Brrr! Wetsuits required as the outdoor French pool turns off the heat

With gas prices soaring, swimming pools across France are lowering water temperatures or turning off the heat altogether, which has made wetsuits compulsory for swimmers at an outdoor pool in a Paris suburb.

The Olympic-size outdoor pool in Nogent-sur-Marne used to be heated to a comfortable 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit), but that was before the Ukraine war drove up gas prices and the pool operator had no choice but to turn the heating off.

Many bathers had already worn wetsuits, but from October 1st they will be mandatory in the pool to avoid medical emergencies for people not used to swimming in cold water.
On a clear and sunny fall day, 63-year-old swimmer Muriel Goldberg said she didn’t mind the wetsuit at all.

wetsuit, paris power, paris power swimming pools A swimmer takes off her wetsuit in the Olympic-size outdoor pool in the 19-degree Celsius water. (REUTERS/Lucien Libert)

“It’s pure luck. Honestly, the wetsuit is a great experience. I had never worn one, thought it would affect movement but not at all. On the contrary, it’s nice and fresh, we feel much better in cold water after training in a wetsuit than in hot water,” she said.

Nogent Nautique pool manager Adrien Nougot said the center decided to stop heating the 50-meter outdoor pool on May 15 due to financial reasons.

He said gas prices had risen from an average of €11 per megawatt-hour in September 2020 to €151 in September 2022, adding that the measure would save up to €50,000 a month during the coldest months.

The French government this week announced plans to reduce energy consumption by 10% over the next two years compared to 2019 levels. There are no mandatory measures, but swimming pool operators have been asked to reduce water temperature by 1 degree Celsius, while municipalities and businesses have been asked to reduce energy use where possible.

wetsuit, paris power, paris power swimming pools A swimmer in a wetsuit enjoys the Olympic-size outdoor pool in the 19-degree Celsius water. (REUTERS/Lucien Libert)

In Nogent, lifeguard Guy Dalpayrat said the center will try to keep the pool open for as long as possible, likely until the temperature drops below 15C (59F).

A sign by the pool indicated that the temperature in the outdoor pool was 19ºC, compared to 28ºC in the 25-metre indoor pool.

A few diehards did laps in wetsuits and nobody complained. Better a cold pool than a closed pool, said Nicolas Lioret, 48.

“Swimmers can continue to practice their favorite sport. I think that’s a good solution,” he said.

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