Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually fins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods of time with relatively little effort.
Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity, particularly at tropical resort and scuba diving locations. The primary appeal is the opportunity to observe underwater life in a natural setting without the complicated equipment and training required for scuba diving. It appeals to all ages because of how little effort there is, and without the exhaled bubbles of scuba-diving equipment.
Snorkeling is also employed by scuba divers when on the surface, and search and rescue teams may snorkel as part of a water-based search. It is also a means to an end in underwater sports such as underwater hockey, underwater rugby and spearfishing.
Archeological evidence from as early as 3000 B.C. point to some of the earliest known divers; sponge farmers in Crete used hollow reeds to allow them to breathe while submerged in water. Snorkeling is also mentioned by Aristotle in his Parts of the Animals. He refers to divers using “instruments for respiration” resembling the elephant’s trunk.
Snorkeling (British and Commonwealth English spelling: snorkelling) is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped breathing tube called a snorkel, and usually swimfins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods with relatively little effort and to breathe while face-down at the surface.
Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity, particularly at tropical resort locations. The primary appeal is the opportunity to observe underwater life in a natural setting without the complicated equipment and training required for scuba diving. It appeals to all ages because of how little effort there is, and without the exhaled bubbles of scuba-diving equipment. It is the basis of the two surface disciplines of the underwater sport of finswimming.
Snorkeling is also used by scuba divers when on the surface, in underwater sports such as underwater hockey and underwater rugby, and as part of water-based searches conducted by search and rescue teams.
Mask – Snorkelers normally wear the same kind of mask as those worn by scuba divers. By creating an airspace, the mask enables the snorkeler to see clearly underwater. All scuba diving masks consist of the lenses also known as a faceplate, a comfortable skirt, which also encloses the nose, and a head strap. There are different styles and shapes. These range from oval shaped models to lower internal volume masks and may be made from different materials; common choices are silicone and rubber.
Snorkel – A swimmer’s snorkel is a tube typically about 30 centimeters long and with an inside diameter of between 1.5 and 2.5 centimeters, usually L- or J-shaped and fitted with a mouthpiece at the lower end, and constructed of rubber or plastic. It is used for breathing air from above the water surface when the wearer’s mouth and nose are submerged. The snorkel usually has a piece of rubber that attaches the snorkel to the outside of the strap of the diving mask. An older technique is pushing the snorkel between the mask-strap and the head, but this practice increases the chances the mask will leak. The optimum design length of the snorkel tube is at most 40 centimeters (about 16 inches). A longer tube would not allow breathing when snorkeling deeper, since it would place the lungs in deeper water where the surrounding water pressure is higher. The lungs would then be unable to inflate when the snorkeler inhales, because the muscles that expand the lungs are not strong enough to operate against the higher pressure
Fins – provide a large surface area to push against the water. This allows you to more easily swim using your powerful leg muscles but are not necessary to snorkel. This moves you more efficiently and frees your hands and allows the swimmer to cover larger areas faster. The majority of fins for snorkel are open heel, but there are also full foot fins available. Quick adjust buckles are a nice feature for quickly adjusting and removing the fins when getting in and out of the water.
Wetsuit may be needed if snorkeling in colder water and helps provide thermal insulation, abrasion resistance and buoyancy. but even Lycra or other ‘protective clothing’ can help protect against jellyfish and other minor scrapes and bruises. Wetsuits are generally made of foamed neoprene and come in many different lengths and sizes depending on the need for coverage.
Snorkelers normally wear the same kind of mask as those worn by scuba divers. By creating an airspace, the mask enables the snorkeler to see clearly underwater. All scuba diving masks consist of the lenses also known as a faceplate, a soft rubber skirt, which encloses the nose and seals against the face, and a head strap to hold it in place. There are different styles and shapes. These range from oval shaped models to lower internal volume masks and may be made from different materials; common choices are silicone and rubber. A snorkeler who remains at the surface can use swimmer’s goggles which do not enclose the nose.
