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Snorkeling is a wonderful activity that can be enjoyed by almost anyone who has access to the ocean, a lake, river, pond or quarry. Snorkeling as an activity frequently lives in the shadows of scuba diving - another excellent pastime, but one that requires significantly more instruction, time and money. Most people who have snorkeled have done so only on group charters while on vacation, but snorkeling is an activity that can be done almost anytime, anywhere. If you haven't already, give it a try - you'll love the new world beneath the water!

Modern snorkeling can trace its roots back over 5,000 years of history. As technologies advanced through the ages, so too did efforts to explore the ocean’s depths.
Evidence from 3000 B.C. point to some of the earliest known free divers; sponge farmers in Crete. In a forerunner to the modern snorkel, ancient divers used hollow reeds to allow them to breathe while submerged in water.
Later efforts to pierce the ocean’s surface used more complicated equipment. An ancient bas-relief dating back to 900 B.C. shows Assyrian divers using animal skins filled with air, which they carried with them to increase the length of their dives. In 333 B.C. Alexander the Great encouraged the development of the first diving bell, a massive contraption designed to trap a pocket of air when it was lowered into the water. The bell allowed divers to take breaths without returning all the way to the surface of the water. By 1538, diving bell technology had advanced enough that two Greeks in Toledo, Spain, performed a demonstration in the Tagus river, using a large kettle to descend to the bottom of the river bed, and then surprising their audience by returning to the surface with dry clothes and a candle still burning.
Although the diving bell was useful for allowing people to remain below the surface for extended periods, it was rather limited in terms of mobility. Instead, attempts were made to allow the diver to breathe from the surface air. Aristotle mentions divers taking air from a tube connected to the surface, which he likened to the trunk of an elephant. Leonardo da Vinci included among his inventions several designs for diving apparatuses, from simple tubes leading to floats at the surface of the water to an almost completely self-contained diving suit. He even had a sketch for webbed swimming gloves, a forerunner of the modern fins. 
Unfortunately, as people soon found out, tubes connecting a diver with the surface were of limited use. Water pressure below one or two feet quickly became too high for even the strongest pair of lungs to take a breath. In 1771, however, the invention of the air pump by British engineer John Smeaton opened up a whole new world of diving. By moving air through pressurized tubes, divers were soon able to descend to depths far greater than those previously possible. Soon, designs for pressurized suits and chambers were again feasible. This eventually led to the invention of the SCUBA system was invented, the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Modern technology has not only allowed for more complex and technical snorkeling equipment, it has also led to improvements in the most basic diving tools. Rubbers and plastics made possible snug fitting masks and goggles, while treated glass improved the diver’s safety. Materials were developed which could better withstand the corrosive ocean atmosphere and which allowed divers to better view the underwater arena. More efficient and easy to use snorkeling fins were developed to allow divers of all types to navigate the waters. Ultimately, these improvements in technology and equipment have made it that much easier to explore the ocean through snorkeling and free diving.

The First Time Snorkeling

The most important thing for a first time snorkeler is to get comfortable wearing the mask and breathing through the snorkel. Some people get anxious and have difficulty breathing through a snorkel while wearing a mask, so it is important to test things out in shallow water first. Many first timers have jumped into the water on a snorkeling charter only to realize they aren't comfortable wearing a mask and breathing through a tube - this often takes a few minutes to get used to. While standing in shallow water, practice putting your face below the surface and looking through the mask. You can breathe through the snorkel while looking around at the aquatic life. In shallow waters this can be a fantastic way to see many things without expending the energy of swimming.
Snorkeling in shallow water is also a good time to learn to use the equipment effectively. Although relatively simple, beginning snorkelers should know their way around their mask and snorkel, including how to clear both of water. This is an essential skill, as open waves or splashes can send water into the open end of a snorkel, and masks can develop tiny leaks during a dive. Having a mask or snorkel fill with water can be a scary experience the first time, so snorkelers should be comfortable with the process of clearing their equipment.

Clearing a snorkel is an easy process. If you find your snorkel tube clogged with water simply exhale with a strong force through your mouth, which should send the water up and out the end of the snorkel. Some snorkels come with built-in drainage valves, allowing the water to be pushed out a one-way valve. This makes it easier to push the water out if a small amount of water makes it way into the tube.

