SwimRun California is the biggest and most important SwimRun organization in the United States of America. And THAT means that I think there's a good chance that it is likely to end up being the MOST IMPORTANT organization for SwimRun in the WORLD, once it gets going and more people get involved in this fun new sport.
Why do I say that? After all, the original founders of SwimRun, Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott, have been around for a while, and founded the Ötillö company, which runs events in Europe - mostly northern Europe. The very first swimrun ever took place across the islands of the Stockholm Archipelago, in Sweden. COLD!
BUT, we have attended 2 events organized by Micheal and Mats, in Engadin Switzerland and Hvar Croatia, and they talked about the events and locations they preferred. AND THE FORMAT of the events. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
They talked about the many requests that people had made to them about the format of SwimRun events. As many people come to SwimRun from triathlon, they were asking for mats for the water exits, and for age groups, and for shorter events. And there were requests for events that allowed people to compete ALONE.
Micheal said that, while he recognized these events as being a type of SwimRun, he did not regard them as Ötillö events. He wants to stay true and loyal to the original spirit of the event, in Sweden. That means cold waters, no mats, no age groups, and only teams of two. Personally, I agree with the last one; competing as a team of two is great fun!
And as for holding events in warmer climates, he stated that where the waters are warmer, there "are other things in the water". I think he's afraid of sharks!
Anyway, it became clear that Ötillö events will remain limited to northern Europe (with the exception of Switzerland, at the time of writing). Michael and Mats prefer cold water swimming!
SO where does that leave the rest of the world when it comes to SwimRun?
Basically, there are other organisations springing up all over the world, arranging SwimRun events with some of the changes that people have been asking for. One example in Europe is the Breca Swimrun organization, who also set up events in New Zealand.
And of course there is SwimRun California! This is not a big organization at the moment, but I am convinced that it will grow rapidly, and that it will start to offer the types of events that will attract MORE people to SwimRun.
But what will SwimRun California have to do, in order to expand this new sport?
The FIRST step would be to introduce events that are shorter than typical Ötillö races. The shortest Ötillö sprint events are typically about 10 miles in total, and can take slower teams up to 3 1/2 hours to complete, depending on the terrain.
So a race that slower teams could complete in around 2 hours or 2 1/2 hours would be much more appealing to many folk.
The SECOND step would be to introduce age groups for competitors. The simplest way to do this in a team sport would be by combining the age of the 2 team members. There could be, say, 5 age groups, from "under 50" through 50 - 65, 65 - 80, 80 - 95, and over 95 years (combined age). I know from competing in triathlons and open water swimming events, that it's REALLY NICE to have a chance of competing against people of a similar age, AND to have a go at getting into the top 3 of your age group!
The THIRD step is to have finisher's medals for ALL competitors who complete the full race distance within the declared cut-off time. This is something that is sadly missing from Ötillö sprint races; NO medal, NO T-shirt, only the swim cap!!!
The FOURTH step would be to have events in warmer conditions than typical Ötillö races. Water temperatures of 15C to 20C degrees are much more appealing compared to temperatures of 10C degrees or less!
AND probably of lesser importance would be to have entry and exit mats where the transitions are over stony or sandy ground.
Whether SwimRun California will start to build a series of events that departs from the traditional Ötillö layout remains to be seen. While the traditional events will certainly appeal to hard-core swimrunners, there's no doubt in my mind that offering some "more user-friendly" events will definitely entice more people to have a go!
Here's a link to their website; SwimRun California