Getting a-HEAD with the right swimrun
Jose Luis Gomez
By Samantha Michelini
As with many innovative processes, the production of ÖTILLÖ Swimrun wetsuits took its inspiration from the meeting of Swedish and Italian cultures. While everybody knows that swimrun originated in the Stockholm archipelago, it’s less known that the headquarters of HEAD Swimming is situated in the town of Rapallo, on the Mediterranean coast of northern Italy.
Since 2010, HEAD Swimming has mainly been dedicated to high performance swimming products: swimsuits and accessories both for pool and open water activities, racing and training.
In 2011, together with Mares, the famous dive gear manufacturer, HEAD Swimming developed a line of neoprene products for open water swimming, and in 2012 an original and fascinating proposal was made: to create a set of products designed especially for a new, aquatic endurance sport – swimrun.
For the HEAD Swimming design team, this initially sounded like quite a strange proposal: Swimrun? A new endurance sport in the midst of Swedish nature, all the result of a drunken bet?!
The challenge was to create a new wetsuit concept that could handle great stress and perform at the highest level in the ÖTILLÖ race. Teams participating in the race have to face 105 passages between water and land, swimming between 26 islands and running across them. The total distance covered is 75km of which 10km involve open water swimming and 65km trail running.
The Italian company definitely had the skills for this project in its DNA. The neoprene gear was already influenced by Mares’ products and the physical proximity to the sea meant prototypes could be tested straightaway. Working together with athletes directly involved in the sport was also key to defining the characteristics needed for swimrun suits.
Swimrun neoprene requires several general characteristics:
- Supporting the body during long swimming session in open-water environments
- Helping buoyancy, in particular on the front part of the legs with thicker panels, which are very important when swimming with shoes on
- Very thin neoprene around the shoulders and at the hips area in order to provide flexibility both in stroke and for long distance running
- Extra nylon panels between the legs for reducing frictional damage
- Long zipper to open up easily
These features have been the base for producing swimrun wetsuits, and then Head Swimming developed different specific models for women’s body shapes. For example, the BASE model is suggested for getting more compression or otherwise a lightweight ROUGH for getting more flexibility.
If the aim is to optimise freedom of movement during the runs and Sprint races are preferred, the lower part of AERO is designed for ultimate running properties.
Meanwhile, the RACE model is the “race-day” suit that combines maximum buoyancy support and nano-glide neoprene for better “approach” into the water.
The vision of the design team has always been inspired by a meeting between pure Nordic style and Italian creativity, with essential graphics and visible colours for open waters representing the conceptual scope.
As we said, it was a challenge, and a mix of cultures, which, over the following years, helped to inspire the complete collection of ÖTILLÖ Swimrun dedicated products.
The ingredients of the recipe for a perfect SWIMRUN gear are represented by great experience and know-how, the application of innovating technologies mashed-up with a consistent quantity of passion, for creating ÖTILLÖ equipment specifically designed by HEAD Swimming.
Read also: How to cut a wetsuit
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 2 (Apr/May 2017)