Here’s part of a good article on snorkeling like a pro by Thomas Gronfeldt Senger, snorkeling instructor for Dive In.
Snorkeling is often an underrated activity. For many travelers in tropic destinations, it’s presented as something anyone can do, and often involves plowing through the surface with rental gear and a swim vest on. But snorkeling can be so much more!
In fact, modern scuba diving grew out of snorkeling, or skin diving as it was known then.
To really make the most of your next snorkeling trip, and leave the newbies in your wake, a bit of preparation is helpful.
Improve your swimming
If your swimming skills aren’t the best, take some swimming lessons at your local pool. And even if you’re a decent swimmer, becoming an even better swimmer will only benefit you in the water.
Focus in particular on the freestyle, as the kicking technique from that style is the one you’ll be using when snorkeling.
“ Improving your strength and endurance in the muscles engaged by the kick will help you snorkel more, and with less effort, leaving you free to enjoy the environment instead.“
Being a strong swimmer will also allow you to ditch the swim vest that are often popular with snorkeling outfits.
While a snorkeling vest helps you with flotation, it will also hinder your movements in the water. And make it harder, if not impossible, to do dives to check out a reef or fish.
Good swimming skills will help keep you safe in the water.
Swimming is one thing – Swimming with fins on is something else entirely.
The extra drag and weight of the fins put extra toll on the muscles, which is why you might experienced cramping up if you’re not used to swimming with fins.
So take a pair of fins to the local pool, or your home waters, and do laps with them on.
Mix it up, so you do both long stretches at a mid-level pace, and shorter, faster stretches.
Improve your breath hold
Many snorkelers simply stay at the surface, and use the snorkel to breathe while looking down.
A number of more advanced snorkelers, though, move into skin diving territory by doing occasional dives below the surface while holding their breath.
This will allow you to get a much closer look of the marine wildlife, and you’ll explore reefs and other underwater features up close.
To maximize your time underwater, you can train your breath holding capacity, as well as your swimming efficiency.
For more experience hit up your local freediving club for hands on training and practice. With the growing popularity of freediving, these are becoming increasingly easy to find.
Conserving Energy While Snorkeling
Going for a leisurely swim in tropical waters may not sound like serious exercise, but make no mistake, snorkeling can take it out of you! Even in very warm water, your body loses heat continuously, due to water’s heat capacity being greater than air’s.
And propelling yourself forward with fins on requires some energy as well.
Add to this that snorkeling trips can be all-day things, with hours spent in the water, and you can see why thinking about keeping your energy expenditure down is useful!
As with scuba diving, remember to slow down, relax, and let your fins do the work for you.
“ Being in water is a new experience for most, so taking the time to relax your body and mind is a big first step.“
Many new snorkelers have a tendency to try and swim along using their arms, like they’d do in a pool. But our legs, in particular with fins on, outperform our arms many times over. So a good way to conserve energy is to keep our arms relaxed at our sides and focus on our fins instead.
And don’t kick too hard, even a leisurely kicking pace is enough to drive you forward, and moving too fast just means you’ll zoom by interesting sights.
Plus, kicking too hard and flailing with your arms creates a lot of splashing that will scare away the very animals you’re there to see!
Conserving your air while snorkeling
Breath deep and slow. Breathing through a snorkel can be quite different from breathing without one.
Taking deep breaths is important to get the most out of it. Taking deep breaths also helps keep your heart rate down, which in turn helps you relax and conserve energy.
Many snorkelers are completely happy staying in the surface throughout their dive, and in that case, they should.
While others feel the urge to take short dives on a breath-hold to get closer to reefs, marine animals, or other features in the deep. To get the most out of your single breath, there are a few things you can do:
First foremost, relax.
Take a few moments in the surface to move as little as possible and get your breathing under control.
Then, take a few deep, controlled breaths.
“ Don’t hyperventilate! This was taught on scuba courses years ago, but has since been proven to be counterproductive.“
Simply breathe deep and slowly to fully fill and empty your lungs. Then, take an extra deep breath, making sure to fill up your diaphragm first, then chest, and finally the very top of your torso.
When you’re ready for your descent bent 90 degrees at the waist so your torso is submerged and vertical in the water, and raise your leg up so they, too, are vertical but above water.
The weight of your legs will drive you into the depths, saving you energy in the process. As your fins reach the water, use them to gain further depth.
This is much, much more efficient than the swimming ascent you often see inexperienced snorkelers attempt.
Once your underwater, relax.
Most people can significantly improve their breath holds simply by slowing down and relaxing. Swim slowly and efficiently, seeking to streamline your body and making every movement about propelling you forward.
Err on the side of conservatism. Come up well before you run out of air, and slowly extend your bottom time for each time you dive. Soon, you’ll get a feel for how long you can stay down safely, and most likely, it will be considerably longer than your first venture under the surface.