Clearing a mask is similar to clearing a snorkel, but can seem more difficult because of the reduced visibility. To clear out a mask, simply lift your head out of the water and pull forward on the front of the mask. This will open up a gap in the bottom of the mask, allowing the water to drain out. Some masks come with built-in purge valve, which serves the same role as the drain valve on a snorkel. By including a one-way valve which lets water out but does not let water in, snorkelers can clear a mask of water by simply blowing air out their nose while the mask is on. The water will be pushed out the valve, clearing the mask. Even masks without a built-in purge valve can be cleared while underwater. Simply press the top of the mask to the forehead and blow out the nose. Air will bubble into the mask, pushing the water out the bottom.
The next step in learning the basics of snorkeling is to practice while in open water, when you cannot touch the bottom. To do this you will need to be comfortable with using your snorkeling fins to stay afloat upright as well as to move around while floating face down in the water. As you swim along the surface, practice breathing evenly through your snorkel. The most common underwater kick is the basic flutter stroke. When used properly, this kick can be a very fast and efficient method of transportation in the water. As you kick, use a slow, comfortable pace and remember to keep your fins submerged in the water. You should find that a pace of about twenty kicks per minute will give you a good cruising speed through the water without too much fatigue. Breaking the water surface with your fins uses more energy and decreases the efficiency of your kicks. Keep your arms at your sides while swimming to reduce drag. Another common kick is the dolphin kick, in which both legs sweep up and down together. This kick can be more difficult to master but is a very efficient means of underwater propulsion when learned properly.
If you fee a bit more adventurous, you can practice going deeper underwater by diving below the surface. The two basic types of dives are the feet-first dive and the head-first dive. The feet-first dive is the simplest. While vertical in the water, raise your chest and arms above the surface of the water by kicking with your legs. As the weight of your body begins to pull you back down into the water, raise your arms above your head, sweeping them upward to push yourself lower. Because it is harder to sink underwater when your lungs are full of air, exhale a small amount of breath as you begin to descend. Next, pull your knees to your chest and lower your head, which will rotate your body to a horizontal position and allow you to swim underwater.
The other type of dive is the head-first dive, which can be started directly from a horizontal position while snorkeling. To be most effective, this type of dive should begin with a good amount of forward momentum. As you kick forward, bend at the hips and pull your knees and arms in towards your chest. Thrust your legs straight up and maintain a streamlined position to glide down into the water. Continue to kick with your feet to move down deeper, and simply arch your back to level off and or continue up to the surface.
To increase amount of time you can spend underwater, try taking several long, deep breaths before diving, to clear the carbon dioxide from your lungs. Exhale about halfway before submerging and hold the breath as you dive. When you begin to ascend, slowly let the air our of your lungs as you rise toward the surface, keeping enough breath to clear out the snorkel with a final blast of air as your head breaks the surface.

Taking Care of Your Equipment

You can prolong the life of your snorkeling equipment and keep it in top shape by regularly soaking them in fresh water. Salt crystals can condense on equipment that has not been properly rinsed or soaked. These can dry and harden, causing scratches or holes in equipment and weakening straps. Check your equipment after each use for bits of sand or salt and rinsing all equipment thoroughly.To avoid breathing in water while you are using your snorkel, get into the practice of breathing in slowly and evenly, so that residual water in the snorkel does not enter your mouth. Exhale sharply and with force to rid the snorkel tube of water.

If Your Mask Fogs

Sometimes the inside surface of a snorkeling mask will begin to fog. This happens when moisture in your breath condenses on the cold glass surface of the mask. To avoid this, regularly clean both the inside and outside of your mask with soap and water to remove all dirt and grease. If your mask begins to fog during a dive you can clear it by allowing a little water to flow into the mask. Then look downward to wash the condensation from the lens and clear the water out of the mask.

If You Get Tired

If your legs become tired or if you develop a cramp while snorkeling try flipping over onto your back. This will let you tread water easily while remaining afloat on the surface of the water. The inverted leg motions will be much easier than the basic kick and will let your muscles rest and recuperate energy. Your body position should be semi-sitting, with the head above water.

Safety First !!!
The most important safety tip while snorkeling is to never do it alone. An overwhelming number of accidents happen to divers who go it alone, so having a buddy with you is a valuable asset in case of mishap. Choose a buddy who you are comfortable with and stay close together while you are out. And don't snorkel if you cannot swim. It sounds like common sense, but we receive a surprising amount of email on this subject.

Stay close to shore. Beginning snorkelers often misjudge their own capabilities and endurance and find themselves worn out or exhausted. Be sure to stay close to shore or reserve enough energy to get yourself back safely. Move onto your back and tread water for a few minutes to regain energy before coming back in if you are already tired or must return through rough surf or strong currents.

Be aware of your surroundings. Know the area that you are diving in and if there are any areas to avoid. Be very careful around rocky shores or pounding surf, which can pick up a snorkeler and cause injury. (During a snorkeling excursion in Hawaii a few years back we were watching fish near a rocky outcropping, and a large wave threw us about 8 feet into the rocks where the water was about 18 inches deep - luckily we weren't hurt, but we easily could have been) If you are snorkeling in open water, know the tides and be careful of getting sucked out or trapped by an outgoing tide.

Retain your energy. To avoid exhaustion consider snorkeling with a flotation device of some sort. A simple waist belt or snorkeling vest can make your excursion significantly more enjoyable by allowing you to focus on what you are watching and not on any fatigue you may be experiencing. (If you need to dive below the surface, you can leave your belt "up top" and find it when you surface. If you frequently dive below the surface, consider making several short dives instead of one long one, or make sure to use a floatation device to rest and regain energy between dives. You’ll enjoy yourself more and be more capable of avoiding injury if you are not over tired. Cold water can also drain a diver’s heat and sap their strength. If you are snorkeling in cold water, consider wearing a wetsuit or other protective equipment.

