Maryland Swim for Life Course

Course: There will be 2 large inflatable yellow buoys on the course – one marking the start which also serves as the turnaround for multi-lap swimmers, and one at the 1.25 kilometer turnaround. Consecutive buoys are visible from each preceding buoy. Each wave will turn around at the north buoy that marks the halfway point of their swim. A special orange buoy will be set at .6 miles from the start for the north turn-around point of the 1.2 and 2.4-Mile triathlon challenge.

7.5 kilometer swimmers will swim the course three times, 5.0 kilometer swimmers will swim the course two times and 2.5 kilometer swimmers will swim the course one time. 2.4 mile triathlon challenge swimmers will swim the course two times and 1.2 mile triathlon challenge swimmers will swim the course one time.  All swimmers will start the swim in the same direction – upriver (North). Upon reaching the appropriate buoy, swimmers will go around that buoy and swim back down river (South).

Swimmers should always keep buoys on their RIGHT going NORTH. Swimmers should always keep the buoys on their RIGHT going SOUTH. Kayakers will be there to be sure you swim to the correct side. This prevents unfair shortcuts.

Start procedure: Swimmers will start in the water in accordance with their chosen wave. All swimmers must wear a timing chip on a Velcro strap around the ankle. Swimmers will start in the water, in 5 waves according to distance: 7.5 kilometer swimmers first, followed by 5.0 kilometer swimmers, then the 2.4 milers, the 2.5 kilometer swimmers, and 1.2 milers last. Each group will begin approximately 5 minutes after the preceding group has started. The bottom is sandy silt and free from hazards. The start line for the swim will be perpendicular to the shore at the finish line buoys at the edge of the water. The shallow water will allow all participants fair access to the first leg of the race. The Start / Finish Judge will be assigned to keep the area clear of non-participants. The PA system will be used to address the swimmers at the staging area on the sand beach. The start of each wave will be signaled by a single 3-second blast of the air horn.

Turn Buoys: The course has been shortened this year for added safety and swimmers who choose the longer distances will be doing laps.

1.2 Miles - Down, turn at the orange buoy and back (.6 Miles)
2.5 Kilometers - Down, turn at the yellow buoy and back (1.25 Kilometers)
2.4 Miles - Two laps, north turns at orange buoy
5.0 Kilometers - Two laps, north turns at yellow buoy
7.5 Kilometers - Three laps, north turns at yellow bouy

The south multi-lap buoy which also serves as the start buoy will be yellow for all swimmers.

Water: Water temperature on swim mornings is usually in the upper-70s or lower-80s.  Wetsuits are allowed if the water temperature is less than 78 degrees (but most swimmers do not wear one as the water is very comfortable); other flotation devices (e.g., pull buoys, paddles, fins) are not allowed. For safety against heat stroke, USMS regulations prohibit wetsuits when water temperatures exceed 78 degrees.

Water quality is monitored by the Queen Anne County Department of Health on a weekly basis in the summertime. Advisories are issued when bacteria (Enterococci) counts exceed thresholds for a Tier 3 Advisory. For more information, you can call the Queen Anne County Department of Health at 410-758-2281 or go to for updates of beach closures throughout Maryland.

Additionally, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are known for jellyfish (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) encounters in the summertime. Occasionally, these sea nettles, as they are often called, can exist in the tidal river near the event in rare circumstances. The chances of encountering sea nettles are dependent on water temperature, salinity, and recent rainfalls. NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center has prepared a map depicting the Probability of Sea Nettle Encounters as well as the Sea Nettle Forecast. Neither of these probabilistic tools are validation of the existence of sea nettles in the area.

Swim for Life is an “at-your-own-risk” event - information on advisories will be communicated as available and each swimmer will make the individual choice to swim on race day.

Safety: Safety support at the swim will be provided by the U.S. Coast Guard and their Auxiliary, Maryland Natural Resources Police, the Chesapeake Paddlers’ Association, the Kent and Queen Anne County Rescue Squad, and other local volunteer boaters and kayakers.

Safety Boats: For your safety, USCG and NRP patrol boats will be situated along the course. Paddlers in kayaks will be stationed at all turn buoys and along the outside length of the course. Boston Whalers will also patrol swimmers along the course. Kayakers and Whalers will keep swimmers on course, provide swimmers food and drink, act as a buffer between swimmers and boat traffic, and be available for any water assistance. A local rescue boat with medic/dive personnel will also be on hand.