What Is The Minimum Age For Open Water Swims?

What Is The Minimum Age For Open Water Swims?

FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur), the English Channel swimming associations, and most other open water swimming organizations and governing bodies have rules that prevent swimmers under the age of 14 to participate in open water swims.

That being said, swimmers as young as 5 and 6 participate in short-distance open water swims in lakes and oceans around the world. But what is the generally accepted or recommended minimum age limit for children in the open water swimming world?

Other than the minimum age that varies between 14 and 16 among marathon swimming governing bodies and members of the FINA around the world, there are no fixed global standards regarding minimum age. The World Open Water Swimming Association founder Steven Munatones explains, “Every body of water is different and each swim and location has its generally accepted ages and conditions. From our observations and surveys, the minimum age of local swims is dependent on the conditions, safety net and experience of the race directors and the staff or municipality. In water colder than 68°F or rough with waves and fraught with currents is a reason to limit participation to those over the age of 10 or 12. 5 or 6 generally seems to be the lower limit for swims under 1 km, but some swims up to or over 1 km allow nippers, age-group swimmers and others who have lifesaving or swimming experience to be as young as 7 years old. However, a minimum age of 14 is the generally accepted minimum age standard for marathon swims over 10 km.”

Of course, each race director and governing body has several questions to ponder when they determine the minimum age for an open water swim:

• What is the distance of the swim?
• What is the swim course? Is the swim in shallow water or near the coastline?
• What are the conditions and water temperature?
• Are the children required to swim with a SSD (Swim Safety Device), fins, a wetsuit or be accompanied by a parent?
• Do the children required to take/pass a test swim?
• Are the children given a special colored swim cap to better identify them in the water?

Photo shows child participants in the New World Harbour Race in Hong Kong.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones