So what is a pirate swimmer? According to Openwaterpedia, a pirate swimmer is
"an individual who does not purposefully pay the requisite fees to participate in an open water swimming competition or an open water swimming charity event, or to attempt a marathon swim, or a channel swim where there is a recognized governing body. It can also be an individual who uses another swimmer's name or a false name to purposefully enter an open water swimming event or charity swim. It also refers to an open water swimmer who purposefully preempts a publicly announced marathon swim or channel swim of an unprecedented course by another swimmer."
So why would someone swim an organized event without paying the registration fees? Some would argue that the fees are too high, that they don't need the shirt or award, or that they missed the registration deadline. Others simply do not want to pay to participate.
Pirate swimmers may reason that what they are doing is not stealing and that they are not doing any harm since they are not collecting the event swag or awards and that the support, safety and volunteers are already there. What they may not understand is that there are other costs involved and that their pirate swimming could put themselves, other swimmers, the event organizers and the event itself in danger.
Organizing an open water event is not easy, or cheap. Apart from the swag and awards (which pirate swimmers may argue they don't need) there are permits, insurance, sanctioning fees, support and safety services, emergency services, park entrance fees, parking fees, etc. that still have to be paid. These costs add up quickly and small events are lucky to break even financially when all is said and done.
Pirate swimmers also potentially put themselves and others in danger. Not having paid the registration fees, they may not be as committed to the event as those who have and may not have trained and prepared themselves to the same level. In addition, they would not have received any pre-race emails or messages about conditions, water temperature, potential hazards, etc. If they did not register, they may not have attended the pre-race briefings.
If a pirate swimmer were to run into trouble while on the water, the safety support would still step in to take care of them. This takes away safety resources from the other swimmers in the water who essentially paid for those services. Also, the event directors will not have an emergency contact, or any other medical information for the pirate swimmer.
Pirate swimmers also cause increased liability for the event organizers. Pirate swimmers will not have signed an event waiver and it is possible that their presence on the course may actually invalidate the event insurance. The increased legal and financial risks could cause the event to not continue in the future.
For the sake of the sport, fellow swimmers, and event organizers, PLEASE don't be a pirate swimmer!
More information on pirate swimming can be found at the following links: