Observer's Observations - tips and lessons

loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
edited November 2019 in General Discussion
What have you done wrong or not done that you should have?

What advice would you give a new observer assuming the new observer is a marathon swimmer and/or someone with swim crew experience?



  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    edited November 2019
    I'm in the VERY early stages of planning a long swim for myself for next fall. While the swim has been done before, and I'm not interested in any "records", I would still be interested in having the swim observed for conformance with rules. While I doubt there are a lot of observers in Louisiana or the Gulf coast of Texas, is there a list anywhere of eligible observers and their contact information?
  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    In this sort of situation where there's no governing body but you want a verifiable swim I think it would be passable to anoint someone trustworthy to be your swim's observer. Pick and declare your rules in advance and let this person hold you to them and keep an observer's log. That's basically my plan for a few swims I'm looking at in the near future although I'm lucky to live in California where I have access to people that observe for the Catalina and Santa Barbara Channel swim associations.
  • TheoTheo Oxnard, CAMember
    I always wish I had written down more comments in the official logs. When the swim is done this is a record of the event that many swimmers cherish having. Instead of just keeping it a cold record, i.e. stroke rate, temperature, location I have heard many swimmers appreciate the side notes, e.g. observed dolphins, comments of the crew, comments from the swimmer, comments from the captain that happen during the swim, if they had special feeding requests, etc.

    I always forget to add more of those in there and I wish I did it more often.

    But I second Niek above. I put together an observers bag that I keep set aside just for observing swims. Many times little things are forgotten by the swimmer and his crew that can really help make a difference, e.g. a few extra glow sticks, safety pins, twine, rope, stopwatches, clipboard, zip ties. Most importantly I pack a large bottle of motion sickness meds (Bonine chewable). Not only for myself but it is amazing how many crew members forget to have some and I inevitably pass them around.

    I have also found bringing some hand warmers (the chemical pack ones) can really help keep you comfortable during the cold night.
  • edited November 2019
    Sorry for the post if there is already something similar on the books. I have a swim this Sunday and my observer is my niece. She does not have swim experience but I chose her due to her integrity. She is a legal counselor and sees the rules as black and white. Her integrity has lead her to decline accepting the position. This is a low key swim with family members piloting and feeding.
    Is this a problem for documentation/authentication or can she still observe, document the event?
  • gregocgregoc Charter Member
    @Leprechaunturd, first and for most, I love the name. If you want an experienced, unbiased observer there are several in the Tampa area. (I am assuming your swim is in the SW FLA area). I will leave it up to others to comment on whether your niece would be an acceptable observer.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    The main criteria are transparency and documentation.

    However it also depend on the aim of the swim. If you are seeking recognition for a pioneering swim, then you will find that the burden of proof will be higher, and family members, especially non-swimmers, would probably be a poor choice for an observer. Let's say you want to do Portrush to Rathlin and back 3 times. Everything goes ok. Next year someone else wants do do it, and even if there was no question, then your swim could be open to attack on those grounds and you end up in war of words that might only matter to a few people, but is just as important nonetheless.

    For example one of the many problem with She Should Not Be Named, (okay, Diana Nyad), that was differnt to most of our swims, was that she was seeking to be first,and benefit financially and in fame from her bogus swim. So the burden of correct observation, and she ignored the basics, was higher than @owenswims swimming down an Irish river and getting me to observe. Plus, I'm at least known to a few of you.

    If it's low key, so long as you have previously identified your criteria, and the observer knows those and knows how to observe for those, and it's all documented, then I think you are probably ok.

    Items in the rear view mirror, etc.

  • @gregoc I take swimming seriously but not the name. It gives me a chuckle to know people have to spell it out to comment. :-). Hopefully they at least get a smile out of it.

    @loneswimmer thanks for your input. My brother in law and I have joked about the potential mob of swimmers quivering with anticipation to attack my up coming record. I will swim with the rules in place and I will have an observer that can represent how I did it. Other than that bring it on you marathon swimmers!
  • Oh yeah, @gregoc my swim is in the Mississippi sound.
  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaGuest

    I am putting together an observer training program and kit for an up coming swim and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for what the might like to see included.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member


    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member

    speaking only from English Channel experience, get there early, meet the team be it solo or relay amd talk with them and their support crew.Make them feel at ease, not about to take a high school algebra exam. bring that bag of bits and food items, as they will have forgotten something. Always bring your own set if printed forms never assume anything. without impairing neutrality be part of the swim not some cold addition to the crew manifest....

