The snorkel is the other essential item along with the snorkeling mask that is required to go snorkeling.  A snorkel allows you to breathe air while your face is submerged when swimming at the water’s surface.  The snorkel’s main component is a hollow plastic or rubber tube 12 to 18 inches long.  Most snorkel tubes are bent into a shape that will sit close to your head to reduce drag and are also designed so that top of the snorkel will sit nicely out of the water. 

All snorkels have an attachment at the bottom of the snorkel called a mouthpiece.  The mouthpiece fits into the mouth with a flange that sits behind the lips providing a water proof seal.  It is held in place by the wearer gently biting down on a part of the mouthpiece that sits between the teeth.  The mouthpiece should feel comfortable in the mouth otherwise you may get sore lips or a sore mouth while using it.  To help accommodate a more comfortable fit many snorkels now have a flexible or adjustable section just above the mouthpiece that allows it to sit in a more natural position in the wearer’s mouth.  Silicon based mouthpieces found in better quality snorkeling sets are generally more comfortable than plastic or rubber mouthpieces.


The snorkel will also have some sort of an attachment that will connect it to the snorkeling masks strap.  To prepare the snorkel just before snorkeling you would normally connect the snorkel to the mask strap, put on the mask, put the snorkel mouthpiece in your mouth and adjust so that it sits comfortably and then adjust the snorkel position on the snorkeling mask strap so that it sits in a position where the top of the snorkel will sit out of the water when your face is submerged.  I judge the correct position by raising my hand above my head and feeling where the top of the snorkel is relative to my head.  Snorkeling beginners may want to ask another person to have a look at the positioning to see if they think it is correct.  As soon as you are in the water you should carefully check the position is correct by slowly putting your face under the water and feeling where the top of the snorkel is relative to the water with one hand.  You can then make minor adjustments as necessary.


Modern Snorkel Components

 The classic snorkel, that many people would remember, is a plain, slightly bent snorkel tube with a mouthpiece at the bottom.  This simple design has now undergone some major design changes and the modern snorkel may have one or more of the following components:

Snorkel Sump.  A snorkel sump sits at the bottom of the snorkel.  If a small amount of water gets into the snorkel it should run down into the sump and not into the snorkeler’s mouth.  This allows the snorkel to contain some residual water.

Purge Valves.  A purge valve would normally sit at the bottom of a snorkels sump.  Purge valves will only let water out of the snorkel and not in.  So if the snorkel gets water into it the snorkeler just needs to give a short hard blow and the water should exit the snorkel through the purge valve.  This clears water much easier than the classic snorkel where the water had to be forced against gravity all the way up to and out of the top of the snorkel.

Dry Snorkels.  Dry snorkels have an attachment at the top of the snorkel that stops water getting in.  If the snorkeler dives underwater then the dry snorkel attachment will “close off” and keep the water out.  When the snorkeler breaks the water’s surface the dry snorkel will “open up” and let air into the snorkel again.  There may, however be a short delay from when the snorkeler breaks the water’s surface and when air is let into the snorkel again.

Semi-Dry Snorkels and Splash Guards.  Semi-dry snorkels or splash guards are attachments that sit at the top of the snorkel and are designed to reduce the amount of water that gets into a snorkel from splashing or waves.  If the snorkeler dives underwater the snorkel will still fill up with water.  However these may not be as restrictive to air when at the water’s surface as a dry snorkel, so the snorkeler may be able to breathe easier.



A dry, semi dry or snorkel with a splash guard may make clearing water out through the top of the snorkel much harder.  So when selecting a snorkel or a snorkeling set with a snorkel you should check to see that the snorkel either has a purge valve or is designed so that water can be expelled easily through any attachments at the top of the snorkel.  It is much easier to clear water from a snorkel with air from your mouth than having to take it out of your mouth with your hands and tip any water out.

Also, any attachments at the top of a snorkel may also restrict the amount of air that can be drawn in with each breath.  If you are a larger person who requires a lot of air in each breath, you should keep this in mind when selecting a snorkel.