Snorkelpedia - Our Dictionary

BAREFOOT FINS - Style of fin which does not require the use of wetsuit boots or water shoes. Traditionally barefoot fins were of one style whose foot pocket was more of a slip on shoe style. Manufacturers began investigating the possibility of creating strap fins which could be worn barefoot by using softer materials in the foot pocket area.

BLADE - Flat paddle-like part of the fin which is used to propel the wearer through the water when kicking.

BLAST CLEARING - Method of clearing the snorkel of water following a surface dive by quick and forceful exhalation of available air in the lungs. Watch our video.

BORE - This refers to the diameter of the opening of the barrel portion of a snorkel that are either large bore or small bore.

BREAKING WAVES - Breaking waves or "breakers" occur when water moving toward shore move through shallower areas. The base of the water column slows due to the increasing incline of the land while the top of the water column continues at it's original speed. This causes the top of the water column to fall over upon itself. Seeing waves break offshore is usually an indication of a shallower area. It could also be an indication of a strong current in the area.

BUCKLES - A fastening device primarily used to keep equipment in secured to the snorkeler. Used in fins, snorkels and snorkeling vests.

COLD WATER FINS - Any fin requiring the use of thermally insulated neoprene boots or water shoes.

COLOR CORRECTION MASK - This is a mask that uses special lenses that are tinted and can be either a red or a yellow based. The tinting is purpose specific with the red used to compensate for the color loss which happens at depth and the yellow is usually for better visual acuity when bright sunlight is present. The material used for the lenses may be either plastic or tempered glass.

CORAL - A living organism whose very existence is vital to the marine eco-structure.

CROTCH STRAP - A 1 inch flat adjustable nylon strap with a fastening device found on most horse collar style snorkeling vests. The crotch strap goes down the back & is brought up between the legs where it is mated to the corresponding fastener found on the front of the vest.

CURRENT - Water movement caused primarily by wind moving across the surface of the water. Currents generally move in a clockwise pattern in the Northern Hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Read more in: Snorkel From the Shore.

DIOPTER LENSES - Magnification lenses that replace existing tempered glass lenses in two window masks that have removable lenses. They are manufacturer and mask specific and do not take into account other vision corrective needs such as astygmatism (see prescription lenses). The lenses are available in plus and minus and there are even lenses available for bifocal. Available in the Clarity Mask.

DOLPHIN KICK - Type of fin kick in which the fins are used in unison on the downward and upward strokes as opposed to the one fin up and one fin down stroke used in the flutter kick.

DRY ROT - Dry Rot is a condition which affects rubber goods. It is a deterioration of the rubber. Signs include small cracks in the rubber. Equipment such as fins and masks with rubber skirts and straps pieces that can be affected. The effects of dry rot to rubber goods, for the most part, is irreversable.

DRY SNORKEL - When completely submerged closes the bore keeping water out of the barrel. Read more in: The Anatomy.

DRY SUITS - Type of exposure suit designed to act as a barrier between the person wearing the suit and the water by use of neck, wrist and ankle seals which are usually composed of a thin latex rubber.

ENVIRONMENT - From an ecological standpoint, environment would pertain to air, water, minerals and organisms as well as all other outside factors that that surround and have an affect on a given organism at any time. Snorkelers could be in an air environment, land, water or marine life environment.

EQUIPMENT - Apparel and devices designed to allow a person to engage in this sport. Basic items include mask, fins, snorkel, snorkeling vest and suitable exposure protection.

EXPOSURE PROTECTION - Anything that will act as a barrier between you and any portions of the surrounding environment which may cause adverse reactions. This is inclusive of sun, wind, heat and cold. Sunscreen, hats, windbreakers and wetsuits are just some of the examples that would fall into the exposure protection category. Read more on: Neoprene vs Lycra.

EXPOSURE SUIT - An exposure suit could be made of something as simple and nylon or lycra which would be more of a protection against sun and ultra violet rays. It could also consist of neoprene rubber which adds a measure of insulation which slows down the body's heat loss.

FINS - Foot gear used which provide locomotion through the water. Read more: Select the Right Pair.

FIN STRAP - Device, usually made of rubber. which is used on open heel fins to affix the fin to the foot. They adjust to accommodate a wider range of foot size.

FISH - Aquatic organisms which are cold blooded and a great source of enjoyment.

