has no sanctioning organization? I become incensed when I hear about people who use the sanctioning organizations knowledge, resources and/or boats and don’t bother including the governing body in their swim. If every marathon swimmer did this, our sport would fall into complete disarray and cease to exist.

There are 77 scheduled swims in 2013 between the CCSF and SBCSA, but 5 people think they are special and should not have to pay. How do you feel about this? Please let us know.


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