Do not touch marine life: Although most underwater animals will avoid contact with humans, many creatures have some method of defense if they feel in danger. To protect yourself, maintain a safe distance from all sea creatures and try not to make any sudden moves to startle the ocean inhabitants.

Be aware of the seabed. In shallow waters, coral and other rough surfaces can severely injure a snorkeler who is not careful. Do not let yourself get into too shallow waters, and be wary of outgoing tides, which may bring you closer to the seabed or suck you out farther to sea.

Learn first aid and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If a person takes water into their lungs or stops breathing, the most effective response is artificial respiration performed quickly. Learn how to properly perform basic mouth-to-mouth and practice performing it both on land and in the water. Take a first aid course and practice before you go out.


When it comes to snorkeling equipment, the mask is the centerpiece of the collection. A proper mask serves as the window between a snorkeler and the world beneath the water. Without a mask in place to serve as a lens, divers would have significantly reduced vision and distorted perspective. For this reason, when choosing a mask, a snorkeler should pick one that provides a clear, unobstructed view and does not limit peripheral vision. Some masks include side windows, to allow for wider vision, while others simply widen the front lens. Tinted glass should be avoided.
The next step in finding a proper mask is to ensure that it fits with your face, that it creates a reliable seal, and that it will not leak during a long dive.
Testing a mask for leaks can start when you first pick up the mask. First, note the materials and design of the mask. Masks should have a stiff body to ensure a snug fit and a soft flexible skirt where the mask presses against your face. Next, test the fit of the mask against your face. Does it fit snugly or does it pinch or feel loose?
snorkeling masks

A snorkel is a flexible tube, generally made from plastic or stiff rubber, which connects a snorkeler to the surface air. Snorkels are a diver's lifeline, allowing them to breathe while their face is in the water. The right snorkel should let you breathe easily and comfortably for extended periods of time, without making you short of breath or light-headed.
Snorkel designs vary based on bore diameter and length, and should be chosen based on a snorkeler’s needs and body type. Generally, the larger you are the larger the diameter of your snorkel should be, as it will allow more air to pass through.
If the bore is too wide, however, it may make it more difficult to clear water from the snorkel. Similarly, although longer snorkels allow a swimmer to breath air at a deeper level, they also make it more difficult to take in air and during long dives may cause buildup of stale air in the tube. Most snorkels measure between 12 and 18 inches, but choose one that feels comfortable for you.

Snorkel fins are a frequently overlooked piece of snorkeling equipment which make a huge difference in snorkeling as they provide the propulsion system when in the water. Snorkeling without fins is certainly possible, but fins add so much speed and manueverability to snorkeling, it really is a different experience without them. Fins give swimmers more power to move through the water, increasing their swim speed by approximately fifty percent. Fins also focus all propulsion power in the legs, taking the strain off a swimmer’s arms and freeing them to handle equipment and explore.
There are two basic types of fins, open-heel fins and full foot fins. To be used effectively a diver’s fins must fit comfortably and securely. Too tight and they can hurt and cause blisters, too loose and they may chafe or fall off. Full foot fins, which fit over the entire foot, offer more protection to the bottom of a diver’s heel, but because they are not adjustable they do not provide as secure a fit. Open-heel fins, which are held in place by an adjustable strap, can be more secure and often easier to put on and take off. However, because they provide no protection for the bottom of the foot, many divers choose to wear Neoprene booties when using open-heel fins, to protect their feet against sharp objects and rough underwater surfaces.
snorkeling fins Open Heel Fins snorkeling fin Full Foot Fins
Whichever type of fins you decide to use, all divers should become comfortable with their fins both in and out of the water before taking them out for a dive. Although fins are designed to make it easier to maneuver through water, they take more effort to move than bare legs, so beginners may find their legs tiring out more quickly than they expect. Fins with longer and more rigid blades take more effort to swim in, so beginner divers are encouraged to use smaller, more flexible fins.
Initially, many divers find it cumbersome and awkward to walk around on land with their fins on. Be sure to practice and get comfortable with your fins on dry land, practice lifting your feet high to prevent the blade of the fins from tripping you. You may prefer to enter the water backwards to make it easier to walk into the surf.

Snorkel vests are small inflatable vests that can be worn in the water to help improve buoyancy while snorkeling. Snorkel vests are not designed to be life vests or to allow those who can't swim to snorkel. Rather, these vests provide buoyancy that allows the wearer to relax a bit and focus on the sites below the water. Snorkeling vests are usually inflated by blowing through a small tube, and the air is released by pressing on a small valve.
Vests are an excellent idea for those who may not be the strongest of swimmers (especially children) or for those who simply want to expend less energy moving around in the water. (Editors note: I had never used a vest until a recent trip to Hawaii - and although I am a strong swimmer I was amazed at how much more enjoyable the vest made my time on top of the water.) If you plan to dive underwater to see more then don't wear a vest - you won't make it very far! Prices for snorkeling vests are usually $25-$50, though vests are often provided for free on snorkeling tours. Note: Standard vest life preservers and foam waist preservers are decent alternatives when a formal snorkeling vest isn't available.
snorkel vests

1 comment:

Jones Morris said...

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