By Nancy Heslin
The 2017 ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship was one for the history books. Against all odds, including disorientating waves and relentless winds that toyed with racers throughout the day, a new sub-8 hours course record was set by Daniel Hansson and Jesper Svensson of Team Swedish Armed Forces (7:58:06).
Off the course, the buzz was about a new wetsuit developed by newcomer ARK Swimrun worn not only by Hansson and Svensson, but also by women’s first place finishers, Annika Eriksson and Kristin Larsson.
“It felt like running in very light shorts,” recalls Daniel Hansson of the race. “I felt at the time this would give us a advantage. You don’t need insulation around your legs while swimming, but you definitely need to let out the heat while running. The focus on the neck and arm cuffs prevents water from entering the suit. It’s brilliant.”
“After ÖTILLÖ 2017, we knew we were on the right track,” says Daniel Sand (pictured), Cofounder and Head of R&D at Ark Swimrun, the company that has disrupted the world of wetsuits. Daniel himself has practiced the sport for over a decade but insists he’s not competitive. “I would easily win the world championship in product testing,” he jokes.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, and with a background in graphic design, Daniel has 15 years’ experience in brand building and design, and, surprisingly, was based in New York working in the fashion industry. So how the heck did he end up back in the birthplace of swimrun, testing neoprene?
“I met Michael Lemmel in 2008 and ever since I have been involved in swimrun. I saw big potential in the sport and had the opportunity to design the world’s first swimrun suit for HEAD 2012. The suit set a new standard and was the base for many brands to follow.”
Daniel, Dennis Blomberg (PR/Marketing) and Christofer Sundberg (CEO) cofounded ARK Swimrun in 2016. ARK is short for archipelago, which Daniel describes as “our back door”.
“The sport is fast moving, and you really have to be on the ball to be responsive in providing the best equipment as fast as possible.With ARK, we focus 100% on swimrun and have access to use high-end materials from the best producers.”
There are many different types of neoprene, explains Daniel, like the old-school oil-based kind which is cheaper. ARK opts for the eco-friendly limestone-based neoprene that has 30% more air bubbles inside the rubber, making it extremely lightweight and soft.
Since they first tested that prototype at Ornö in 2017, ARK sports has“gone from nothing to something”. According to Annika Eriksson (below, being towed by Kristin Larsson), ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Champion in the Women’s Division for the last four years straight: “The lightweight racing suit is made of extremely resilient but softer and more moveable neoprene, which first and foremost makes it very easy to run in. I find it very comfortable and perform at my utmost best in it.”
The proof of concept has enabled Daniel, Dennis and Christofer to design a broader product range with three new swimrun suits – more details will be revealed in the coming months – plus ARK will be launching new equipment and accessories.
The company’s three-year vision is to continue on its path to become the leading swimrun brand. “However, we have high ambitions and our goal is to build ARK Sports into THE go-to brand for endurance sports,” he adds.
“Obviously this plan takes time, strategy and the financial means to execute, but with most of the building blocks in place we expect 2019 to be the year where ARK Sports takes some pretty massive leaps forward.”
When choosing a swimrun wetsuit, Daniel points out that there are suits for all different types of swimruns, so you first need to determine your training conditions (warm or cold climate) and race objectives (sprints or train for longer races).
“Find a suit that fits your body type, comfort is the number one priority, while keeping in mind that running is a major part of swimrun.”
“And, of course, making sure the wetsuit seals well around your body to minimize water leak.”
For news on the new ARK swimrun wetsuits, see arkswimrun.com
Article first published January 2019.