Get your learning on!
Whether you are a beginner just learning how to snorkel, or an intermediate wanting to advance your skills to the next level. We have some tips and tricks for you.
The first step is to get comfortable with your snorkeling gear. This is of course if you have your own snorkeling gear, check out our recommendations. Before you travel you will want to try on you mask and get the strap at the right tension. Too loose and it will leak, too tight it will be painful for your face. You will know when it is too tight, when you take it off after snorkeling and there are distinct lines on your face. It’s common to have some marks, but if they remain for a while that is a good sign it’s too tight. Also check the seal of the mask to your face. Grab the mask and move the strap out of the way, then push the mask on your face. You should feel it stick to your face like a suction cup. If you press harder it should stick to your face without the strap on. That is how you know it will be a good fit and watertight. Everybody is shaped different so this is a good way to test out your mask before you are out there snorkeling.
Also, if your mask is a brand-new glass lens mask you will need to manually pre-treat it before using. If you do not, it will continuously fog up. Note this is ONLY FOR GLASS LENSES not plastic. If you attempt the following method on a plastic lens mask you will scratch it. Why you have to pre-treat the glass is, when it comes out of the mold in the factory it has some silicone residue on it. Moisture droplets will stick to this residue and cause your lens to fog up. The most common method to remove this, is to smear an abrasive product called Scrub on it. Smear a little on the inside and outside of the lens and rub it with your fingers. The Scrub material is gritty and will remove the silicone residue without damaging it. Using your fingers to rub will also prevent damage. Rinse the Scrub off and repeat this process a couple times. It is also recommended to repeat this process after about 20 snorkels. This will remove any foreign residue that has built up over time.
Please don’t use toothpaste for this. You will find a lot of people online saying toothpaste is ok. The Scrub product is designed for this use. Toothpaste will get in the corners between your mask and lens and begin to pull it apart. You spend enough money on your mask, please just spend a little to maintain it correctly.
You will also need to attach the snorkel to your goggle strap. This will hold it in an upright position as you snorkel so water doesn’t leak into it. You can adjust the slider connection along the goggle strap to find the optimal setting. With your goggles on and snorkel attached, place your face in the water and reach up to see the angle of the snorkel tube to make sure it is facing straight up. Typically, you do not look straight down when snorkeling but slightly forward so adjust accordingly.
Next you will need to learn how to anti-fog your goggles. If you don’t, they will fog up after a short time and you won’t see anything. This is done right before you start snorkeling. You can either spit in your goggles (yuck) or purchase some anti fog juice. Spray the anti-fog juice on the inside of your goggles and then rub it around evenly. Try to use your rash guard shirt to rub with, because your fingers are greasy. Then splash a little bit of water on the inside of the goggles, slosh it around then dump it out. Just use a little bit of water, if you use too much water it will just wash out all the anti-fog juice. The anti-fog juice has some soap detergent in it, so if you don’t rinse any of the juice out it will irritate your eyes. Try to remove all visible soap suds.
Now that you are out and snorkeling you should learn how to clear out the snorkel tube. This is in preparation for advancing your snorkeling skills to intermediate when you will start free diving. This can be done with almost any snorkel tube except the very basic “J” type tube that has no special features. This is basically a bent tube with a mouth piece. These are most commonly given out on snorkel tours. The problem with them is, it is just basically a bent tube with no special features. Some have difficulties clearing it and you may find yourself having to stick your face out of the water, pull out the snorkel tube from your mouth and tip it back to clear. Here is our recommendation for a good quality yet affordable snorkel.
How to clear the snorkel. First, practice this in a spot where you can touch the bottom (not on coral!). Hold your breath and stick your face under the water to fill the tube with water. Pull your face back up to stick the tube out of the water, and blow out hard to clear the water. Make sure to blow hard enough to clear everything, otherwise when you take a much-needed breath in, you might gurgle some water. You won’t know if it’s totally clear until you take a breath, so practice how hard you need to blow. That sounds pretty simple but after holding your breath in, it feels unnatural to blow out before you take a breath. You should practice submerging the tube and clearing it like this until you feel comfortable with the action. This is essential in advancing your skills to free diving. Try holding your breath a little while attempting this.
Practice being in the water for up to 30 minutes. If you are first learning, I recommend picking a place with easy water access like a sandy beach. It would be best if there are some coral or rocks to explore as well. Typically, the best coral reefs are rocky and don’t have sandy beach access so try to pick a place that has something interesting to look at, otherwise you might get bored. The sandy beach access will help you learn how to put your gear on without getting frustrated scraping against coral (don't touch the coral!). Once you are out and snorkeling, you should work your way up to being in the water for up to 30 minutes. (need a snorkeling watch?) You certainly don’t need to do that on your first attempt. It is something you should work your way up to. Why I pick 30 minutes is because that is the typical length of a stop on a snorkel boat tour. Sometimes the boat will drop you with a guide and come back later. You want to be comfortable being in the water that long to fully enjoy your tour. Also, if you want advance your skills to intermediate you will learn a lot more skills after being in the water that long. Little tips and tricks that are to tedious to list them all. Some of them you will learn on your own after being in the water that long.