Full-face snorkel mask
Full face snorkel masks use an integral snorkel with separate channels for intake and exhaled gases theoretically ensuring the user is always breathing untainted fresh air whatever the respiratory effort. The main difficulty or danger is that it must fit the whole face perfectly and since no two faces are the same shape, it should be used with great care and in safe water. In the event of accidental flooding, the whole mask must be removed to continue breathing. Unless the snorkeler is able to equalize without pinching their nose it can only be used on the surface, or a couple of feet below since the design makes it impossible to pinch the nose in order to equalise pressure at greater depth. Trained scuba divers are likely to avoid such devices[clarification needed] however snorkel masks are a boon for those with medical conditions that preclude taking part in SCUBA diving.[clarification needed]
As a result of a short period with an unusually high number of snorkeling deaths in Hawaii there is some suspicion that the design of the masks can result in buildup of excess CO2. It is far from certain that the masks are at fault, but the state of Hawaii has begun to track the equipment being used in cases of snorkeling fatalities. Besides the possibility that the masks, or at least some brands of the mask, are a cause other theories include the possibility that the masks make snorkeling accessible to people who have difficulty with traditional snorkeling equipment. That ease of access may result in more snorkelers who lack experience or have underlying medical conditions, possibly exacerbating problems that are unrelated to the type of equipment being used.
Snorkeling requires no special training, only the ability to swim and to breathe through the snorkel. However, for safety reasons, instruction and orientation from a fellow “experienced” snorkeler, tour guide, dive shop, or equipment-rental shop could be helpful for the inexperienced. Instruction generally covers equipment usage, basic safety, what to look for, and what to look out for, and conservation instructions (fragile organisms such as coral are easily damaged by snorkelers).
Flooding and clearing
Learning to clear a snorkel takes some practice. The snorkeler expels water from the snorkel either with a sharp exhalation on return to the surface (blast clearing) or by tilting the head back shortly before reaching the surface and exhaling until reaching or breaking the surface (displacement method) and facing forward again before inhaling the next breath. The displacement method expels water by displacing its presence in the snorkel with air; it is technique that takes practice but clears the snorkel with less effort, but only works when surfacing. Clearing splash water while at the surface requires blast clearing.
Practice of snorkeling
Being non-competitive, snorkeling is considered more a leisure activity than a sport. Snorkeling requires no special training, only the very basic swimming abilities and being able to breathe through the snorkel. Some organizations[by whom?] recommend that for snorkeling safety one should not snorkel alone, but rather with a “buddy”, a guide or a tour group.
Some commercial snorkeling organizations require snorkelers at their venue to wear an inflatable vest, similar to a personal flotation device. They are usually bright yellow or orange and have a device that allows users to inflate or deflate the device to adjust their buoyancy. However, these devices hinder and prevent a snorkeler from free diving to any depth. Especially in cooler water, a wetsuit of appropriate thickness and coverage may be worn; wetsuits do provide some buoyancy without as much resistance to submersion. In the tropics, snorkelers (especially those with pale skin) often wear a rashguard or a shirt and/or board shorts in order to help protect the skin of the back and upper legs against sunburn.
Experienced snorkelers may progress to amateur free-diving, which should be preceded by at least some training from a dive instructor or experienced free-diver.
The greatest danger to snorkelers are inshore and leisure craft such as jet skis, speed boats and the like. A snorkeler is often submerged in the water with only the tube visible above the surface. Since these craft can ply the same areas snorkelers visit, the chance for accidental collisions exists. Sailboats and sailboards are a particular hazard as their quiet propulsion systems may not alert the snorkeler of their presence. A snorkeler may surface underneath a vessel and/or be struck by it. Few locations demarcate small craft areas from snorkeling areas, unlike that done for regular beach-bathers, with areas marked by buoys. Snorkelers may therefore choose to wear bright or highly reflective colors/outfits and/or to employ dive flags to enable easy spotting by boaters and others.
Snorkelers’ backs, ankles, and rear of their thighs can be exposed to the sun for extended periods, and can burn badly (even if slightly submerged), without being noticed in time. The wearing appropriate covering such as a “rash guard” with SPF (in warmer waters), a T-shirt, a wetsuit, and especially “waterproof” sunblock will mitigate this risk.
