Frequently Asked Questions
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How far is it across the Monterey Bay?
It is 25 statute miles, 21.7 nautical miles, 40.2 kilometers, 44,000 yards, or 40,234 meters - measured from the beaches on either side of the Santa Cruz Harbor to the small beach (San Carlos Beach) adjacent to Monterey Harbor. The distance you actually swim can vary depending on currents and wind. You will generally swim somewhere between 25 and 30 miles.
What water temperature and conditions should I expect?
Most years, water temperature in the Monterey Bay ranges from 56f to 60f (13.3c to 15.5c)between May and September. Some years the water has remained in the mid 50s between May and June, whereas other years the water has held in the low to mid 60s during July and August. If you swim between May and September, you can expect the water to range between 56f and 58f. If you swim during the winter, you can expect temps in the low 50s (f), with the possibility of temps dipping below 50f.
How long does it take to swim across the Monterey Bay?
That will depend on several things, including how fast you swim, how many times you stop to eat or drink, how long you stop, how straight you swim, the course your pilot uses to guide you, the amount of wind that day, and currents. With repeated practice in a variety of ocean conditions and similar temperatures, you can begin to estimate how long it could take YOU to swim the bay.
What are the best times of year to swim?
In the past, swimmers have chosen to make attempts in the late Summer to early Fall (Mid July through September). This is when Monterey Bay has the best weather and warmest water. This is also a time when jellyfish are encountered near the surface in higher numbers. Winter has many calm and glassy days, but the water is consistently in the low to mid 50s (f). In the Spring (March through early June) there are strong afternoon winds and the water is in the mid to upper 50s (f), but it's generally calm at night and early morning.
Will I be swimming at night?
Most likely yes. Nights and mornings on the Monterey Bay are generally the calmest hours (less wind), so swimming much of your swim at night may be a good choice.
Why have so few people completed swims across the Monterey Bay, as compared to other swims such as the English Channel or Catalina Channel?
There are many reasons for this. The Monterey Bay is a lesser known swim than Catalina or the English Channel. Until recently, there has been no organization to support with swim attempts and to officially observe and ratify these swims. The Monterey Bay is slightly longer than the English Channel and can be significantly colder than swims in Southern California. There are also fewer resources, such as experienced pilots. Past attempts have ended as a result of weather, hypothermia, and frequent jellyfish interaction.
Are there "rules"? What are "English Channel Rules"?
Yes. Rules are defined before starting your swim to accurately document your accomplishment. The rules clearly state what you intend to do and how you plan to do it. They also create a level playing field for the purpose of record keeping and for planning future swims. "English Channel Rules" refer to a set of rules that govern swims in the English Channel, between England and France. These rules are based on the first recorded swim across the English Channel by Captain Mathew Web in 1883. In very basic summary, if you want to swim the English Channel, you must do the following. Wear one swimming hat, a pair of goggles and standard issue swimming costume. No neoprene is allowed. You must start on land where an impartial observer can see you standing on land and not in water. You must finish on land where the observer can see you standing on land and not in water. You are not allowed touch the boat at any time, this includes during feeding. If you break any of the above rules, your swim will be disqualified. The Monterey Bay Swimming Association has decided to use the same rules defined and used by the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association when sanctioning swims. These rules are inspired by English Channel rules. Please read and understand all MBSA rules before considering a swim across the Monterey Bay.
What is considered a "successful" swim across the Monterey Bay?
Any swim that adheres to the established rules and is witnessed and documented from start to finish by an impartial observer or observers, and begins and ends in locations considered acceptable by MBSA is considered a successful swim. Acceptable start and end locations include: On the North End - any natural area of dry land west of New Brighton State Beach; On the South End - any natural area of dry land west of Monterey Municipal Beach.
Why do I need an "official observer" to oversee my swim?
It's not that you "need" an official observer. You "want" an impartial observer who is trained in observing your swim and verifying that you have completed exactly what you have declared to do, with integrity. A swim of this magnitude deserves impartial verification and documentation. Anyone can "claim" to have swum across the Monterey Bay. Without an impartial observer and a defined set of standards by which success is measured, there is no way to keep an accurate and honest history. Trained observers are also committed to making your swim safer.
How do I apply to have my swim across the Monterey Bay observed and sanctioned?
