The history of swimrun shares a line with many hairbrained adventure tales, and begins in 2002 with a drunken bet. Okay, so we haven’t verified whether the four Swedish friends were drunk, but the “Original 4” of swimrun (Anders Malm, Janne Lindberg, Matt and Jesper Andersson) were likely in a somewhat altered mental state to come up with the challenge that ensued.
Traveling under human power only, last team of two from Uto to Sandham (two islands 75 km apart in the Swedish Archipelago) has to pay for hotel, dinner, and drinks for the other team.
- Each team has to pass through three different restaurants on the islands between the start and finish.
- The second team to get to each restaurant has to drink and pay for what the first team ordered.
- 2002 – The Original 4 take more than 26 hours to finish.
- 2005 – Professional endurance athlete Michael Lemmel hears about the challenge from the owner of a garage on Uto where he is having his car fixed.
- 2006 – Lemmel and his race partner, Matt Skott, organize and host the first swimrun race, known as ÖTILLÖ (meaning ‘island to island’ in Swedish). Nine teams register.
- 2012 – Three more swimrun events pop up in Sweden.
- 2016 – Ödyssey Swimrun organizes America’s first swimrun event in the islands off the coast of Maine.
- 2016- present – Rapid growth of this young sport ensues!
Today, there are over 400 swimrun events worldwide, one of the fastest growing forms of competition in the world.
When talking about the history of this sport, it’s important to remember that it’s not only the beginning of one of the most ultimate endurance challenges, but the birth of a competitive spirit unlike any sport out there. The founders of swimrun and the sport’s governing body, ÖTILLÖ, have made it part of their mission to grow a sport the fosters teamwork, instills respect for the environment, and welcomes swimrunners of all backgrounds and motivations.