If you’ve just decided to try snorkeling, congratulations! You’re on your way to discovering a whole new world that can only be seen underwater. But before taking to the open sea, it’s important for first time snorkelers to be comfortable with their new gear, and that means fit and function. Fortunately, the list of things to learn isn’t too long, and with a little snorkeling 101 you’ll be cruising the reefs in no time!
The first piece of equipment you’ll become familiar with is, obviously, the snorkel. A snorkel is a curved tube that allows you to breathe air from the surface while your head is submerged in water. This air source is not continuous, however, as it will only be available as long as the top of the snorkel stays above the surface. If water gets inside your snorkel, a sharp blast of air into the tube will flush it right out. Some snorkels are even designed to keep water from coming in at all.
You’ll next need to become comfortable with wearing a dive mask. A dive mask differs from swim goggles in that it completely covers your nose and eyes, allowing you to breathe only through your mouth. At times, your mask may allow water to seep in. This can be a difficult issue to overcome for new snorkelers because it hinders visibility, and can cause some to feel panic. Many snorkel masks come with a built in valve that allows water out but does not allow water in to assist in clearing the mask of any trapped water.
The proper way to clear a mask is to surface and pull out on the front of the mask, allowing water to drain out of the bottom. If your mask begins to fog while diving, letting a small amount of water into the mask while facing down so the water washes over the mask will clear the fog. You can prevent fogging altogether — and we’re totally serious here — by spitting in your mask and rubbing it all over the inside of the lens before you rinse it out. Saliva is a natural defogger, believe it or not, so don’t be squeamish if you really want to see what’s going on down there!
Practicing in shallow water will help you become comfortable using a snorkel, mask, and fins before getting into increased depths. Your fins are not so you can make bigger splashes, your fins assist in movement and help keep you level while you snorkel. When you start getting the hang of it and feel like you’re ready to descend a bit, exhale slightly to make yourself less buoyant, as it’s rather hard to sink when your lungs are full of air. Breathing out some of the air allows your body to sink enough to dip just below the surface, where the view of the underwater world is much better.
If your leg muscles begin to cramp, flip over onto your back and tread water at the surface. This inverted leg motion will be easier and will allow the muscles to relax and loosen up naturally. One of the most important keys snorkeling and diving is maintaining your composure while you’re in the moment. B aware of others around you, don’t attempt to touch any of the marine life, and follow safe practices and you’ll be a snorkeling ace in any location.