FITNESS FINS - Style of fin usually used in pools and confined water environments for the purpose increasing leg strength and endurance. They can be full foot style or the open heel style but both are generally worn barefoot. The blades are shorter than travel ready and traditional length fins.

FIXED TUBE - The bottom 1/3 is stationary and tends to remain close to the mouth when not in use. They may swivel but for the most part they are little or non-moving. These are also called "J" type snorkels because of their resemblance to the letter J.

FLEXIBLE TUBE - This fall away from the mouth when not in use and usually employ the use of silicone or a softer grade rubber in the lower tube portion. The flexible portion looks corrugated in design and inside of the corrugated portion is, however, not corrugated so as not to trap any water after clearing it.

FLUTTER KICK - This is the most common means of propelling one through the water while wearing fins. This kick is usually done with little or no bending of the knees and are usually wider. Move the legs up and down motion while horizontal in the water, while one leg is moving in an upward thrust, the other is moving in a downward thrust.

FOOT POCKET - Contrary to what it sounds, a foot pocket is not a place to put your feet when they are cold. It is actually the part of the open heel or full foot fin where the foot goes in order to wear them.

FRESH WATER - Water that is on a salt free diet. Fresh water can include inland lakes and sometimes even slow moving rivers. The marine life in fresh water is usually less colorful than salt water marine life but it can just as diverse. There are some forms of marine life that can exist in either environment such as manatees and salmon but they are more the exception than the rule.

FROG KICK - This is a type of kick where the fins are kept together with the toes pointed as it is bringing them closer to the torso by bending the knees. Then the fins are separated while bending the ankles at a near 45 degree angle. Thrust the fins by straightening the legs until the they are back in the original together position. This kick tends to use more energy than the flutter or dolphin kick but when done correctly is can be effective.

FULL FOOT FINS - Style of fin which does not require the use of wetsuit boots or water shoes. (see barefoot fins)

HALOGEN - It refers to the type of lighting used in camera strobes and various underwater lights. It uses a tungsten filament which is surrounded by a gas from the Halogen group which is housed in a quartz envelope rather than glass which used in conventional light bulbs. When activated, the bulbs provide a hotter and brighter light.

HAND SIGNALS - A form of nonverbal communication using hand gestures to convey directions and/or information.

HOOK & LOOP CLOSURES - Hook and Loop closures consist of 2 pieces of nylon material, one of which is a series of stiff bristles while the other is a spun nylon material. When joined together, the bristles become enmeshed into the spun nylon materials to effectively form a decently secure closure. This material is commonly on outside pockets of equipment and bags.

HOUSINGS - Waterproof cases designed to allow cameras and video recorders to be used in the water. Because of the varied camera and video recorder designs, the cases are camera and video specific. They can be make out of heavy duty clear plastics or metal.

KELP KICK - This is one of the three types of surface dives that are an option for skin divers. Unlike the pike and tuck surface dives which are head first, the kelp kick is a feet first descent. The skin diver would separate the legs as far apart as possible (one fin in front and the other in back). Their hands are brought up from the sides of the body at a 90 degree angle. The hands are cupped with fingers together and palms facing down. In a simultaneous motion the hands are brought quickly down to the sides while the fins are brought together. Very much like a soldier coming to attention. This causes the skin diver's upper body to raise out of the water. The hands are then put together as if in prayer then raised above the the head. If done correctly, the combined weight of the torso and the hands will allow the skin diver to go under the water. This is one of the least effective of the three styles of surface dives available to the skin diver.

KICKING - It is the action used in conjunction with fins to provide locomotion in the water and there are different styles of kicks. (See dolphin kick, flutter kick and frog kick)

LED - LED is the abbreviation used for "light emitting diode". These diodes are an alternate form lighting which does not use a filament as does the traditional light bulb. It is also a more energy efficient means of creating light. More of the electrical energy is directed toward the production of light rather than heating up a filament as is found in traditional light bulbs. LEDs can be found in underwater lights and the light emitted is a white light as opposed to having a yellowish hue.

LENS - Referring to the tempered glass eyepieces in the mask. They resist scratches and if broken, they shatter no break in chunks of glass. Lens can also refer to vision corrective inserts (see Diopters & Prescription Lenses). Lens can also refer to cameras.

LYCRA SKINS - A form of exposure protection which can also be referred to as rash guards, dive skins or plain skins. They are worn over the swim suit or swim trunks (Bathing suit needs to be worn underneath). They offer little in the way of thermal insulation but are often worn underneath wetsuits which makes the donning and doffing of wet of wetsuits a lot less frustrating. They do give more protection against sunburn and are a decent barrier against smaller jellyfish encounters.

