How Cold Is Cold?  Open Water Swimmers Describe It

How Cold Is Cold? Open Water Swimmers Describe It

A Daily News of Open Water Swimming poll asked “At what temperature do you think the water is getting cold?” The choices are as follows:

Under 5ºC (41ºF)
Under 10ºC (50ºF)
Under 12.5°F (54.5°F)
Under 15°F (59°C)
Under 17.5°F (63.5°F)
Under 20°F (68°C)
Under 22.5°F (72.5°C)

Several experienced open water swimmers commented with their written explanations:

David Barra said, “Cold is when my teeth hurt.”
Lynn Kubasek said, “Ice cream headache, but that goes away.”
Amanda Hunt said, “If I gasp when I first get in.”
Eney Jones said, “When you have winter in your toes, try to keep summer in your head.”
Jesse Lansner said, “Cold is when I can’t keep my face in the water when I first get in. That usually starts in the mid-50°s.”
Patrick Cantrell said, “The swimmers on a ‘balmy’ day in December at Brighton Beach should provide ample fodder.”
Terry Laughlin said, “When your skin burns outside and you feel a furnace inside. That happens at or under 50°F.”
Bill Ireland said, “I’ve swum in 53°, by accident and not intent. What’s interesting is that according to some things I have read open water swimming in the 19th century was done in the winter in England and it sounded to me like the cold water was part of the appeal(?).”
Jeff Magouirk said, “ I was swimming at mountain lake at about 10,000 feet above sea level. There were patches of snow melting and adding water into the lake. The water temp must have been in the low to mid 40°s. Felt like a thousand needles surrounding my chest and legs. Getting air was an issue also. A great experience!”
James Kegley said, “Cold…is anything other than 84…unbearably cold is another subject…”
Cliff Crozier said, “Cold is when, immediately after a swim, you can’t communicate how cold it is because your facial muscles have gone numb.”

Photo of Edna Llorens of the Mexican American Unity Swim.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association