GardaConcierge focuses on a new topic in this series, sports holidays on Lake Garda. The first section of the series concentrates on sports on Lake Garda: whether you prefer a sailing boat or motor boat, love sports above or below the water surface – these are the water sports to try!
Not only is sailing the most popular and the oldest sport on Lake Garda, it also enjoys more competitions than any other. Regattas are part of the local area championships, but international competitions and even World Cups are also held. There are various sailing clubs, organizations and naval associations, as well as yacht clubs on all lake shores. The location of Lake Garda and its surroundings make it an ideal environment for sports such as sailboat sailing, which – apart from water – also require specific weather conditions. On Lake Garda, people can practice this sport due the two Pelèr and Ora winds which blow in two opposite directions creating continuous air movement. Lake Garda is the ideal regatta area for experienced sailors, but beginners also find optimal conditions and well-equipped sports centres to assist them in their adventure.
This sport also includes a sail, with the boat being replaced by a simple surfboard and only one crew member responsible for turns and jibes – maneuvers of equal importance in sailing. The winds needed for sailing contribute to the success of this sport, the regulations on the lake do the rest: in the northern part of Lake Garda, which is located in the Trentino region, motor boats are prohibited. As well as in Riva del Garda and Torbole, there are also windsurfing centres in the Veneto and Lombardy regions, in the southern part of Lake Gara: Malcesine, Brenzone and Torri del Benaco in the province of Verona; Limone, Campione, Moniga, Padenghe and Sirmione in the province of Brescia. The “Windsurfer Garda Lake” association, for example, hosts the “Windsurf Crazy Race – Campione to Pra” regatta in Campione, an amateur competition, during which participants compete on the surfboard for the best style and costume.
Kitsurfing can be thought of as a further development of windsurfing – with one fundamental difference: there is a board and a sail, but these are not linked. The kite is actually a stunt kite that makes the board glide across the water surface and helps kitesurfers perform jumps and tricks in the air. Unlike with windsurfing, you do not need a strong wind to kitesurf, but can choose a stunt kit of the appropriate size according to the weather conditions. The sport is practiced mainly on the northern end of Lake Garda (from Malcesine on the eastern shore to Torbole and Riva, as well as Campione on the other shore), as there are set times in which only kite- and windsurfers are allowed on the water. The number of sports centres and clubs has increased in recent years. There you can take lessons, find information and rent equipment.
Water skiing and Wakeboarding
In the following two sports, water skiing and wakeboarding, the sail is replaced by the engine of a motor boat. Both are mostly practiced in the central and southern part of Lake Garda, because motor boats are prohibited in Trentino, where the northern end of the lake is located. There are motor boat, water ski and wakeboard rentals and schools for all those who would like to try out this sport in the various ports on the eastern (from Peschiera to Brenzone) and western shore (from Padenghe to Gardone Riviera). The two sports of water skiing and wakeboarding differ regarding the sports vehicles employed and the form of movement. When water skiing, you use two skis or one ski with designs that vary according to the chosen specialty: slalom skis with a mobile 5-8 cm deep aluminum fin, jumping skis with a hard, smaller fin and trick skis without a fin. The board in wakeboarding is rather standardised and meets the requirements of skiers by modifying technical details or materials. Water skiing and wakeboarding are sports that are primarily practiced on a lake, i.e. in an environment with low swell. What is more, Lake Garda also offers a unique panorama.
When parasailing, one is towed by a motor boat. Parasailing differs from the sports mentioned so far in that there is no direct water exposure. The parachute opens because of the current generated by the driving motor boat, to which the pilot – wearing a harness and a life jacket – is attached. With the boat’s increasing acceleration, the parachute is pulled into the air, the height depending on the lenght of the line. During the descent, the line is pulled in helping the pilot land on the motor boat together with his parachute. Parasailing has the advantage of being suitable for people of every age and constitution, as no training is needed. Parasailing on Lake Garda is a unique experience and offers a splendid panoramic view from above. There are two parasailing centres in Bardolino and Lazise on the eastern shore of Lake Garda.
Canoeing, Kayaking and SUP
Back to the topic of water, this time without engines and sails – we are speaking of canoeing, kayaking and SUP! Let’s first clarify one question: what is the difference between canoeing and kayaking? To clarify, canoeing and kayaking differ from rowing where one rear facing team paddles with help of one or two oars. The boat is equipped with sliding seats and is narrow and light inorder to reduce water resistance as far as possible. Canoeing, in contrast, is the sport during which the boat is paddled from a fixed seat with only one paddle. Unlike the oar, the paddle is not attached to the boat via a rowlock, but rather held freely in one’s hands. Kayaking similarly uses a free held paddle but with two blades. Roughly speaking, canoeing and kayaking are similar, while rowing works in completely different way. Lake Garda is the ideal setting for all three sports, offering bays, rock faces and beaches to admire from one’s boat. Nearly all beaches on the eastern, western and northern shore boast centres in which you can rent canoes and kayaks, to dip your paddle in the water during a tour to explore Lake Garda. Now what is SUP? The acronym SUP stands for stand up paddling, meaning that you paddle while standing on a surfboard. Whether SUP developed from paddling a Canadian style canoe while kneeling or from surfing as it is practiced at a longboard similar to a surfboard, does not matter. The only thing that counts is that both young and old enjoy this sport! There are also sports centres in the entire Lake Garda area. Some of these, such as the one in Manerba del Garda, offer exciting other forms of SUP, adding fitness training and pilates to the sport.
After speaking about all the sports practiced on the water or in free flight, it is now the time to dive down: diving is indeed one of the most popular sports on Lake Garda. Lake Garda, which formed over 600 million years ago from a glacier, is up to 300 metres deep. Beneath the water, there are the steep faces that the shore is lined with, in some points, cliffs ranging from the beaches to the lake ground and areas densely populated with algae and fish. In the various diving centres you can rent diving gear and find out more about potential diving locations. Starting in the north, here are a few points of interest: In Riva del Garda, close to the San Nicolò port, the “Silent Jesus” created by Rivano Germano Alberto is located in a depth of 18 metres below the water surface. Further south-east, in Malcesine, an iron “Delsy” cabin boat floats majestically at a depth of 30 metres. In the area surrounding Torri del Benaco, the lakebed in front of the monument is rich in lake life. At a depth of about 25 metres, a small grotto houses the nativity scene of Torri. Visitors should also not miss out on the “garage” on the ground of Lake Garda, which features a Renault and a pedalo at a depth of 18 and 21 metres each. Further south, in Lazise, there are the remains of a flotilla of the Republic of Venice from the 16th century that was discovered at the beginning of the 1960s. The Venetian wreck is well-preserved, mainly because of the muddy subsoil that prevented its disintegration. On the western shore, in Sirmione, the water in front of the “Grotte di Catullo” is an ideal training ground for beginners; in Manerba del Garda there are exciting areas for experienced divers surrounding the Rocca. The Isola del Garda, located in front of San Felice del Benaco, offers unique views and incredible depths. Last but not least, you can find remains of a small wreck in Salò – from a depth of 10 up to 34 metres, where the Berardi wreck is located. In short, Lake Garda offers diving experiences for every taste!