The 8th Annual Swim the Suck 10-mile open water swim through the Tennessee River Gorge hosted by the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (C.O.W.S) and Outdoor Chattanooga will be held on Saturday, October 14, 2017 starting at the Suck Creek Boat Launch at 9:30 AM and finishing at Tennessee River Gardens.   Packet Pick Up starts at 5:00 PM and Pasta Dinner/Race briefing will be held on Friday, October 13, 2017 at the Waterhouse Pavilion.  Door prizes given away at the briefing include free entries to the Kingdom Swim and the SCAR swim. 


Swim the Suck swimmers each will have their own kayak pilot to guide and feed them over the 10 mile course.  Swimmers either bring along someone to pilot for them or are paired with a volunteer kayaker.   The swim is open to those under 18, as long as the parents have spoken with the Race Director.  Non-USMS swimmers under 18 can also participate, and all rules apply except for they will be listed in a different division.

The owners of TN River Gardens (the private property at the finish line) are excited to share their amazing riverfront property and home with Swim the Suck.   The post-race party features The Big Table Taco Bar, kegs of Chattanooga Brewing Company craft beer, and original art awards for every swimmer and pilot.


Swim the Suck is a downstream swim on a dam-controlled river.   The release is controlled by TVA Chickamauga dam.  While we cannot predict what the current will be for a particular day in the future, we will be given an estimated release 2 days in advance.  On the day of the swim, there could be zero cfs being released over the Chickmauga dam, or, there could be a lot or water if there has been ample rainfall in previous days.  Previous current:

  • 2010: 33,000 cfs.   First place swimmer finishing in 3 hours and last place finisher in 5 hours.
  • 2011: 18,000 cfs.  Frist place swimmer finishing in 3.5 hours and last place finisher in 5.5 hours.
  • 2012: 13,000 cfs for the first 30 minutes and 6,000 per hour after that.   First place swimmer finishing in 3 hours and 22 minutes and the last place finisher in 6 hours 45 mins.
  • 2013: 13,000 cfs, water temp 76.
  • 2014: Average outflow of 28,000 for the day. 
  • 2015:  28,000 steady
  • 2016: 0-7,000 with a strong headwind.

Check TVA's website to view release data from previous 48 hours and predicted for the next 48 hours:

Water Temperature

Unfortunately, there is no live link to water temperature anywhere in the TN River.

2010: 70 F

2011: 74 F

2012: 75 F

2013: 76 F

2014: 76 F

2015: 74-75

2016: 78

Rules about Being Assigned a Volunteer Pilot and Borrowing a Kayak/Gear

  • One of the aspects that makes Swim the Suck a unique event is that we can pair you with a volunteer from Chattanooga to pilot for you if needed.   Pilots will guide and feed the swimmer and be in contact with the motor boats throughout the swim.  
  • Those of you who requested volunteer pilots will receive an email in in late September or early October introducing you to your pilot.  You will get to meet them at packet-pick up.
  • There are some kayaks available at Outdoor Chattanooga for the event and 10 from Jackson Kayak.  This means that out of towners can borrow one of these kayaks.  If you have your own person to pilot for you, but need a kayak and gear, we have 35 kayak/paddle/PFD sets to loan out.  Somehow, with 100 swimmers and pilots, it has always worked out that we have enough gear for those needing it, but this is only because of lot of local or folks driving to the event from nearby states supply their own gear. 
  • Those of you who requested boats-  They will be delivered to the put in for you by sponsors Outdoor Chattanooga (thanks to Philip Grymes and staff) and Jackson Kayak (thanks to professional kayaker Samantha Christen) and Accent Paddles (thanks to Samantha Christen).  Jackson Kayaks are made in TN!
  • Swimmers are encouraged to bring their own pilot and kayak if possible since our kayak supply is limited, this is expected of local swimmers. 
  • Do you have a friend or family member coming to the event with you who could volunteer to pilot for another swimmer?  Have them register!   This has happened in the past and is a great way for them to experience the event!  Keep in mind that they may not see you during the race. 
  • You are only allowed to have one pilot for yourself that is borrowing gear.
  • If you have a situation where two family members would like to kayak for you, you will have to provide gear for any additional pilots.  We just do not have enough boats and gear.

Swim Rules

  • You must be able to complete the swim in UNDER 6 HOURS.  This means if there is ZERO current, you should be able to swim 1 open water mile in under 36 minutes (2 miles per 1 hour 12 minutes).
  • If you are not approaching the final mile of the swim within 6 hours, you may be pulled by the motor boat pilots and shuttled to the finish line to retrieve your warm clothes.  If you are close, you will not be pulled.  
  • We will follow the English Channel swimming rules.  This means no swim suits below the knees or shoulders.  No suits that provide any buoyancy.  No wetsuits.  No swim aids.  No hanging onto your pilot's boat.  No touching other people.  
  • It is advised that you complete at least a 4 hour training swim prior to attempting Swim the Suck.
  • It is advised that swimmers train in water around 70 degrees to become acclimatized to swimming in water at this temperature.   Swimmers can easily become hypothermic in 70 degree water.   If you are showing signs of advanced hypothermia, you will be pulled.
  • It is advised that swimmers practice feeding every 30 minutes.
  • If you have any questions about your ability to swim this event, please email the Race Director to discuss your credentials.


Timing is done by Scenic City Multisport.  Results are posted in real time on Its Your Race.

Finisher Awards

  • Awards Ceremony expected to take place at 4pm-ish.
  • All swimmers get a Finisher Award, typically handmade by a local Chattanooga Artist.  This year's awards are pottery mugs made by Jonathan Clardy. 
  • All Pilots get a pottery mug made by local potter Susan Cordell of Front Porch Pottery (people always want to order more so here is her email:

Top Place Awards/Longest in Water/Senior Swimmer Awards

  • 1st Place Male/Female-Free Entry to 2016 Swim the Suck and a BlueSeventy Swim Suit gift card, Rock Creek Gift Card,  Trophy by local artist.  Females also get a Carve Giftcard.
  • 2nd PlaceMale/Female -  a BlueSeventy Swim Suit gift card, Rock Creek Gift Card,  Trophy by local artist. Females also get a Carve Giftcard.
  • 3rd Place Male/Female -  a BlueSeventy Swim Suit gift card, Rock Creek Gift Card,  Trophy by local artist.  Females also get a Carve Giftcard.
  • 4th Place Male/Female - a BlueSeventy Swim Suit gift card,  Trophy by local artist
  • 5th Place Male/Female - a BlueSeventy Swim Suit gift card, Trophy by local artist
  • Longest in Water Male/Female - Trophy by local artist
  • Oldest Male/Female - Trophy by local artist

Swim the Suck the Movie

Every year we make a recap video of the event.  Check out young videographer Robert Noble's amazing work in the 4 minute video of Swim the Suck 2015.  All of or event videos can be found on the HOME page.
If you capture video footage on your GoPro or cell phone that you would like to show up in the official Swim the Suck Video, email it to 

Race Finish Photos
A photographer will be at the finish line.   Photos will be shared on the Facebook Swim the Suck page as well as the website.

Thanks to BlueSeventy, Carve, Sword, RockCreek, Fast Break, and Moon Pie for their prizes! 


Global Swim Series

Swim the Suck is a member of The Global Swim Series.