It's important to know a few rules for using your snorkelling equipment in order to make the most of your underwater adventures. Here we explain how to correctly use your mask, snorkel and fins.
Proper fit with a mask is extremely important. When putting on your mask make sure that no hair is trapped that may break the seal. You may have to make some minor size adjustments with the strap. Contrary to popular perception, the tighter the strap, the more likely the mask will leak. You also have to play with the positioning of the strap on the back of your head when you are wearing it.
If you are getting some water into the mask at the bottom, try positioning the strap a bit higher on the back of the head. This will pull the mask a little bit tighter to the lower portion of the face.
Blokes with moustaches find that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to get the perfect seal. We suggest you trim a clear line between the top of the moustache and the base of your nose. For more details, please see Snorkelling with a Moustache.
The snorkel is always placed on the left side of the mask, which has been the traditional position, thanks to scuba divers. If you forget to place it on the left, you may quickly be reminded as some snokels have a mouthpiece that is curved to add more comfort from having it on the left.
Some novice snorkellers tend to forget that they have a snorkel in their mouth but are quickly reminded when they accidentely put their head too far under the water. Depending on the design they are either reminded by a gush of water going down the barrel of the tube, or it closing off completely as is the case with a 'dry top' design.
When buying a snorkel for snorkelling, you essentially have two main choices: a classical 'J' curve snorkel, or one with a purge valve. They work the same, except that a valve-style snorkel has a valve at the bottom for easier clearing of any water that might enter the snorkel. In fact, the water will naturally exit through the valve.
When breathing through the snorkel it is important that you seal your lips around the mouthpiece. The keyword is breath THROUGH it rather than around it.
You'll breathe through your snorkel while surface swimming. This allows you to view the area below you without lifting your head out of the water.
Water can enter the snorkel when waves pass overhead, or another diver splashes water in your area. To avoid inhaling water, use your tongue as a splash guard by placing it against the roof of your mouth. This will warn you of water entering your mouth before you inhale it.
The snorkel's diameter and length creates some breathing resistance as you inhale and exhale. While this should not adversely affect your breathing under normal situations, it may be difficult to breathe through the snorkel if you exert yourself. For this reason, you should relax and breathe slowly when using the snorkel.
Your snorkel will fill with water when you dive below the surface, so you'll need to clear it once you surface by using one of two methods.
The blast clear is the most popular method. This involves blowing out through the snorkel to force the water out through the top. If your snorkel has a purge valve, water will also exit through the purge valve below the mouthpiece.
Another method, called the displacement clear, can be used with snorkels not equipped with a purge valve. The displacement clear begins while you are still underwater. As you begin to surface, look straight up and exhale a small amount of air into the snorkel. As you ascend, the air will expand and displace the water. By the time you reach the surface, most if not all of the water will be cleared from the snorkel.
Once you have your fins on, walk backward or sideways to the waters edge. Although it is humorous to see people walking forward with their fins, it is strongly recommended that it not be done as you might break the blade and will be purchasing another pair quickly.
Once in the water, avoid using your hands to help propel you through the water. The best place for your hands is to place them behind you in the small of your back or straight out in front of you, it serves as a reminder on not using them to propel you through the water. Doing so will actually slow you down by creating more resistance. Instead let your fins do their job.
When using your fins, your kicks should be more of a straight legged style using the entire legs rather than just kicking from the knees down. People who aren't used to fins may have to consciously think about their kicks until it becomes second nature.
If you are using the straight legged kick but find that you are bending your knees then you are kicking too hard and need to slow your fin strokes down. Eventually you will end up slightly bending at the knees but that is acceptable.
Your feet should be in a position similar to one standing on tip toe if they were out of the water. This is contrary to how we normally walk on land but it put the fins in the correct kicking position.
We have seen people who look like a baby does when it learns to crawl. Crawling through the water will get you nowhere fast. This is often called the bicycle kick and it does use a lot of energy in a short period of time.
You are moving through an environment that is 800 times denser than the air environment that we are in on a daily basis. Make your movements slower than normal as you move through it.
When you are kicking make those kicks a bit wider and soon you will be gliding almost effortlessly taking in the underwater panaramma feeling more a part of the underwater environment rather than an awkward spectator. The more you snorkel, the more fluid your movements will be, as you become one with the marine environment. Have fun!
Once you are done with your adventure for the day, it is time to take care of the equipment that has been taking care of you. For specific and more detailed information, please read our Equipment Care and Maintenance articles.