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     Snorkels are to skin diving as scubas are to scuba diving. To be able to swim with fins for long distances, while keeping the head looking down, and not having to turn and breathe makes all the difference in the world.

     Some of the things to look for when purchasing a snorkel are:

  1. Make sure the bore of the snorkel is the right size. If your middle finger fits snugly in the top of the snorkel it is correct. A snorkel bore that is too small will not allow enough air to flow through and will make breathing hard. One that is too large will be difficult to clear water from.
  2. Some snorkels have a flexible section near the mouthpiece. The section is corrugated so if it is bent it will not close. The reason for the flex is to allow the snorkel to hang straight when not in use. In that way it does not interfere with the scuba regulator. Be sure the interior of the corrugated section is smooth. The corrugations should not continue on the inside because water will trickle down the grooves and into the diver's mouth
  3. The snorkel may have a purge valve. This is usually a one-way flap at the bottom. Its purpose is to let the water fall through this valve when the diver surfaces. The water in the snorkel will fall to the level of the ocean's surface. The remainder of the water should be blown out by the diver forcefully exhaling. Some will go out the top and some will go out the purge valve. Unfortunately, purge valves will leak if they get the slightest sand under them. If a leak occurs the diver has to bend the purge valve flap back and rinse all the sand from the area. Purge valves add a minor amount to the price of the snorkel.
  4. Check to see how the snorkel is removed from the mask. Some snorkel keepers are in the shape of a figure eight. Sliding them up and down a dry snorkel is difficult. For those, most divers simply leave the snorkel attached to the mask. However, if you have purchased a mask box for storing the mask, it will be impossible to close it with the snorkel attached. Try to purchase a snorkel with an easy mechanism for removing it from the strap of the mask.
  5. The mouthpiece should be comfortable in the mouth. After all, you may be biting on this for several hours at a time. As gross as it may seem, stick the thing in your mouth prior to the purchase. The dive shop should have an antiseptic spray, or at least a sink with soap and water, to sanitize this procedure.
  6. Silicone is the way to go. Forget the black rubber varieties. They rot from oil and the sun. They hide contamination. However, see the comments below about the minor problems with silicone.
  7. You do not need any device to keep the water from entering the snorkel when going under water. Learn to blow the water from the snorkel as experienced divers do. It will save you money and increase your air flow.
  8. Some snorkels have mouthpieces that are a permanent part of it. Once you bite through the teeth grips the snorkel is rendered useless, or at best, annoying: Try to purchase a snorkel that has a removeable mouthpiece. In that way, if the mouthpiece is destroyed a new one can be purchased at Deep-Six for only a few dollars.

         Click here to see the permanent mouthpiece close up                Click here to see the removeable mouthpiece

           The mouthpiece is cannot be removed                         A replaceable mouthpiece - best

     Snorkels are traditionally worn on the left side of the diver's mask. That tradition began because the scuba regulator comes over the right shoulder and both would conflict with the snorkel if it were on the same side.

     The snorkel should be attached to the outside of the mask strap rather than putting it under it. Masks may leak if the snorkel is between the strap and the head, if a keeper is not use the snorkel may be lost without warning, and it becomes uncomfortable after a period of time to have it pressed against the head.

     Proper breathing is important for pleasurable skin-diving. The breaths should be longer and deeper (not faster) than usual. It is important to blow as much air out of the lungs as is comfortable. Short breaths would simply fill the snorkel with waste air that would be inhaled when breathing in. A real shallow breath would not bring in any fresh air and the diver would suffer from oxygen starvation. Long, slow breaths are the key to enjoyable skin dives. The exhale should be fast followed by a deep inhale. Then hold your breath for a short time. That will help to maintain buoyancy.

     Lastly, there are two methods of getting water out of a non-purge valve snorkel. One is to surface and blow as hard as possible through the mouth. This burst of air should eliminate most, if not all, the water from the snorkel. Be careful on the inhale. Start slowly just in case there is still a little water remaining. If so, there will be a sprinkling of water drops into the mouth. A quick inhale could cause choking. If there is water in the snorkel, breathe in slowly until the lungs have sufficient air to blow out hard again.

      The second method has to be done in water where the diver can rise to the surface in a vertical position. On the way up, the head is tilted back so the diver is looking directly at the surface. As the surface is neared, air is gently blown into the snorkel continuously. As soon as the surface is reached, the head is brought to the position where the diver is looking toward the bottom. The snorkel should be completely empty. The effort is so slight compared to the forceful exhalation technique, skin diving can be done for hours without chest discomfort.

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