General snorkeling tips
Congratulations! You have just passed Beginner Snorkeling 101!
Ready to move on to Intermediate Snorkeling 201?
To pass intermediate snorkeling you should learn how to efficiently dive 10 to 15-foot depths. This will open up a lot more snorkeling locations and you can get closer to the marine life. Not every island has reefs in 5 feet of water. To do so, you will need to learn how to equalize the pressure in your face.
In order to free dive, it is essential you learn the free dive snap. This is the maneuver to most efficiently dive under the water. If done incorrectly you will spend time kicking above the water attempting to get deeper (and strangers might point and laugh). Use the video below as a guide to the following description.
Equalize face pressure.
Now that you are headed down, you will realize quickly you need to equalize the pressure in your face. At 10 feet deep the pressure will become very painful and it will feel like your eyeballs are going to pop. You will actually feel this pressure before 10 feet, but that is about the barrier of pain. To equalize this pressure, you need to squeeze your nose and blow out. This will pop your ears, almost like you do on an airplane. That sounds easy but this will take some practice to get right. SCUBA divers only need to do this once as they go down, and possibly another adjustment later. But you will need to do it every time you dive past 10 feet so it is an essential part of free diving proficiently. As you hold your nose and blow out, focus on your ears and try to pop them. Sometimes moving your jaw will help.
The video example below demonstrates the above methods. The free dive snap, equalizing the pressure and diving to around 15 feet deep.
You should also learn how to line up your dives for the thing you are diving at. Whether it be some marine life or coral, you should plan to dive just before the thing and flare out horizontal to approach the thing horizontally for a good video shot or closer examination. Try not to dive right at the thing because you are fighting buoyancy the entire time below the water. If you dive right at the thing, you will be vertical and bobbing like a cork. You will be kicking and struggling to stay down close to the thing you are looking at. If you flare out horizontal at the bottom of your dive, you will find it easier to stay smooth and level as you approach the thing you want to look at.
The last step of Intermediate snorkeling is to following Snorkeling Etiquette.
Congratulations you passed Intermediate Snorkel Class!
-Drop the Snorkel
-Maximize your Freedive
-Dangers of Free Dive Blackouts
-Follow Snorkeling Etiquette
Advanced snorkeling is largely up to your skill level. Don’t attempt something that is dangerous or unsafe. Always go with someone when practicing advanced methods and use good judgment.
Here are some methods to extend your free dive.
First thing you should do when you start diving deeper is dropping the snorkel. Your mouth makes a better seal than an open snorkel. Your throat can only hold back so much pressure, and pressure increases when you diver deeper. you can do this by pulling it out with your hand, either before you start diving or after. I know what you are thinking, water will gush into your mouth when you take it out underwater. If you do it quick and close your cheeks around it, you will find it no water gets in. Practice this near the surface. As you practice it more, you may find you can spit the snorkel out of your mouth hands free.
Make your free dive snap as efficient as possible. This will get you moving down quickly and make the most use of your breath. As you work on your free dive snap, you will be able to dive with your fins hardly coming out of the water. This can be achieved by maximizing the snap part of the dive. If done correctly, the snap will be enough to get you moving underwater quickly, before you have time to point your fins vertical and out of the water.
Practice equalizing the pressure so it becomes routine. This may only come with time. You may find it easier to pop your ears efficiently when you reach a certain pressure. That is, go deep enough for the pressure to build before attempting to pop your ears.
As you are diving, make the most use of your energy and momentum. You want to be continuously moving to make full use of your dive, allowing you to get back to the surface quicker. Of course, when your movement increases, you use up oxygen quicker. Learn to move in steady calm strokes and not quick hurried kicks.
You want to shape your dive like a “U”. Meaning, start your dive by pointing straight down. At the bottom flare out horizontal for a while as you explore the depths. Head back up like the corner of the “U”. Giving a couple arm swim strokes can help turn your direction while continuously kicking. By continuously moving the entire time will make the most of your dive. On the way up, another advanced technique is the dolphin kick. This is when you kick with your whole body instead of individual legs. An example of this can be seen in the intermediate and advanced dive video. Its almost like doing “the worm” dance move in the water. Roll you back and hips extending the motion through your legs. An effective dolphin kick will be more efficient than regular kicking on the way back up.
As you dive deeper you will also need to be aware of shallow water blackouts; read more here.
One takeaway from the reading is, do not hyperventilate before diving. That is, don’t take a bunch of big breaths, in and out, before you take a big breath and hold it. That will accentuate the effects of shallow water blackouts. Just take calm and smooth breaths before taking a big breath and holding it.
Another note on the term “freedving”. There is line somewhere when snorkeling becomes freediving. You should seek professional freedive training when that happens. Mostly to keep yourself safe and prevent accidents. Where does this line begin? You will probably get a different answer each time, but we will settle around 20 feet deep. Once you find yourself nudging and passing that depth, you should consider freedive training. Many major cites have dive shops that also offer professional freedive training.
NOTE: The video below demonstrates advanced snorkeling techniques, but is passing the 20-foot depth.
And as always, follow Snorkeling Etiquette
Example of more Advanced Snorkeling Freedive