Dehydration is another concern. Hydrating well before entering the water is highly recommended, especially if one intends to snorkel for several hours. Proper hydration also prevents cramps. Snorkelers who hyperventilate to extend sub-surface time can experience hypocapnia if they hyperventilate prior to submerging. This can in turn lead to “shallow water blackout”. Snorkeling with a buddy and remaining aware of the buddy’s condition at all times can help avoid these difficulties.
When snorkeling on or near coral reefs, care must be exercised to avoid contact with the delicate (and sometimes sharp or stinging) coral, and its poisonous inhabitants, usually by wearing protective gloves and being careful of one’s environment. Coral scrapes and cuts often require specialized first aid treatment and potentially, emergency medical treatment to avoid infection. Booties and surf shoes are especially useful as they allow trekking over reefs exposed by low tide, to access drop-offs or deeper waters of the outer reef – this is, however, ecologically irresponsible.
Contact with coral should always be avoided, because even boulder corals are fragile.
Another safety concern is interaction and contact with the marine life during encounters. While seals and sea turtles can seem harmless and docile, they can become alarmed if approached or feel threatened. Some creatures, like moray eels, can hide in coral crevices and holes and will bite fingers when there is too much prodding going on. For these reasons, snorkeling websites often recommend an “observe but don’t touch” etiquette when snorkeling.
Snorkeling is possible in almost any body of water, but snorkelers are most likely to be found in locations where there are minimal waves, warm water, and something particularly interesting to see near the surface.
Generally shallow reefs ranging from sea level to 1 to 4 meters (3 to 13 ft) are favored by snorkelers. Deeper reefs can also be explored, but repeated breath-holding to dive to those depths limits the number of practitioners, and raises the bar on the required fitness and skill level. Risk increases with increased depth and duration of the breath-hold excursions from the surface.
Variants and related activities
Bog snorkeling: An individual sport, popular in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Finswimming: An individual sport, the most popular competitive sport of CMAS, the only of this federation present in World Games. Finswimmers use a slightly different snorkel, suited for hydrodynamics and speed.
Free-diving: Any form of diving without breathing apparatus, but often referring to competitive apnea as a sport.
Scuba diving: A form of untethered diving using a self-contained portable breathing apparatus, frequently as a pastime.
Spearfishing: Fishing with a spear often with snorkeling equipment, either for competitive sport or to obtain food.
Underwater hockey: A competitive team-sport played in swimming pools using snorkeling equipment, sticks and a puck.
Underwater rugby: A competitive team-sport played in deeper swimming pools using snorkeling equipment, baskets and a ball.
The greatest danger to snorkelers are inshore and leisure crafts such as jet skis, speed boats and the like. A snorkeler is often submerged in the water with only the tube visible above the surface. Since these crafts can ply the same areas snorkelers visit, the chance for accidental collisions exist. Sailboats and windsurfers are especially worrisome as their quiet propulsion systems indicates that a snorkeler may be unaware of their presence, unlike any motor-driven craft, as sound travels farther underwater. A snorkeler may surface underneath one and/or be struck by such vessels. Few places demarcate small craft areas from snorkelers, unlike for regular bathers who may have areas marked by buoys. Snorkelers may therefore choose to wear bright or highly reflective colors/outfits and/or to employ dive flags to utilize being spotted easily by boaters and others
Never swim alone.
Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
Be aware of jellyfish and other dangerous animals such as sharks and salt water crocodiles.
Be aware of sunburn and sun protection since most snorkeling is close to the surface this can lead to many hours of direct exposure to the sun.
Dehydration is another concern. Hydrating well before going in the water is recommended, especially if one intends to snorkel for several hours. Proper hydration also prevents cramps.
Snorkelers can experience hyperventilation, which can lead in turn to “shallow water blackout″; snorkeling with a buddy (and being aware of the buddy’s condition at all times) can help avoid this situation.
When snorkeling on or near coral reefs, care must be exercised to avoid contact with the delicate (and sometimes sharp and/or stinging) coral and its poisonous inhabitants, usually via protective gloves and by being careful of one’s environment. Booties and surf shoes are especially useful as they allow trekking over reefs exposed by low tide, to drop offs or deeper waters of the outer reef – this is, however, ecologically irresponsible