How to Snorkel

Snorkeling is one of the more fun and rewarding things you can spend your time on. Learning how to snorkel is well worth it. If you are a beginner, you might not know where to start. Two of our authors: Cole Strehlow and Michael POWER have both written guides that should help you get started. Check both guides out, in order, below.

How To Snorkel

Author: Cole Strehlow

Snorkeling is a window into the sea.

It’s a peak behind the choppy, glazed curtain of the surface into a new world alive with mystery: impossible spectrums of color, fairy-tale creatures in alien shapes, and the ever-present wonder of what might swim up from the depths.

It’s supposed to be fun, of course. But if you’re going to enjoy yourself, you’ll need two things. Proper equipment, and proper technique.

Take these things along on your trip, and you’ll make a memory of a lifetime. Forget them, and you’ll have a sputtering, splashing nightmare.

Section 1: Proper Equipment

First thing’s first: you need the right gear. Here’s a breakdown of the basic snorkeling equipment you’ll need to get started.

A Mask With a Good Seal

If your mask doesn’t seal properly, water will make its way inside and ruin your day. If the seal is too tight, you’ll be uncomfortable and have red marks all over your face.

To get a good seal, you should look for a few features in your mask:
  • A silicone skirt (the part that touches your face). This is the most flexible material available.
  • A shape that mirrors the basic contours of your facial structure. Masks come in wide and thin designs, just like human faces. Find one that matches yours.

Functional Fins

Fins are the cheat code that help you swim--well, more like a fish. They provide several critical advantages:
  • Speed for covering lots of water.
  • Strength for swimming in currents.
  • Protection from razor-sharp rocks and coral.

Fins need to fit comfortably to be effective. Avoid any hard spots that contact your feet, as these will cause blisters quickly. Make sure the fins don’t feel too loose or tight. Aim for a snug fit, like a good pair of shoes.

Fins come in two basic types: open and closed foot.

If you plan on snorkeling in cold water--or off rocky beaches--consider an open-foot design. These allow you to wear a rubber boot inside the fin, which makes it much easier to walk over rough terrain or put on your fins on in chilly water.

For all other scenarios, closed-foot fins are the most efficient choice. They’re easier to maneuver in the water (due to the lack of extra weight on the foot) and lighter to pack.

A Dry Snorkel

Taking in the sea from the surface is a great way to get started, but one of the joys of snorkeling is diving for a close inspection of a school of fish or a coral formation.

To do this without filling your snorkel with water, you’ll need a dry snorkel: these have self-sealing valves that close when you dive and open when you surface.

Optional Equipment:

  • Snorkeling Vest. Use this if you’re not completely confident in your swimming strength. There’s no shame in safety.
  • Wetsuit. This offers protection in cold temperatures. Similarly, a lightweight skins provide warmth and protection against the sun.

Section 2: Proper Technique

Practice

You will enjoy your first true snorkeling experience if you’ve taken the time to practice first. Make some laps at the pool (ignore the looks), or head to a very calm beach to get your feet wet. Practice all of the following techniques in the safety of a controlled environment; this experience will help you immensely once you’re ready to hit the reef.

Snorkeling is like any other physical activity in that it requires built-up stamina. You’re likely to get tired quickly when you first begin; this is normal. More repetitions will have you feeling strong and confident.

The Real Deal

Before you get in the water, take these preliminary steps.

  • Choose a living area. You need a part of the ocean that has living coral and lots of fish--otherwise it could be boring and discouraging.
  • Ensure the water is calm. Don’t try to tackle choppy water or strong currents--these things will drain your energy quickly and make your seasick. The water is usually the calmest in the morning: check the water conditions before you show up at the beach.
  • Fly a dive flag. The first time you snorkel over an ocean reef, make sure you fly a dive flag. This alerts others to your presence and prevents dangerous boating accidents. A dive flag is red with a white slash--these are available to attach to your boat or float on a buoy above you.
  • Defog your mask. You can use anti-fog from a dive shop, or you can simply spit in your mask and rinse it off with seawater. This will prevent fog from ruining your view.
  • Put on your fins. Fold the heal inside out and put your foot inside the fin’s pocket, then snap the heal into place.

Once you’re ready to snorkel, use the following techniques and guidance to get started.

  • Walk backward into the water. This is much less awkward than flapping forward with your fins. (You should start snorkeling from a beach, not a boat. It’s easier to learn the skills when you can stand up and take breaks).
  • Submerge your face. Test your breathing while you can still stand up, and adjust your mask as necessary. (Quick tip: if you get water in your mask while underwater, you don’t need to surface to fix it. Just pull the mask gently away from your face and blow out your nose).
  • Control your breathing. If your breathing is irregular, you will get water in your mask and feel out-of-control. Concentrate on regulating your breathing and you’ll feel much more calm.
  • Swim slowly. The high salt levels in the ocean make it easy to float--meaning you don’t have to work hard to stay atop the water. Avoid any kind of flailing or fast-swimming strokes, just move slowly through the water using your fins.
  • Relax. This is the final and most important rule of snorkeling. Everything works better if you settle down and take it slow.

