ÖTILLÖ 2014: Cold Water Swimming

Jump in!

I love swimming, but the rough sea in the archipelago of Stockholm is unsurprisingly more challenging than my usual laps around the local pool!

Water temperatures in Sweden can drop to 10 degrees Celsius in September, and added to the rough waves and currents that await, it’s no wonder that ÖTILLÖ veterans consider the 10km ocean swim more challenging than the 65km of trail running.

During our research into the perfect place to start cold training swims, we befriended two swimming gurus who recommended their local area of Den Helder in Holland.

With its strong currents, rough waves, and cold temperatures, The North Sea is training Mecca, so it made sense for us to literally jump in and start our ÖTILLÖ swim training there.

Before we took the plunge, our new friends warned us that despite our thermal caps, gloves, and booties, “if your feet and hands start to tingle, you should get out of the water immediately as things can go downhill quickly and making it back to shore is not easy when hypothermic.”


They also mentioned that they “usually shiver for about an hour after getting out of the water,” so needless to say, their helpful advice did nothing to sooth my nerves!

The first thing I felt when jumping in was a piercing cold on my face. After about 5 minutes this subsided (or was just numbed by the cold), and I felt less like a human ice cube. The waves were HUGE, lifting me up 6 or 7 feet at a time.

It was an awesome experience and very useful in making me comfortable and relaxed in water like this. I swam my way through a decent 1 hour loop, drinking copious amounts of sea water as I went, of course.

True adrenaline junkies (or gluttons), we took a day to recover and then went back for more.

I approached the second swim with an extra layer of gloves and booties, which helped a great deal – it now took 75 minutes to get numb feet, which was a definite improvement! The second swim had much lower waves but a fiercer current. Swimming against the current got me absolutely nowhere and forced me to experiment with my proximity to shore in order to find different currents.

Overall, it was a success. In just two days I got to play with cold water, big waves and strong currents. I left with new friends, new swimming techniques, and some pretty wild memories.