MARINE LIFE - Marine life is a broad term used to define organisms, plants and animals who either spend the bulk if not their entire existance in water. This can include warm blooded mammals such as whales, manatees and seals as well as cold blooded animals such as fish and reptiles. It can also be used in a more definitive sense by adding a classification such as Salt Water Marine Life and Fresh Water Marine Life.

MASK - An air space is needed in front of the eyes when one wants to see something under water. The mask is the vital piece of equipment which helps to provide that air space. Masks consist of one or more lenses, a face skirt which is usually made of some sort of silicone or rubber and an adjustable strap which keeps the mask comfortably in place. It is interesting to note that due to refraction (the bending of light rays as they travel through different media), objects viewed underwater while wearing a mask appear about 25 percent larger and closer than objects seen through a mask in an air environment. Read more on Masks, Select the Right One.

MASK BUCKLES - Made of either lexan plastics or metals, mask buckles are used to keep the mask's strap affixed to the mask. It also keeps any strap length adjustments made for personal fit from loosening.

MASK STRAP - This is usually a strip of silicone, rubber or a combination of nylon weave with neoprene material which helps to keep the mask on the head. The thinner ends of the strap are placed through mask buckles which allow adjustments for fit. The middle of the strap is wider which allows for more comfort to the one wearing it.

MASK STRAP WRAPPER / COVER - The mask strap wrapper can also be called a strap cover or hair guard. The strap wrapper is usually made of neoprene rubber with a nylon II stretch laminate. Its purpose is to lessen the possibility of hair getting tangled in the mask strap. The mask strap wrapper is placed over the existing mask strap rather than replacing it.

MOUTHPIECE - The part of the snorkel that is placed in the mouth and is usually made of one of three different materials which are rubber, silicone or a PVC. The mouthpiece a lip flange and two bite tabs and when placed in the mouth the lip flange will rest between the inner lips and the teeth. When the mouth is closed the teeth will be resting on the bite tabs. Many of the higher end models have mouthpieces that can be replaced with a generic replacements but with the many different designs being made over the years, mouthpieces are becoming manufacturer specific.

NEOPRENE - A synthetic rubber which was developed in the 1930s. Neoprene rubber is primarily found in wetsuits, hoods, boots and gloves. It is a great insulator. It also offers more protection against abrasions, stings, sunburn and cuts than bare skin. Common thicknesses found are .05mm, 3mm, 5mm, 6mm and 7mm. The thicker neoprene provides greater insulation than the thinner neoprene.

ONE TIME USE CAMERA - Also called single use or disposable cameras, the one time use cameras are usually be found in major chain stores. The cameras use traditional film and are a relatively inexpensive way to take pictures on land & underwater with the underwater versions. The complete camera is turned in to be developed after which it is disposed of and in some cases recycled. The ones made for in water use will have a depth rating and available in different ISO/ASA film speeds and come in flash and non-flash models. Number of exposures also vary.

OPEN HEEL FINS - Style of fin which traditionally requires the use of additional water related footwear such as water shoes or wetsuit boots. Open heel fins are made to fit a broader range of foot sizes because of the adjustable fin strap used to keep them on the feet. There are open heeled fins on the market that are made to be worn barefoot. Make sure to read the packaging or product description for clarification.

PADDLE FINS - This refers to the blade portion of the fins. Paddle fin blades are usually narrower at the foot pocket and wider at the fin tips. This type of blade can be found in both the full foot fins and the strap fins. The blade can be one solid piece or a combination of materials. Paddle fins can also have vents in them which reduce some of the energy energy needed to use them.

PELAGIC MARINE LIFE - This is a term that simply means organisms found in seas or oceans.

PIKE SURFACE DIVE - This is one of 3 methods skin divers use to get below the surface of the water and is best to perform this surface dive while in motion. When ready to actually go to the waters bottom, bend at the torso, bring your hips forward while simultaneously bringing both unbent legs out of the water. The weight of the legs and hips along with gravity will aid in getting the skin diver below the surface with minimal effort. For a step by step direction, read the Beginners Guide.

PRESCRIPTION LENSES - These are for vision correction and are based on your personal needs as prescribed by a licensed optometrist. They are offered either chemically bonded to existing face plates in masks with 1, 2, 3 or 4 windows or can be custom ground for 2 and 4 window masks to replace existing lenses. Bifocals are offered but not usually need for snorkelers.

