Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to swim the Santa Barbara Channel? What is the general process?

  1. Choose a swim route.
  2. Secure a date with an escort boat. Usually, this will require making a deposit with the pilot.
  3. Submit an Application for Sanction to the SBCSA.
  4. Pay the appropriate sanction fees.
  5. Recruit an adequate support crew, who will accompany you on the boat for your swim.
  6. The SBCSA will provide an Official Observer for your swim. Within 30 days of your swim attempt, the observer will contact you via your preferred method of communication.

How do I select an escort boat? Which one do you recommend?

The SBCSA maintains a list of vessels and pilots that we have worked with in the past. These pilots are experienced at escorting swimmers, and their vessels are appropriately appointed for channel swims. Swimmers are not required to use one of the listed boats, but unless you have a good reason not to, we recommend that you do.

Please communicate clearly with your pilot about the nature of your swim attempt - start location, finish location, and estimated swimming speed. If your swim may take more than 12 hours, from pre-swim dock departure to post-swim dock arrival, US Coast Guard regulations for commercial vessels require a second captain. A second captain will likely have a commensurate impact on the escort fee, so please iron out the pricing with your captain well before the swim date.

What are the best months of the year for swimming?

You may swim any time of year, but the water is warmest late July through early October.

How many people should I bring on my support crew?

At least one support person is required for all swims. If your swim is longer than a standard one-way Anacapa swim, you should probably bring at least two support persons.

At all times during the swim, at least one support person should be awake and alert to attend to the swimmer's feedings and other various needs.

Can I count the Official Observer as one of my support crew?

No. The Observer's job is to document the facts of the swim and verify the swimmer's adherence to the Rules. It is not the Observer's job to act as de-facto support crew.

Is a kayaker required?

No, but many swimmers find them useful.

Is a feeder required?

Yes, you must have at least one support person to attend to your feedings and other various needs.

Are tandem swims allowed?

A tandem swim is when two or more solo swimmers are simultaneously swimming the same route and off the same boat. Yes, these are allowed - but the Application Committee will review the suitability of the proposed tandem. Tandem swimmers should be close in speed and have experience swimming together.

Tandem swimmers must also maintain sufficient lateral distance from each other so as not to benefit from each's other's draft.

Tandem swims may be eligible for discounted sanction fees - inquire via the contact form.

What if I show up for my swim and the ocean conditions are unsafe?

If you or the boat captain decide that conditions are not safe enough to begin the swim, you may reschedule your swim attempt. Swims rescheduled less than 48 hours before the scheduled meet time are subject to a $200 rescheduling fee, so the SBCSA can find a new observer. Any charges incurred by rescheduling the escort boat are between the swimmer and the boat captain.

Should I provide food for my crew and Observer?

Unless your escort boat includes galley service, it is good etiquette to "feed those who feed you." Crewing and observing on a channel swim can be an uncomfortable experience, and having a few snacks & (non-alcoholic) drinks around can help your crew be better able to attend to your needs.

If you do not intend to provide food to your crew and Observer, please let them know that they should bring their own food and hydration.

What about tipping?

Tipping is not required, but it is good etiquette to compensate the boat captain (and deckhands, if applicable) in addition to their standard fee, even if you do not finish. Many marathon swim escort boats have a background in the charter fishing or diving industries, in which tipping is standard. 10% of the escort fee is a standard/suggested tip.

What is the cancellation / refund policy for sanction fees?


©2017 Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association