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Name: John
Status: other
Grade: other
Location:  NC
Country: N/A
Date: June 2006

What is the most comfortable water temperature when going swimming in the ocean and what is the minimum recommended water temperature before going swimming in the ocean?

Dear John,

"Comfortable" water is a matter of personal preference. 70 to 78 degrees Farenheit is the range where most folks feel "comfortable" swimming.

Some statistics from The American National Red Cross book, LIFESAVING Rescue and Water Safety, Doubleday & Company Inc., 1974:

At 60 degrees F you have about a 2 hour safe zone. After that your expectancy of unconsciousness and death by drowning increases to 50%. This is called the Marginal Zone. At 65 F You can swim for 4 hours before reaching the marginal zone. At 70 F you can swim well over 6 hours without even tiptoeing into the marginal zone.

So as a former lifeguard I ask you to remember follow all safety rules. Swim only where it is posted safe to do so, preferably at a guarded beach. Ask officials at the site about beach and surf conditions. Swim with a friend. Know what kind of ocean critters may be present. Wear your sunscreen. (Sorry about that, it was a mom thing)

Use your noggin and have fun!

Martha Croll

I'm not certain there is a specific answer to that question. While I myself have swam in waters as warm as 84 degrees and found it EXTREMELY comfortable, others have been known to break up ice around the shore in order to go swimming in very cold water.

Time, however, seems to be the deciding factor in how warm or cold water should be. Simply put, the colder the water, the more quickly a person will suffer negative effects such as hypothermia and even death. The US Navy practices man overboard drills where one of the first things to be done is note the current water temperature and consult a chart so everyone knows just exactly how quick the unfortunate soul has to be pulled from the water, and how bad the effects are likely to be.

Ryan B.

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