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How to Snorkel Like a Pro: A Beginners Guide

Kyle W by Kyle W Updated on June 9, 2021. In

How to Use a Snorkel

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Snorkeling is an activity many dream of doing but don’t feel as if it is fully worth the time and effort. For a multitude of travelers, it’s presented as more of an adventurous activity that anyone can partake in.

However, there’s so much more to this outdoor activity. What you may not realize is that scuba diving evolved from skin diving or snorkeling.

While it’s an exhilarating way of enjoying the ocean, a few pointers will enhance your experience, making it more thrilling and comfortable.

With that being said, here’s our guide to help you experience a better snorkeling experience on your next trip. You’ll gain insight into how to snorkel better, so get your scuba mask ready and fins on!

Preparation

If you want the opportunity to take full advantage of your upcoming snorkeling trip and want to show off your newly acquired snorkeling skills, then some preparation is needed.

Follow Through By Improving Your Swimming Skills

If your swimming skills could use work, start by taking swimming lessons at a local pool near you. While you may be a decent swimmer, there’s always room for improvement and the extra training and practice can ultimately benefit you. Focus on your freestyle skills because the kicking technique from this style is applicable in snorkeling and can help when you are in the water.

Elevating your endurance and strength in the muscles engaged by the kicks will result in improved snorkeling with minimal effort. As a result, you can take the time to enjoy the environment you are exploring, rather than focusing on what you might be doing wrong or need to improve on.

Taking the time to become an excellent swimmer may allow you to ditch the snorkeling vest as well.  Although the vest aids in better flotation, it also restricts movement while in the water which can make it harder to dive deep and check out the beautiful reefs and fish. Great swimming skills keep you safe in the water.

Practice Makes Perfect

While regular swimming is one thing, doing so with fins on is an entirely different ballgame. The additional weight and drag of the fins you are wearing can put more strain on the leg muscles. Consequentially, you may experience severe cramps if you’re not used to swimming with scuba fins.

Therefore, bring a pair of fins to your local pool and do a few laps with them on to get used to wearing them. Moreover, mix it up by doing shorter, quicker stretches and long stretches at a mid-level pace.

The Most Ideal Snorkeling Destinations

Boost Your Breath Hold

You may notice that a lot of snorkelers actually float on the surface and use the snorkel for breathing while staring down. However, most seasoned snorkelers move into skin diving territory by diving below the surface as they hold their breath. Doing so allows them to get an up-close view of what lies under the water.

To make the most of your underwater adventure, work on your breath-holding capacity coupled with swimming efficiency. You can gain experience by reaching out to your local free-diving or breath-holding club for hands-on practice and training. With the soaring popularity of free-diving, these clubs are increasingly easier to locate.

Learn How to Preserve Energy While Snorkeling

A swim in tropical waters doesn’t sound like intense exercise, right? Well, not quite. Snorkeling can undoubtedly take it out of you! You may not be aware that your body constantly loses heat even in warm water as a result of the water’s heat capacity being superior to that of air.

Moreover, propelling yourself forward with a pair of fins uses a significant amount of energy. Coupled with the fact that snorkeling can be an all-day adventure, with hours on end spent in the water, it’s not hard to understand why energy conservation is essential.

As is the case with scuba diving, it’s important to pace yourself, relax, and let your fins do the heavy lifting. For most people, being in the water is a new experience, so taking the time to relax your mind and body is the most crucial first step.

A myriad of newbies usually swim along using their arms, just as they would in a pool. However, when your legs have fins on, they outshine your arms a million times over.

Therefore, a great way of energy conservation is to keep your arms relaxed at your sides and focus on your fins instead. Even as you do so, be mindful not to kick too hard.

A leisurely kicking pace is sufficient to propel you forward and moving at a fast rate implies you’ll zoom by captivating sights. Additionally, kicking excessively hard while failing with your arms produces too much splashing that will scare away the same marine wildlife you’re looking to set your sights on.

Holding Your Breath While Snorkeling

Remember to take slow and deep breaths when snorkeling. Breathing through a full-face snorkel mask is a different ballgame from doing so without one. Taking deep breaths is essential to get the most out of this outdoor adventure. It also keeps your heart rate low, helping you relax and preserve energy.

Many snorkelers are content with floating on the surface; however, others yearn to take short dives on a breath-hold to get an up-close view of the marine animals, reefs, and other oceanic features. To get the most of your breath-hold, we’ve rounded up a few tips.

