Stephen P. Leatherman, professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, earned his nickname. Since developing no less than 50 criteria for evaluating beach quality 20 years ago, "Dr. Beach" has been rating shorelines all over the world. What factors does he consider when determining a beach's worthiness? Water temperature, safety, and weather are all incredibly important, but he maintains that the most important single factor is water quality. "That’s the first thing people really ask for," he says, adding that Americans are fortunate because "most of our beaches in the United States are in very good shape."
We asked Leatherman were to go to get wet and he picked out the best beaches for swimmers in the country. Just remember to bring your floaties with you.
Main Beach, NY
The water at this East Hampton beach reaches a high of around 75 degrees in the summer. "Some people say that's too nippy," says Leatherman. "To me it's still warm enough, particularly on a hot day." The Main Beach is a safe place thanks to its "great team of lifeguards" and two- to three-foot-tall waves.
It also helps that locals take care of the place. "I've seen famous people picking up litter on that beach," he says. "People there really have a high respect for their beach."
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