PURGE VALVE - Purge valves are one way valves used in some snorkel and mask styles that allow the user to vent any water that may have gotten in without having to remove the equipment.

RASH GUARD - Term for usually a shirt or shorts or combination of both. The name was originally coined by surfers who wore these to prevent chaffing of the chest and thighs and upper arm areas from contact with their surfboards. Many also provide protection against harmful UVA and UVB rays and can be found in long sleeve or short sleeve versions, (See Lycra Skins)

REEF - A complete self contained ecosystem comprised of various soft and hard corals and marine life.

REPLACEMENT PARTS - A kit made up of user replaceable items such as mask straps, fin straps, batteries and any other part that can be replaced.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT - Any item used to summon assistance or used to alleviate a possible problematic or panicky situation. Items can include a whistle, signal mirror and signal sausage.

SAFETY SAUSAGE - Also called a signal tube, the safety sausage is considered an emergency signaling device. It is usually made of polyurethane with a brightly colored nylon laminate exterior and with an oral inflator tube. It is in tubular in design and it can vary in length anywhere between 40 and 60 inches. If assistance is needed, they need only to inflate the signal sausage and hold it perpendicular to the water's surface. The color is a sharp contrast to the water which makes locating the person in distress needing assistance a lot easier. When not in use the signal sausage is rolled up and attached to the snorkel vest within easy reach.

SALT WATER - Water that has salt in it, of which, three quarters of planet earth's surface is covered.

SEMI-DRY SNOREL - A style which is designed to keep splashed water from entering the top of the snorkel. There are many different variations but they all share the same principle, which is to deflect the water away from the top bore opening. The tube will fill with water if it gets completely submerged, hence the name Semi-Dry.

SIGNAL TUBE - See Safety Sausage

SIGNALING DEVICE - These are items used to draw attention to the person wanting attention, whether it is either visual, audio or tactile and can be divided in two classifications. 1) Getting your partners (buddies) attention. 2) Distress situations. Whistles are recognized as distress signals and should never be used just to get your buddy's attention. Your buddy should be in close enough proximity to you to simply reach out and tap them on the shoulder.

SILICONE - A type of material that is soft and used for masks, snorkels & fins.

SILICONE RUBBER - An inert rubber like material composed of silicone combined with carbon, hydrogen and oxygen which is resistant to extreme environments and can be used wider range of temperatures without degradation. It is usually used in quality mask straps and skirts as well as various portions of snorkels such as mouthpieces.

SKIN DIVING - Using snorkeling gear with the intent of going completely below the surface of the water while holding one's breath also called breath hold diving and free-diving. Read our article: The Beginners Guide.

SNORKEL - A tube like device which allows a person on the surface of the water to breathe while they are in a face down position. They are usually consistant in length and are found in Adult and Children versions. Read more on Select the Right One.

SNORKEL KEEPER- Device used to attach the snorkel to the mask and in some cases may actually be integrated into the snorkel itself.

SNORKEL VEST - It is usually constructed of a single polyurethane bladder with an outside nylon material laminate, adjustable nylon strap webbing and an oral inflator hose and it is usually worn deflated or partially inflated when in the water. Its primary function is to add positive buoyancy if rest is needed. It is not considered a life jacket and should not be used with that intention. Older model vests employed the use of CO2 (carbon dioxide) cartridges which, when activated, filled the vest without having to orally inflate it. CO2 cartridges was abandoned when it was discovered that the actuator device could malfunction due to corrosion. Newer models must be orally inflated. Read more on Select the Right One.

SNORKELING - An in water recreational activity which, through the use of specialized equipment, allows one to comfortably view and explore the underwater world while remaining at the water's surface. Read our Definition.

SNORKELING HAZARDS - Conditions which can be medical or environmental in nature which can negatively affect those engaging in this sport.

SPARE PARTS KIT - A waterproof bag or box that consists of an extra fin and mask strap, flashlight batteries, snorkel keeper and mouthpiece and anything else that are considered in field user replaceable.

SPLIT FINS - A style of fin designed and developed by a company called Nature's Wing out of California. The split fin technology is easy to identify as the fin blade looks as if it is sliced in half lengthwise. This design created a whole new category of fin, the result of which, was the creation of a fin with excellent propulsion without requiring the energy needed with conventional fins.