Start By Relaxing

While this may seem obvious, start by relaxing. When relaxing, take a few moments on the surface of the water and engage in very little movement. This will help you get your breathing under control.

Maintain Controlled and Deep Breaths

Breathing deeply can help eliminate your risk of hyperventilating.  Take slow and deep breaths to fully empty and fill your lungs. Then, take an additional deep breath to ensure you first fill up your diaphragm, followed by your chest, and lastly, the top of your torso.

Making Your Descent

When you’re ready for your descent, immerse yourself at a 90-degree angle at the west, allowing your torso to be vertical and submerged in the water. Then, raise your legs, ensuring they are vertical but above the water surface. Your leg weight will drive you into the depths, preserving your energy in the process.

When your fins are submerged in the water, use them to gain further depth. Keep in mind that this is more efficient compared to the swimming ascent you typically see rookie snorkelers attempting.

Once Underwater

Once you’re submerged in the water, remember to relax. Most snorkelers can considerably boost their breath holds by pacing themselves and relaxing. Swim slowly but efficiently, aiming to streamline your body as much as possible, making sure each movement is about propelling your forward.

Conservatism

It involves coming up to the water surface well before running out of air, slowly prolonging your bottom time every time you dive. After some time, you’ll get a clear picture of the duration you can safely stay underwater. It’ll mostly be significantly longer than your first underwater venture.

Different Types of Snorkeling

Surface Snorkeling

For many, snorkeling at the surface of the water is most comfortable and safest, especially if you’re not an experience swimmer or diver. Definitely nothing wrong with surface snorkeling and is a great option if you’re with family or young children.

For surface snorkeling, we recommend wearing full face snorkel masks which work very well and provide a ton of visibility.

Deep Water Snorkeling

Compared to surface snorkeling, deep water snorkeling is a much different experience and requires a additional skills. Not only is diving experience important, but entering the water at certain depths, the atmosphere becomes different – sunlight fades and the deep dark ocean can feel very overwhelming to beginners.

How to Dive Down When Snorkeling

Once your ready to go past surface snorkeling and enter the depths of the ocean, you’ll need to know how to properly dive down with your snorkel. Many beginners dive in without thinking of their technique, which sometimes can lead to uncoordinated diving and taking on too much air or water. Below we’ll go over a very simple and easy diving technique that you can follow next time you want to hit the water.

Step 1: Starting from lying flat, 90 degrees, on the surface of the water, then kick to get some forward but horizontal momentum.

Step 2: Let your arms to hang down at a 90 degree angle.

Step 3: When you’re ready, bend forward slightly and into the water so that your arms, torso and head are all under and pointing down.

Step 4: Next, shoot your legs up as high as you can so that you’re point straight down (like a handstand). The weight of your legs will push your body down into the water.

How to Relieve Ear Pressure While Snorkeling

Depending on how deep you feel like diving, the pressure on your eats might get too intense, especially if you’re not used to the depths. There’s really only one way to get rid of ear pressure – popping your ears. After you’re finished diving, if the ear pressure is too intense, simply hold your nose closed and blow – but don’t do it too hard! Blow slowly and build the pressure until it starts to pass.

How to Surface After a Snorkel Dive

After your deep water adventure, when you’re ready to surface, make sure to slowly rise up and rotate so that you can see your entire surroundings. Raise one arm directly in front of you to guide your rise and protect your head. Bonus tip: tilt your head down slightly right before you hit the surface and exhale hard to clear your snorkel at the top of the ascent.

How to Stay Safe When Snorkeling

  • Always snorkel with a partner and make sure to stick together.
  • If you’re in larger and deeper areas, use a surface marker.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and know where you are in the water.
  • Be aware of wind and weather conditions before and after entering the water.
  • If you’re a beginner, wear a life jacket (better safe than sorry).
  • Wear sunscreen if you’re in very hot climates (you can get sunburnt in water too).

Our Favorite Places to Snorkel

  • Turtle Town – Maui
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – Florida Keys
  • Looe Key – Florida Keys
  • Molokini – Maui

Conclusion

Snorkeling is one of the exhilarating outdoor activities that are not only fairly easy to get the hang of but also great for most people.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge on how to better your experience, you’re ready to discover sea turtles, local reef fish, and other delights. Organize a tour and explore the beauty and secrets of the underwater world in all its glory.

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