SBCSA COVID-19 Update

June 19, 2020.

The SBCSA is committed to supporting and certifying marathon swims in the California Channel Islands, while also promoting the safety of the swimmer, support team, pilot, and observer. Like many organizations, we are grappling with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for our operations. While physical distancing protocols have shut down many organized group swims and races in North America, the application of these protocols to solo marathon swimming is lacking clear guidelines.

Given our dual commitments to both sanctioning swims and promoting safety, we felt it appropriate to investigate not just the binary question of whether solo marathon swims can be undertaken safely and in compliance with government regulations; but also how we might design safety protocols to continue safely supporting swims in this uniquely challenging environment.

As of June 18, 2020, the State of California is in Stage 2 of its phased re-opening. Ventura County and Santa Barbara County are in late Stage 2. Ocean swimming and charter boat excursions are both legal activities, provided physical distancing guidelines are met.

Sanction Policy for 2020 Swims

Starting July 1, the SBCSA will resume limited sanctioning of solo and duo-tandem swims for residents of the contiguous 48 U.S. states. Supported routes include:

Sanctioning is temporarily paused for:

To promote physical distancing on the escort boat, swimmers may bring no more than two support crew members, including paddler if used.

To promote consistent safety protocols on the escort boat, sanctioning is temporarily limited to swims escorted by approved captains who have provided the SBCSA with an acceptable plan to minimize the risk of viral transmission among event participants. Additional details in the following section.

The SBCSA will resume support for longer swim routes, relay swims, and long-haul travel when government restrictions are lifted more fully and we believe we can safely accommodate such events.

Please note: Due to the dynamic nature of the pandemic and government response, the SBCSA may modify these policies and protocols at any time, up to and including canceling the rest of the season. For anyone who prefers not to operate under such uncertainty, we encourage them to postpone their swim until a more stable environment prevails.

Safety Protocols on the Escort Boat

In order for a boat captain to be approved to pilot SBCSA swims in 2020, they must provide us with a COVID-19 Safety Plan that 1) reduces the likelihood of an infected person participating in a swim and 2) minimizes the risk of viral transmission while a swim is taking place. At minimum, the Plan must address:

The Elka Lynn, operating out of Channel Islands Harbor, is currently scheduled to escort >80% of our 2020 swims. We have been actively working with the owner/captain of this vessel to ensure compliance with our COVID-19 policy. The Elka Lynn is the only boat currently vetted and approved to escort 2020 swimmers under the SBCSA sanction.

We are in contact with other boat owners who have previously escorted Channel Islands marathon swims, and will evaluate their plans on a case-by-case basis so that they may become eligible to escort swims under SBCSA sanction.

Pre-Swim Waiver and Acknowledgment of Risks

The SBCSA have prepared an addendum to our standard Waiver and Release of Liability, acknowledging the specific risks of COVID-19. Additionally this document articulates the new risk-mitigation protocols and behavioral expectations associated with the swim event.

The COVID-19 waiver document will be emailed to the swimmer and support crew at least 14 days prior to the swim event. Swimmer must acknowledge receipt/understanding/compliance with this document by emailing the SBCSA Observer Coordinator at least 4 days prior to the swim event. At dockside, the document must be reaffirmed with a signature.

All SBCSA observers have received the COVID-19 Policy and Waiver Document, and have acknowledged understanding of the expectations placed upon them (the observers) to ensure that swims are performed in a manner compliant with the Policy.

Postponements, Cancellations, Fees, and Refunds


SBCSA Board of Directors
Jane Cairns, Cherie Edborg, Peter Hayden, Evan Morrison, and Dave Van Mouwerik


©2019 Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association