This simple guide is full of help and advice for all newcomers who want to snorkel. We begin with some plain sailing snorkeling facts about the spelling variations. The English (British and Commonwealth) spell it – snorkelling. Whereas, a few ‘misguided snorkelers’ say snorkling.
The recreational sport or pastime of snorkeling is not the same as scuba diving. Snorkelers do not usually have an air supply attached to their gear. Instead they breathe through a plastic tube erected vertically above sea level.
Scuba Diving vs. Snorkeling
Snorkeling masks are often the same quality as dive masks. But, starter gear tends to be less expensive and lightweight. In general, snorkelers use fewer items than the equipment needed for scuba diving.
Wearing a snorkel mask allows us to look underwater and watch fishes swim in their natural habitat around the rocks and corals. So, masks are part of all basic snorkel sets for adults and children.
Beginners will enjoy this hobby more by relaxing at the surface in calm shallow water. Even so, we always recommend wearing a snorkel vest.
Facts about Snorkeling Safety
Learning how to snorkel safely will increase your confidence and capabilities. It is important to understand the basics for beginners and how the gear functions. It will save you a lot of anxiety and embarrassment at the dive site.
Other advanced topics are covered in the full snorkeling blog archives. For example, you can find specialist information about breathhold freediving. We also explain about snorkeling underwater (duck diving), making skin dives, and ascending to the surface.
Snorkel tubes are usually made from plastic. They have a rubber or silicone mouth-piece that has a design to fit inside your mouth. This might feel awkward at first. But, once you have it secure and sealed, it usually sits ‘comfortably’ between your teeth and lips.
You should attach the snorkel tube in a vertical position to your dive mask. That allows you to look down through the mask lens and breathe through the tube while your face is in the water.
The correct technique for snorkel breathing is slow and ‘slightly’ deeper than normal. This helps to remove carbon dioxide from the dead air space inside the tube. Excessive CO2 inside the snorkel and your airways can cause a feeling of air starvation.
Sometimes, sea water can enter the mouth-piece. If so, breathe ‘cautiously’ to avoid swallowing it. You can use your tongue to help by placing it against the roof of your mouth to create a splash guard.
Handy tips about snorkeling, such as this one, will help you to continue breathing through the snorkel without swallowing water. Then you can expel the water through the purge valve.
Blowing with force through the mouthpiece pushes water through the valve. It also gets expelled through the top opening of the snorkel – if it is above water.
How to Snorkel Video
Preparing Snorkeling Gear
Prepare your snorkeler’s equipment ensuring the mask and exposure suit are a comfortable fit. You may need lead weights to offset your buoyancy. If so, wear a weight belt that you can remove via a quick release buckle if you have a problem underwater.
Around 5% of your body weight in lead, threaded onto your belt, will help you become ‘neutrally’ buoyant. It depends most on the thickness of your wetsuit.
How Do You Snorkel Underwater?
You should attempt to dive down head first – like the ‘pike’ in diving. Using minimal effort, float on the surface looking downwards and then bend your body at the waist.
Force your head down and lift your legs high above. That will create a downward motion – similar to making a handstand underwater.
When your fins sink into the water, kick yourself lower using a smooth ‘finning’ action. It is important to equalize the pressure in your air spaces.
You equalize your ears and sinuses by pinching your nose closed through the mask and then attempting to blow ‘gently’ through your nose. You can equalize your dive mask by using your nose to blow some extra air into the air space.
Underwater swimming should be relaxing and energy efficient. Kick slow and deliberate with your fins avoiding too much hand and arm movement.
You want to avoid damaging the coral reef and your snorkeling flippers. This also improves your bottom time as your body needs less oxygen to supply your arm and hand muscles.
Keep your knees ‘slightly’ flexed and use your strong thigh muscles to develop an up-and-down scissor kick fin movement. Look and listen for hazards above before ‘slowly’ ascending to the surface.
Finally, kick your way back to the surface while exhaling ‘gently’ through the snorkel.
PADI Skin Diver
Learning how to skin dive with a snorkel will allow you to get closer to the fish and colorful corals. Diving down to the reef offers you an opportunity to get better quality underwater photographs. You can also experience the feeling of floating weightless beneath the surface.
The PADI Skin Diver course teaches you how to use breath-hold techniques. You get to duck-dive and explore fish life while swimming underwater.
You take a single breath of air at the surface and hold that breath until you swim back up to sea level. Follow our three simple steps to improve your skin diving skills and dive with safety.
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