There are two main frontiers in the world of open water swimming. One of those frontiers is how far can be swam and the other is how cold can the water be.
In South Africa, the cold debate was largely irrelevant outside of Cape Town but with more and more swimmers attempting swims like Robben Island, the question of how cold is cold has become increasingly topical.
Since open water swimming starting in Jeffreys Bay in the mid 1990′s, perceptions about how cold is cold have changed quite dramatically.
For many years open water swimming stopped towards the end of March when the canal water temperature dropped below 20 degrees C and only started again in October, once the 20 degree mark was breached.
That all changed in 2011 as Jeffreys Bay swimmers began training for Robben Island swims and suddenly water of 12 – 13 degrees C was sought after, with swimmers coming through from Port Elizabeth to swim in the chilly canals.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming reported on a poll conducted among open water swimmers about how cold is cold. The results were:
Under 5ºC (41ºF) – 0%
Under 10ºC (50ºF) – 7%
Under 12.5°C (54.5°F) – 14%
Under 15°C (59°F) – 20%
Under 17.5°C (63.5°F) – 24%
Under 20°C(68°F) – 15%
Under 22.5°C (72.5°F) – 17%