When snorkeling, you swim with a mask and breathing tube at or near the water's surface and observe the reef or marine life below. The breathing tube, or snorkel, sticks up clear of the water and allows you to breathe through your mouth. It's a low-tech, inexpensive way to explore a shallow reef or look for fish along the sandy bottom of any clear body of water. Snorkeling is very simple to master -- all you need is a mask, snorkel, swim fins and knowledge of a few techniques.
Assembly and Spit Shine
Attach the snorkel to your diving mask on the left side by pulling the keeper tab -- it holds the snorkel on the strap -- away from the tube and sliding it over the mask strap. The snorkel should be positioned just in front of your left ear and the keeper should be in the middle of the tube. Put the mask on, slip the snorkel mouthpiece into your mouth, bite the mouthpiece tabs and wrap your lips around the flexible mouthpiece; lower your head to the water. Adjust the snorkel tube to fit. It should clear the surface of the water and fit easily in your mouth. Before launching yourself over a reef, remove the mask, spit in it, add a little seawater -- or the water from wherever you are snorkeling -- and swish it around to clear the mask and keep it from fogging.
Sightseeing and Spouting
Replace your mask; adjust the snorkel so you grip it firmly and your mouth is sealed around it, and lower yourself into the water. Find a comfortable head position so you can see below the surface while the snorkel tip stays in the air. If water does get into the snorkel tube, clear it by blowing into the tube forcefully. The blast of expelled air will push the water back up and out the top of the tube in a quick spout. Inhale lightly to be sure no water remains in the tube, and then breathe through the snorkel normally.
Most snorkeling involves shallow water gliding and swimming over interesting underwater terrain. To move efficiently, you need a pair of swim fins to help propel you smoothly through the water. A flutter kick is the easiest maneuver and takes the least effort when you remember to keep your fins under the water's surface. Arms close to your sides, like a fish, or straight out in front will create less drag as you move, conserving your energy. Dive down to examine a fish or formation more closely, and hold your breath as you submerge. Clear the snorkel when you return to the surface by forcefully expelling the water with a blast of air. A snorkel that always seems to have water in it may have a crack in the tube or need to be raised slightly higher out of the water.
Snorkel with a buddy so you can help each other if one of you gets into trouble. Get used to your mask and snorkel breathing before you jump overboard from a dive boat -- you don't want to panic because you have no technique. Protect your back from the sun; water magnifies the glare, and your legs and back are exposed the whole time you're trailing those tropical fish. When rising to the surface after a dive, borrow a trick from scuba divers and keep one arm and hand raised above your head so it breaks the water before you do and can be seen by boaters. It's smart to look up as you rise when open-water snorkeling, so you don't emerge under the boat. Wash snorkeling equipment in clear water after use to preserve it, and check the snorkel for wear before you hit the water.
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