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    edited November 2019

    So, I want to do some swims here in Kyrgyzstan, the lakes being so beautiful. I intend on following the MSF Rules in all cases, even for the short ones. I'm having trouble coming up with an observer, though.

    In the spirit of the MSF Rules, I'm looking for ideas from the community. I can't afford to pay for air and lodging and food for the nearest qualified (and known to the community) observers (@Niek? @Mvg?). I could train someone, but would that look like I'm having influence over him/her?

    I have one idea. There is an old Olympian here, Kyrgyz chap who swam for the USSR back in the day, who also happened to cross Lake Issyk Kul in the 80's. He runs a swimming pool near the Lake. I'm planning on meeting him in a month or so, to get his wisdom on swimming the lake, and maybe some help in finding boats, etc. Perhaps he could observe for me?

    Any other ideas?

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member

    Hope I am not hijacking your post but I have a similar question/issue on a 40K swim I am trying to organize for later this year so very interested to hear people's thought's on this.

    To keep the whole thing as lean as possible I am trying to organize a local pilot to also supply a person to provide support. This person would potentially be the only one available to act as the "observer". They would be briefed/trained by me on the MSF rules and traditions and asked to document as much of the swim as possible (photo's, video etc) but very unlikely they will have any observer experience or training. I would have a SPOT tracker on the boat but in theory that would be about it.

    There is also the issue that they have been "hired" to do all this so they are there primarily on a financial basis and not as a volunteer etc. Which I worry, coupled with no experience and no standing in the community, would potentially invalidate them as an observer.


  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Thanks @Niek, that is a good idea. There is a Kyrgyz Swimming Federation here, so I'll reach out to them.


    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited April 2015

    In my view, the necessary qualifications/renown of a marathon swim observer are proportional to the magnitude of the swim attempt.

    So Mike, unless you're aiming to break Chloe's record or something of similar magnitude, it may not be necessary to fly someone from 1000s of miles away.

    Potential observers fall along a spectrum of qualifications, just like any other skill or profession.

    I would think, the absolute bare minimum for an observer is that they're familiar with the Rules of Marathon Swimming and intellectually capable of accurately documenting the swim.

    If you can find someone with some background in swimming, even better. A swim official - even better.

    If you're planning a very high-profile swim or making record claims, then be ready to pay up and fly out a well-known observer. Ego doesn't come free!

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Thanks @evmo. Very well said. I've got contacts with the Kyrgyz (indoor) Swimming Fed, so I'll contact them.

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member

    A question related to this.
    Is there a section on this site that could be used for observer templates? Something that folks could download and use for a swim and that could make it a bit idiot proof? I have a swim in mind and something like that would allow an observer to be trained quickly because they could essentially fill in the blanks.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member

    I put a downloadable generic observer template on my site, based on the old CS&PF Observer Log, which I think is a great & efficient use of space (and very well tested). @evmo was working on an MSF one but I can't recall if he finished it @malinaka & @david_barra also had sheets that they used for @emkhowley & @chloemaccardeldotcom 's respective swims.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited November 2019

    The MSF Standard Observer Report is located here:

    Print out one cover page, and as many log sheets as you need for the duration of the swim. It is a fillable PDF form, so you can, for example, fill out one by hand on the boat, and type it up later when you're back on land.

    This template was used by @david_barra and Brianne Yeates to document Chloe McCardel's world record swim in the Bahamas last year:

  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member

    Excellent! A great resource! :)

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited November 2019

    The MSF Standard Observer Log has been around for 5+ years now and successfully used on most of the 110 ratified MSF Documented Swims through 2019.

    An observer log is just one part of a full MSF Documented Swim report, which should also include photos, video, raw GPS tracking data, and ideally some narrative content from the observer and/or swimmer.

    I recently created a complete template for fulfilling the requirements of MSF Documented Swims. This document is available as both a webpage and in fillable MS-Word format.

    Hope this is useful.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited November 2019

    Link to separate thread re: misc. issues in documenting marathon swims:

    FAQ + Best Practices for MSF Documented Swims

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