Snorkeling, It Is More Than A Basic Scuba Skill
If you are a student diver, or still planning on becoming a diver, one of the skills you will learn is using the snorkel. Many open water training programs include an open water session using the snorkel. Some dive certification agencies even have separate training programs for advance snorkeling. While in training you will likely be told that a snorkel is an important safety device. You will, however, find that many experience divers do not agree and they seldom use them. In some cases they are very important, such as in a shore dive. When starting a dive from a shore location the actually dive site may be many minutes away. Using your air supply to get to the site could be a waste of dive time. A surface swim in your gear means that the snorkel is a necessary device. In some situation like wreck diving the snorkel is seen as another item that can snag on something so they are not used. Some divers bring them with them but leave them on the boat. Many dive sites are good snorkeling sites as well and some divers will spend a portion of their surface interval snorkeling.
Snorkeling On The Surface
The most basic technique in snorkeling is on the surface. It is very easy to learn and many tourist boats will teach someone to snorkel in five minutes, put a snorkeling vest on them and have them in the water. Even non-swimmers. Due to the tanks and other equipment that a scuba diver wears it is the only method that a diver can use. You are face down in the water, the snorkel in your mouth instead of the regulator and you use your fins to propel you. A puff of air before you do a full exhale to clear and water from the snorkel before doing a slow inhale. You do a slow inhale in case a little water is still in the j section of the tube you wont suck it in like a straw. The fining action of a snorkeler on the surface and a diver underwater is a bit different. Underwater we often wish to use the full range of motion of our legs. This allows for powerful strokes. On the surface we do not want our fins to break the surface.
While there is uniform definition of skin diving, many people consider it snorkeling below the surface. Other relate skin diving and free diving. For now we will use it do describe snorkeling below the surface. Many outstanding coral reefs are in shallow water and many dive sites are in less than 30 feet of water. At these depths a snorkeler can explore the reef. Using fins snorkel and mask a snorkeler can spend a couple of minutes at depth before returning to the surface for a breath of air. The snorkel does not need to break the surface, just the tip of the snorkel. This saves a great deal of energy and allows the snorkeler to return after a breath or two of air. While underwater the snorkeler will use fin action the same as a diver, large full range of motion kicks.
Many divers do not have the luxury of local year round diving. Some will use snorkeling in an in door swimming pool as a means to keep dive fit. Snorkeling is also very good for those who are a weak swimmer to build up their endurance.
Snorkeling equipment and diving equipment of the same type does differ slightly. The gear for snorkeling is the snorkel, a set of fins and a mask. Generally there will also be a snorkeling vest. A good vest will support you at the surface and you can release the air for diving below. Having the extra buoyancy at the surface allows you to conserve energy. Snorkeling fins are different from diving fins, well sort of. Some fins are designed for snorkeling having a full foot heel and a narrow blade. They are often lighter than a diving fin. Divers generally prefer the open heel fins and wear booties. This makes walking around without the fins easier. As divers are using a full range of motion the wider blades give them more power. Mask perform the same function and are generally the same. Those who are just staying at the surface can use an inexpensive mask, while those diving should have one of quality to stand the pressure changes. There are many designs of snorkels, but most of it is personal choice. Diver tends to go with the most basic models as they are not used as often.