STRAP FINS - (See Open Heel Fins)

STREAMLINING - The conscious arrangement of both equipment and body position with the intent of creating less resistance while moving through the denser water environment.

SUBMERSIBLE LIGHTS - Illumination devices that are specifically designed for underwater use. Submersible lights are all battery operated and use Halogen, Xenon light bulbs or a light emitting diode (LED) for the actual illumination. The amount or intensity of the produced light is measured in Lumens, Watts and or Candlepower. The bulbs and LED all create heat when in use but the heat is dissipated when the lights are submerged. Submersible lights are not recommended for prolonged use out of the water with the exception of those with LEDs. The amount or intensity of the produced light is measured in Lumens, Watts and or Candlepower. The higher numbers of these measurements simply mean a brighter or more intense light as well as a hotter temperature. Lights using LED technology produce less heat when in use. (See also Halogen, Xenon and LED)

SURGE - The rythmic movement of the water usually toward shore caused by wave action. The "surge" is the stronger forward movement of the water and moving through surge have described it similar to walking 10 steps forward but ending up 5 steps back.

SPF - SPF is the abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor which is the numerical rating found on sunscreen and sunblock products which indicates the amount of time that it takes for the ultraviolet rays to begin affecting the skin. The higher the SPF rating, the longer it takes for the sun's rays to begin affecting the skin.

SUN PROTECTION - Products and/or apparel used to slow or block Ultra Violet Rays from the sun which can be harmful to bare skin. (see also Exposure Protection and Exposure Suits)

SUNSCREEN - Term applied to liquids, lotions and creams applied to bare skin which are formulated to delay or block the effect of the sun's harmful rays. All sunscreens and sunblocks are numerically rated as to the amount of protection that they provide. (See also SPF)

SURFACE DIVES - Surface dives are an in water means for a snorkeler to turn into a skin diver. The 3 most common to skin divers are Pike Surface Dive, Tuck Surface Dive and the Kelp Kick. All of them are based on the principle of getting as much of the body out of the water and allowing the weight of the out of water parts to get the skin diver under the water (See also, Pike Surface Dive, Tuck and Kelp Kick) Read our article: The Beginners Guide.

TIDE - Water movement caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon. Most shore entries are encouraged during what is call High Slack Tide and this is the time between the end of High Tide and the start of Low Tide.

TRAVEL READY FINS - Fins that are shorter and lighter that fit into a suitcase. Read: How to Select the Right Pair.

TUCK DIVES - Type of surface dive used in skin diving in which can be done stationary or while kicking forward. The concept being that while the skin diver starts orienting their body position head down (perpendicular) to the surface of the water their knees are brought in forming a compact rotating ball. When properly positioned the legs are quickly thrust up and out of the water. This action uses the weight of the legs and the hips to naturally aid in submerging the skin diver. Once the fins are submerged the skin diver begins to kick to obtain additional depth.

UNDERTOW - The subsurface back draft (seaward) movement of water caused by waves breaking on shore. This can also refer to any subsurface current that moves in a different direction than the surface current.

UNDERWATER DIGITAL CAMERAS - A camera that does not use traditional film to capture images. Instead a imaging chip records the image electronically. Underwater digital cameras can be found with or without housings. Digital cameras are able to capture more images than film cameras and they also allow the user to upload the immages to a personal dive computer.

UNDERWATER FILM CAMERAS - Cameras come with housing that uses 35mm film and allows you to go underwater

UNDERWATER LIGHT - Hand held illumination device specifically designed for in-water or under water use. Underwater lights are a must if engaging at night. You also lose colors in water which are lost in a particular order as depth increases. The first color lost is red followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally violet which may be remembered by the term Roy-g-biv. Feel free to impress your friends with this new found knowledge. Lights using krypton, halogen or xenon bulbs should not be used out of the water for extended periods as they tend to heat up (the water cools them down) LED lights are a "cooler" light so they are good for in water and out of water use.

UNDERWATER VIDEO - Means of recording and capturing moving memories of the underwater world using electronic imaging devices which usually require a device specific waterproof housing.

WARM WATER FINS - Fins that have a foot pocket and generally lighter and easy to travel with.

WAVES - Rises and falls primarily caused by currents in open water.

WEIGHTS - Used to offset positive buoyancy. Weights can be worn on a belt to make it easier to go below the water's surface or they may be worn on the ankles to help keep fins below the surface of the water.

WETSUITS - Usually made of neoprene material and is considering exposure protection.