As much as we freedivers love our ocean, sun, depth, and endless underwater life, not all of us have the pleasure of living a stone’s throw away from open water (or even a 5-hour drive). Those of us with office jobs, encased in four walls, living on coffee, and meeting deadlines have a hard time keeping up with our training, especially if we live nowhere near a sea or a lake. We often end up spending a lot of time just getting back to where we left off from when we finally do have the time to train. Even more so in the winter, where the weather does not allow for a nice, relaxed weekend trip to the lake with our buoy and fins. So exactly how can we keep up with the progress made from the last autumn training session when the winter is stopping us until springtime? Here are some options!
If you don’t mind buying a plane, train, or bus ticket, there are some fantastic opportunities by the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and lakes in Europe that can offer winter training opportunities. Here are a few to consider:
If you have a short vacation (or even a long weekend) and don’t mind buying a plane ticket, the Canary Islands offer year-round freediving. The Atlantic Ocean’s wintertime temperatures in this area are 18°C (64°F) at the lowest, and visibility is generally between 20 to 30m (65 to 98ft). There are freediving centers in Tenerife, Lanzarote, Las Palmas, and Fuerteventura, which means that equipment rental, courses, and dive buddies can easily be found, even if you are traveling solo.
The Bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Nice, France
Renowned in Europe for its seriously deep depths, little current, and for its notoriety as a training spot for the world’s champions, the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer in the French Côte d’Azur can be a great wintertime training spot if you can brave the 15°C (59°F) water. The conditions are practically perfect as the southern-facing bay is protected from sea currents and wind. This is also a popular spot for EU citizens as the transportation costs are fairly cheap from most European cities.
Cyprus sea temperatures are among the warmest in Europe, with fantastic visibility and sea temperatures reaching 17°C (44°F) in February. There are plenty of dive centers there to choose from and sunny weather for the most part, so check it out and see why AIDA chose Cyprus for their 2015 AIDA Depth World Championship!
Clear waters with up to 30m (98ft) visibility, general lack of tides, and scarce currents make Malta an excellent choice for Europeans to come and train, even in the wintertime. Sea temperatures in the winter reach 15°C (59°F) at their lowest, and the mild winter weather will be a welcome change for those who come from further north.
Winter does not stop freedivers in Sesimbra, Portugal from training. Even though the water temperatures drop to 15°C (59°F), you will have no trouble finding a buddy, and you can find depths up to 50m (164ft) to drop your line.
A new experience that must be had, while also being pretty extreme, would be ice diving. Lake Päijänne in Finland, Lake Anterselva in the Italian Alps, and Lake Ha?cza in Poland are just a few ice diving destinations in Europe. Why try ice diving, you might ask? Well apart from it being a thrilling adventure that gets you out of your comfort zone, it can teach you a whole new perspective on relaxation. Imagine, if you can figure out relaxation in -2°C (28°F), how much easier will you find it to relax in warm water? Ice diving usually has to be coordinated beforehand, so a question on a freediving Facebook group can go a long way towards making new buddies who can turn your ice diving dreams into reality.
Sometimes a temperature-controlled pool with perfect conditions can be more attractive than battling cold temperatures in thick wetsuits. Here are some deep pools in Europe to choose from:
A little trip to Italy could lead you to the deepest pool in the world. Y-40, also known as The Deep Joy, is located in Montegrotto Terme, in the northeast of Italy. In this pool, you can get a maximum of 40m (131ft) of toasty 33°C (92°F), temperature-controlled water. Leave your wetsuit at home and get ready to dive sans thermoclines, currents, and pesky jellyfish!
Nemo 33 in Brussels, Belgium features non-chlorinated freshwater and was the deepest pool in the world before Y-40’s creation. With a maximum depth of 34.5m (113ft) and water temperature ranging between 32 and 33°C (89 and 91°F), this is one spot in Europe where winter does not exist.
Other Deep Pools
There are a number of other 10 to 20m (32 to 65ft) deep pools scattered around Europe, with almost a dozen just in France. While they may have enough depth for your deep dives, there are always FRC (half-lung) dives that can be practiced in these pools!
- Aqua Hauts-de-Seine in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, France – 20m (65ft)
- Odyssée in Chartres, France – 20m (65ft)
- Stade Nautique in La Teste-de-Buch, France – 20m (65ft)
- Dive4Life in Siegburg, Germany – 20m (65ft)
- Monte Mare in Rheinbach, Germany – 10m (32ft)
Don’t have the money or the time for depth training? You still have options! Head down to your local sports training center with a buddy for some pool training, because we can all benefit from CO2 tables, some good old static, or dry apnea training (apnea walking and apnea cycling) even when a pool is out of reach! Don’t forget about cross-training and stretching, which can help keep your body in top shape when you finally resume your in-water activities. Remember that there are tons of dry training opportunities, even in the middle of Europe’s winter.
If you have any other suggestions for winter training spots in Europe, please let us know in the comments!