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?
"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!
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.
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Update: June 2012