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How To Snorkel: Beginners Guide to Safe Snorkeling

How To Snorkel: Beginners Guide to Safe Snorkeling

Posted by David Morgan on May 25th 2022

Snorkeling is the one sport that allows you to float almost effortlessly with the ocean waves while viewing the magical underwater world.

But many people miss out because they don't know how to snorkel.

If you are getting ready for your first time with a snorkel, this guide is for you.

What To Do Before You Start Snorkeling?

Once you’ve booked your trip and you’re ready to head to the ocean, there are a few steps to get ready for your snorkeling adventure.

  1. Choose the Right Gear - First thing first, choose the gear that fits your needs. You don’t want to be stuck with a faulty snorkel or a leaky mask.
  2. Get Used to Your Equipment – Once you have your equipment, make sure you try it on. Wear it around the house and get used to how it works. Practice breathing with your mask and snorkel outside the water. 

How To Snorkel

Snorkeling is very simple for someone of any age to master. The important thing to remember is to stay calm and trust your equipment throughout the process.

The following steps outline the basics of how to snorkel:

  • Fit the Mask Perfectly on the Face – Start by putting on your mask and make sure you have a comfortable seal around your nose and eyes.
  • Lay in Water and Bite the Tube – Enter the water and lay face first. You should be able to see through your mask so be sure to keep your eyes open. Bite on your snorkel tube gently (no need to chomp down hard), and then seal the tube with your lips to ensure it stays in place.
  • Breath Slowly and Keep Floating – It’s tempting to start breathing heavily while you’re under the water. Afterall, breathing underwater doesn’t feel natural to us. However, focus on taking slow and full breaths while keeping your body relaxed. Float on the surface and try to refrain from using your hands and arms. Allow your body’s natural buoyancy to keep you at the surface and enjoy the scenes underneath.
  • Wear a Floating Vest, If Needed – If buoyancy is a problem, you can choose a snorkel vest that makes floating pretty easy. Additionally, a colorful vest will make you easy to notice for boats or wave runners nearby to keep you safe in the water. 

How To Use Snorkel Mask: Traditional vs. Full Face Mask

No matter what type of mask you use, it’s important to make sure the mask fits perfectly and doesn’t leak. Your mask should not be too tight or loose.

How To Use a Traditional Mask:

  1. The volume and mouth piece of the snorkel mask change based on size and style. This is why it’s important to use a mask that actually fits you.
  2. Trust your equipment and swim with your head staying below the surface while kicking your feet slowly to propel you forward.
  3. Once you are confident, you can dive a little deeper under the water surface by simply holding your breath as you go down.
  4. If your snorkel ever dips below the surface for the water, exhale powerfully into the tube when you resurface to remove any water and then inhale slowly to avoid taking in any water left in the snorkel tube.

How To Use a Full Face Mask:

  1. First, be sure you are comfortable using a traditional mask before you opt for a full face mask.
  2. Put the mask on your face and make sure that the outer seal and the nose seal both fit perfectly.
  3. Before you get into the water, check the straps, valves and the gears to ensure everything is properly working.
  4. Put the mask on your face and breathe in and out normally. When you breathe in, you should feel air come down across your eyes. When you breathe out there should be no fogging in the mask. This ensures your mask is working properly. Once your breathing feels normal, slowly lower your face into the water and continue to breathe normally.
  5. Because full face masks are designed to lock out water, you can dive a bit deeper anywhere you wish to explore.

How To Snorkel Underwater

Once you master basic snorkeling skills, you can learn how to snorkel underwater.

  • Learn to Control Your Breath – Start with a nice, slow rhythm of breathing. Keep enough air in your lungs to clear the snorkel if necessary.
  • Learn Duck-Dive Snorkeling – While one the surface, hold your breath and angle your body at the hips, reaching down with your arms. Use one strong breaststroke with your arms to pull yourself down, use a flutter kick to get deeper. This is called a duck dive.
  • Equalize Your Ears - As you descend underwater, you may notice the static water pressure against your eardrums. Equalize this pressure if you plan on doing more than one dive.
  • Clear Your Snorkel on the Surface – When you reach the surface, fully exhale and clear the water in your tube. Experts recommend the best way to do this is to breathe as if you’re saying the number “two” really loudly. You can also use your tongue as a splash guard to keep water from going down your throat as you breathe in.

11 Safety Tips While Snorkeling

Snorkeling is a very safe experience and a great way for swimmers of all ages to enjoy the serene nature of ocean life.

However, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind while you’re learning how to snorkel.

  1. Be confident in the water - It’s important that you can relax while snorkeling. You should be comfortable in the water. If you prefer to wear a life vest or use a pool noodle, use what you need to in order to be comfortable.
  2. Use Trusted Equipment - Use products from trusted manufacturers. You’ll be better off having equipment that you know is comfortable and works properly.
  3. Don’t Snorkel Alone - Always go with a buddy just in case of an unexpected emergency situation.
  4. Avoid Alcohol - Never swim under the influence of alcohol.
  5. Be Fit and Healthy - If you’re not feeling your best, skip the snorkeling and wait until you’re feeling strong and healthy.
  6. Stay in Snorkel Areas - If there is a designated “snorkel area,” stay within those boundaries. If there are no boundaries, stay close enough to shore that you can swim back easily when necessary.
  7. Check the Forecast - You’ll want to check with locals in the area or check the forecast for high surf or winds, heavy shore break, and strong currents. If you find yourself in heavy waves, always swim diagonally through them rather than turn your back to them.
  8. Never Touch or Feed Marine Life - Show respect for the underwater world by leaving them alone. Don't attempt to pick up, step on, or carry any type of animal. There are a few dangerous species that are worth knowing about so you can identify and avoid coming in contact with them. These include:
    1. Stonefish
    2. Crown of thorns sea star
    3. Stingrays
    4. Lionfish and scorpionfish
    5. Flower urchin
  9. Bring a First Aid Kit - It’s important to have a first aid kit on the boat or shore in case of an unexpected sting or bite from marine life.
  10. Stick to Clear Areas - Not only will you have a hard time seeing much of any sea life, these areas can be dangerous for snorkeling.
  11. Avoid Snorkeling at Dawn or Dusk - Early morning and late evening pose more hazards for snorkelers. The best time for snorkeling is late morning. This is when there is increased visibility and more active marine life.

FAQS About Snorkeling

Can you snorkel without swallowing water or choking?

Absolutely! Snorkeling should never include swallowing water or choking. With practice you’ll regulate your breathing and avoid bringing any water into your snorkel.

Can you snorkel with glasses?

In most cases, it is not recommended because it is difficult to get a good seal on the mask while wearing glasses. Instead, you can get a prescription snorkel mask, or wear contacts if possible.

How do I clear water from my mask?

Water inside your mask should be a rare occurrence. If you’re constantly having water inside your mask, it does not fit properly. To clear the water, simply hold the mask’s frame to your face and breathe out through your nose to force the water out. Now you’re ready to continue snorkeling.

Let’s Dive In

Snorkeling only takes a few minutes to get the gear on, hop in, and get used to the technique. 

Even small children can learn how to snorkel rather quickly. 

Take the time to slow your breathing, let your body float, and embrace a unique sport that you can only enjoy under the sea.