Brrrr! Wetsuits required as French outdoor pool cuts heating

With the price of gas soaring, swimming pools across France are lowering water temperatures or switching off heating altogether, which has left swimmers in one suburban Paris outdoor pool clad in compulsory wetsuits.

The Olympic-size open-air pool in Nogent-sur-Marne used to be warmed to a comfortable 26 Celsius (79 Fahrenheit), but that was before the Ukraine war sent gas prices soaring, leaving the pool operator with no option than to turn off the heating.

Many bathers had already taken to using wetsuits, but from Oct. 1 the pool has made them compulsory, to prevent medical emergencies among people not used to swimming in cold water.
On a crisp and sunny autumn day, 63-year-old swimmer Muriel Goldberg said she did not mind the wetsuit at all.

A swimmer removes her wetsuit at the outdoor olympic-size pool in 19 degrees Celsius water. (REUTERS/Lucien Libert)

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

Nogent Nautique pool manager Adrien Nougot said the centre had decided to stop heating the 50-metre outdoor pool on May 15 for financial reasons.

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

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

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

In Nogent, lifeguard Guy Dalpayrat said the centre would try to keep the pool open as long as possible, probably until the temperature drops below 15 C (59 F).

A poolside sign showed the outdoor pool temperature was 19 C, compared to 28 C in the indoor 25-metre pool.

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

“Swimmers can still practice their favourite sport. I think that is a good solution,” he said.

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