The 5 Triathlon Swim Rules You Need To Know

The 5 Triathlon Rules For Swimming You Need To Know

Posted Kevin Koskella Uncategorized

Triathlon rules for a race can be confusing and nerve wracking. Many triathletes go into a race without learning what the rules are, and end up creating more stress for themselves than is needed, in an already stressful situation!

Coach Chris goes over the 5 triathlon swim rules you need to know to avoid things like confusion and disqualification on your swim.


Coach Chris: Hey, everyone, this is Coach Chris from, and I want to talk to you today about the rules of the triathlon swim. These are USAT sanctioned rules, meaning if it’s an international race or if it’s an unaffiliated race, meaning it’s not sanctioned by USAT, you need to check with the race director to make sure that they follow these rules.

Or if they may have different rules, so definitely check with the race director to confirm.

The first rule is strokes. You can use any stroke that you want. Freestyle, which is the most common. Breast stroke, backstroke, even butterfly. You can use any stroke that you want.

Number two is bottom contact and resting. If the water is shallow enough and you for some reason need to stand, take a break, or because you feel nervous, you can do that.

You can stand up in shallow water. If you’re in deep water and you need to hold onto a kayak, a buoy, a piece of rope, any flotation, that’s fine as long as you don’t move forward in the race. That’s called forward assistance and you will be disqualified for that.

So you can hold onto something, as long as you’re not moving forward.

Number three. Emergencies. If you get into an emergency, raise your hand, pump your arm, and help will arrive. Now if you get pulled from the race, or get forward assistance, you will be disqualified. So keep that in mind.

Number four. Wetsuit temps. So if it equal to or underneath 78 degrees Fahrenheit, 25.6 degrees Celsius, you can wear a wetsuit. Full sleeve, no sleeve, the LAVA shorts, the Neoprene shorts, those are legal underneath 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

If it’s between 78 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s wetsuit optional. Now they will put you in your own race category, your own swim wave, and you will be not disqualified, but you will be ineligible for awards or Kona positions, 70.3 world slots.

So keep that in mind if you decide to wear a wetsuit in between 78 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Above 84 degrees Fahrenheit you cannot wear a wetsuit. It’s wetsuit illegal. And that includes LAVA shorts and Neoprene shorts. You can, though, wear a textile based swim skin.

Also you need to make sure that your wetsuit is five millimeters or below. Most wetsuits follow this rule, but double check your thickness of your wetsuit.

Equipment, finally. You need to wear the cap that they give you, the swim cap that they gave you, you can wear a Neoprene cap or a swim cap underneath the cap that they gave you, but the swim cap that they issued you at check-in needs to be worn on top so that it’s visible.

You also cannot have any gloves, fins, bouys, anything that can be used for propulsion. Can’t wear those. And goggles are 100% optional. I don’t know why you wouldn’t, but just in case your goggles fall off, they are optional. So you don’t need to be worried about disqualification if your goggles fall off.

I hope that cleared up some confusion, and good luck in your next race.