Once you have your snorkel equipment, now is the time to learn how to use it. We will try our best to explain in writing, we recommend watching our videos in Expert Advice categories.
Proper fit with a mask is extremely important (see video clip, right) and when putting on your mask make sure that no hair is trapped that may break the seal. You may have to make some minor size adjustments with the strap, the tighter the strap, the more likely the mask will leak. You also have to play with the positioning of the strap on the back of your head when you are wearing it. Our video will show you good positioning. If you are getting some water into the mask at the bottom, try positioning the strap a bit higher on the back of the head, this will pull the mask a little bit tighter to the lower portion of the face. People with mustaches find that it may be difficult if not impossible to get the perfect seal, read our article for possible solutions, Seal Your Mask with a Mustache.
The snorkel is always placed on the left side of the mask and this has been the traditional position, thanks to scuba divers. If you forget to place it on the left, you will quickly be reminded as the mouthpiece is curved to add more comfort from having it on the left. Some of the novice tend to forget that they have a snorkel in their mouth but are quickly reminded when they accidentely put their head too far under the water. Depending on the design they are either reminded by a gush of water going down the barrel of the tube or it closing off completely as is the case with "dry" design. When breathing through the snorkel it is important that you seal your lips around the mouthpiece. The keyword is breath THROUGH it rather than around it.
Once you have your fins on, walk backward or sideways to the waters edge. Although it is humorous to see people walking forward with their fins, it is strongly recommended that it not be done as you might break the blade and will be purchasing another pair quickly. Once in the water, avoid using your hands to help propel you through the water. The best place for your hands is to place them behind you in the small of your back or straight out in front of you, it serves as a reminder on not using them to propel you through the water. Doing so will actually slow you down by creating more resistance. Instead let your fins do their job.
When using your fins, your kicks should be more of a straight legged style using the entire legs rather than just kicking from the knees down. (Notice photo 1, where legs are straight, but the knees are not stiff or watch the video below.) People who aren't used to fins may have to consciously think about their kicks until it becomes second nature. If you are using the straight legged kick but find that you are bending your knees then you are kicking too hard and need to slow your fin strokes down. Eventually you will end up slightly bending at the knees but that is acceptable. Your feet should be in a position similar to one standing on tip toe if they were out of the water. This is contrary to how we normally walk on land but it put the fins in the correct kicking position. I have seen people who looked like a baby does when it learns to crawl. Crawling through the water will get you nowhere fast. This is often called the bicycle kick and it does use a lot of energy in a short period of time.
This should be considered a necessary piece of gear and it should be worn deflated while you are snorkeling, with the exception of kids. Inflation of the vest should be for the purpose of resting and it should never be considered a life jacket. It will make you more positively buoyant but moving through the water with the vest fully inflated the entire time will defeat the streamlining that you want to achieve. Our video clip will show you basics about how the vest is operated and how to put it on as well.
You are moving through an environment that is 800 times denser than the air environment that we are in on a daily basis. Make your movements slower than normal as you move through it. When you are kicking make those kicks a bit wider and soon you will be gliding almost effortlessly taking in the underwater panaramma feeling more a part of the underwater environment rather than an awkward spectator. The more you snorkel, the more fluid your movements will be, as you become one with the marine environment. Have fun!
Once you are done with your adventure for the day, it is time to take care of the equipment that has been taking care of you. For specific and more detailed information, read Gear Care & Maintenance.
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