See Planning Your Swim on this website. A summary of the process is as follows: 1) Research the swim and course. 2) Submit your Intent to Swim. MBSA will contact you after receiving your Intent to Swim. 3) After being contacted by MBSA, select a date and enter into a contract with the pilot/boat captain who will guide your swim. 4) Send your application and fees for sanctioning to MBSA. An observer will be assigned to your swim and will contact you to discuss the details.
Can I use my own boat?
Your chances of success increase with the experience of your pilot and crew. You may use a pilot and boat of your choice, as long as they meet the minimum requirements established by the MBSA. See the information on selecting a pilot and crew on this website, or contact MBSA if you have questions.
Can I wear a wetsuit?
The Monterey Bay Swimming Association will observe and ratify swims in two categories. Category A Marathon Swim and Category B Assisted Swim. A swimmer wearing a wetsuit is classified as a Category B Wetsuit Assisted swim. Wetsuit assisted swims must follow all rules for Category A swims, but the swimmer is permitted to wear a wetsuit. Category B swims are recorded in a separate list and not eligible for records or awards. Please see "Rules" for more information.
Can I wear Jammers instead of a Speedo style swim suit?
Yes. Please refer to the rules for a detailed description of allowed equipment. In summary, men may wear one porous swimsuit made from textile materials, which does not extend below the knees or above the navel. Jammer-style suits are permissible. For women, one porous swimsuit in one or two pieces, made from textile materials, which does not cover the neck, extend past the shoulder, nor extend below the knees. In general, these guidelines are equivalent to those for FINA pool competition.
How will I eat and drink while swimming?
To eat or drink, you will tread water or float while your crew hands you food and/or water. They should do everything in their power to avoid touching you during this exchange. No supporting contact in any way is allowed. Most swimmers receive food and water in a water bottle attached to a rope or placed in a basket attached to the end of a pole. Whichever system you use, you should practice this with your crew in various ocean conditions during your training.
Can I stop to reapply sun block during my swim?
You may stop and tread water or float while someone hands you sun block to apply to yourself. Nobody can help you apply sun block, grease, or other allowed protections.
What size crew do I need?
At a minimum, you will want someone to act as crew chief. This person is typically very familiar with your capabilities, your stroke, and generally what will keep you going in times of distress. This may be your coach or a training partner. You will also need someone to oversee your nutrition and feeding plan during your swim. Safety paddlers are also allowed and highly recommended, especially while swimming at night. Due to the duration of these swims, you may need several people who can play multiple roles and work in shifts. A recommendation is to have a crew chief or coach, a food handler, and 2 to 4 safety paddlers.
Can I rely on my observer to be part of my crew?
No. The observer will observe and enforce the rules of the swim and maintain an observer's log during the swim. The observer will provide input regarding safety, and may choose to share ideas with your pilot and crew chief if they believe this information will make your swim safer and increase your changes of success. The observer also has the authority to stop a swim and order the swimmer, support swimmer, and paddlers out of the water if rules are broken or if they observe any behavior that puts the swimmer or crew at unnecessary risk. Ultimately, the boat captain has complete authority over the swim, and can stop the swim at any time for the safety of the swimmer or crew.
Can I have a support paddler on a kayak or paddleboard?
Yes. Safety paddlers are allowed and highly recommended, especially while swimming at night. Due to the duration of these swims, you may need several people who can play multiple roles and work in shifts.
Should I provide food for my crew?
You are responsible for making sure your crew on board has adequate food and water for the duration of your swim. Some boat charters include galley service. If yours does not, you will need to arrange to feed your crew. No alcoholic beverages are allowed during a Monterey Bay swim (from dock to dock).
Can other people swim with me while I attempt my swim across the Monterey Bay?
At the discretion of your boat captain AND observer, support or "buddy" swimmers are allowed as long as they are not in the water for the entire duration of the swim. You may not make contact with a buddy swimmer or draft off them.
Should I tip my boat captain and crew?
10% of the charter fee is a common tip.
What if there is bad weather on the day of my swim?
If you or the boat captain decide that conditions are not safe enough to begin the swim, you may reschedule your swim attempt. Your agreement with your escort/pilot charter, including rescheduling of swims, is between you and the charter owner. Please be sure you understand your pilot's cancellation and rescheduling policies before the swim.