If you have the opportunity, go snorkeling with an experienced partner. This is the best possible way to learn.

How to Snorkel: Part2

[The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning]
Author: Michael POWER

Few things you can do on vacation are more enjoyable than snorkeling in the water. While it takes a few minutes to get used to breathing with a mouthpiece, you'll soon find the ease of swimming with a snorkel on very freeing.

All you need to start snorkeling is the right gear and equipment coupled with a bit of experience. Our guide will explain everything you need to know to get started with this wonderful beachside activity.

Saltwater vs. Freshwater Snorkeling

One key advantage of snorkeling in saltwater is how easy it is to float. Due to the high content of salt in the water, your body floats almost effortlessly. It's much easier to focus on the sights around you when snorkeling in the ocean or sea. Your fins will also help you swim with ease.

The Most Important Tip For Easy Snorkeling

The most important thing to remember when snorkeling is to relax. Practice in shallow water nearby others before you venture out into deeper areas. Breathe as you normally would through your mouth, and move at a steady, slow, consistent speed.

What to Wear When Snorkeling

A wetsuit is only necessary if you're snorkeling in cold water. The suit keeps your body heat at a comfortable temperature. For warmer weather, you can snorkel in your regular swimsuit. Alternatively, a lightweight rash guard can offer protection from the sun, as well as a bit of extra warmth.

Don't wear a t-shirt or other cotton material. Aside from offering little protection from the sun, cotton clothing creates too much drag when swimming. This tires you out faster than with a form-fitting rash guard.

If you snorkel without a suit, or with one that doesn't cover your whole body, be sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen.

Make Sure Your Mask Fits

While many kinds of masks exist on the market, a good mask is defined by a correct fit. A leaky mask probably means it is too tight on your face. This will also leave red marks on your face after a day of snorkeling. A loose mask is no good either, as it may fall off while you're swimming.

Make sure your mask is adjusted to the correct fit before you get into the water. While you can adjust your mask using the strap buckles on either side, a perfect fit beforehand means easy snorkeling later. Try on a few masks to find the best one for your head.

The mask skirt that touches your face is made with either plastic or silicone. While plastic is cheaper, silicone will last far longer and be much more comfortable in the water.

Splash Guards and Dry Snorkels

Silicone snorkels with splash guards make are great for beginners and experts alike. As the name states, a splash guard prevents water from entering the tube. This makes it easier to breathe even when a bit of water reaches the top of the snorkel.

Divers and more advanced snorkelers will typically use a dry snorkel. These snorkels include a valve on the top that seals the tube when diving. When there's no water around the top, the snorkel remains open. Because of this, many snorkelers prefer a dry snorkel.

If you don't plan on diving, a snorkel with a splash guard will work just fine. Whichever snorkel you pick, try to get one made with silicone, which makes for a comfortable mouth guard. A mouth guard that fits comfortably makes it easy to breathe while swimming.

What Do I Do If My Snorkel Gets Wet?

Since you're in a body of water, it's likely you'll get water in your snorkel. This is easy to fix. Just blow forcefully out through the mouthpiece. The water will shoot out of the top or through the purge valve below.

Getting The Right Fins

Finding the right fins is like finding the right mask. You want to make sure they're neither too tight nor too loose. This ensures your fins stay on in the water without creating soreness or blisters.

Don't use fins with inflexible plastic around your foot. Soft rubber boots are best for swimming. Closed foot fins that cover foot to toe are most popular and recommended.

Open foot fins are acceptable as well. The key to these types of fins is trying them on with your boots first. The boots themselves need to be comfortable, with and without the fins.

When To Put On Your Fins

While it's possible to put your fins on before snorkeling, your walk toward the water may be a bit awkward. Walking in fins can also raise the chance of falling down. Finally, you might end up with rocks and sand in your fins that will irritate your feet.

Try walking to the water barefoot or in flip-flops. Then, put your fins on when you're in the water. You can attach your shoes to a belt if needed. From there, enjoy a relaxing day in the water.

How to Gain Experience

All you need to start snorkeling are your fins, snorkel, and mask. With all those on, you can start practicing in a swimming pool or a shallow body of water. When you need a break from snorkeling, just stick your head out of the water and rest.

If you want to swim in a deeper body of water, a snorkeling class can help you gain experience quickly. Any dive shop should offer lessons taught in a swimming pool. Make sure you have the basics down before moving onto advanced activity.

Building Your Stamina

It takes time to get used to breathing through your mouth while swimming. Using your leg and throat muscles at the same time requires practice. Before you snorkel for an entire day, try snorkeling in just one or two spots for a short period of time. After a day or two of practice, you can start snorkeling for longer periods of time in multiple spots.