The ÖTILLÖ Word Series UTÖ 2022 swimrun took place in May across the Stockholm archipelago.
However, a combination of cold air and water temperatures - both around 8 degrees Celsius - plus near gale force winds, added a significant challenge to the event for many of the participants, who had little opportunity to warm up between swims.
After the event, ÖTILLÖ put out the following statement:
We can not change brutal weather but we can decide how we act. In the past wetsuits were thicker to allow a May race. We have learned that we no longer can have cold water races and will move future ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö events to mid-June instead.
We caught up with ÖTILLÖ founder and race director Michael Lemmel to find out more about the thinking behind this decision.
What has led to the change in wetsuit thickness? And how much have they changed?
Swimrun wetsuits have in general become lighter, tighter and with much more ease of movement. This is a product of races happening in more places and where cold water (sub 10 degrees) are not the dominant amount anymore. A modern swimrun suit is fantastic to run in compared to the older ones.
Rather than stopping races in cold water, couldn’t you, as the leading and original swimrun organiser, insist on wetsuits of a certain thickness for cool water temperatures?
It is all relative. If we want to attract more people to the sport then 8-degree water is not very helpful. The exposure will suck the energy out of anyone who is in that water. Today, there are no wetsuits on the market that are thick enough and the purpose for us is still to grow the sport. This will not happen in extreme temperatures. Anything over 10 degrees is still fine for us and most people consider anything under 14-15 degrees cold.
Could you advise competitors to prepare for cold water conditions by adding appropriate base layers, for example?
We do. However, the purpose for us is still that we want more people to be attracted to participating in swimrun races. In 8-degree water, most people will not even try, even if they are properly dressed. It becomes a mental barrier too. It is not attracting new people when people race in double wetsuits and still do not want to hang out at the finish line.
Will you now have a minimum water temperature below which you won’t allow races to go ahead? (And what will that temperature be?)
We will not have a minimum water temperature. The
conditions are as they are. But we will plan to put races where we hope to
have water temps above 10 degrees so that we have participants. If the
water on the day is below that, we will of course still go ahead with the
races and participants will have to make active decisions on what to wear and how
All images provided by ÖTILLÖ swimrun (c) Pierre Mangez / ÖTILLÖ