How To Use A Snorkel – A Beginner’s Guide

Snorkeling is an adventurous and relaxing activity to enjoy coral reefs, sea turtles, and marine life. It also offers you a chance to swim with whale sharks. But is it worth your time and effort?

Well, that’s for you to decide at the end of this article. But truth be told, floating beneath the ocean surface as you observe the underwater world and marine wildlife is fascinating.

If you are just starting or want to enhance your snorkeling experience, this guide is for you.

How Does a Snorkel Work?

Snorkeling involves using a mask, a snorkel, and fins to view the underwater while floating at the water surface.

A snorkel has a tube that allows you to breathe while your face is submerged in the water. However, the tube must stick above the waterline for efficient air exchange.

Classic snorkels feature a mouthpiece, mask clip or snorkel keeper, and tube. But modern snorkels have advanced features to ease use and enhance comfort. These include:

  • A flexible tube that’s designed to reduce jaw fatigue and give a more comfortable fit.
  • A float valve to prevent leakages
  • A splash guard to keep waves’ water out of the tube.
  • A purge valve to drain water easily


First things first! Good preparation is necessary if you want to snorkel dive like a pro. While being in the ocean and seeing marine animals is thrilling, here are a few tips to make the experience safer and more comfortable.

Improve Your Swimming Skills

Take some swimming lessons at a nearby pool. Even if you are a decent swimmer, the extra training can help to polish and perfect your skills and enhance your swimming efficiency.

While training, focus more on your freestyle swimming skills. The kicking technique from this style comes in handy when snorkeling. Also, build strength and endurance in the muscles engaged during the kicks. Doing so allows you to snorkel with minimal effort.

With enough practice, you can even swim without the snorkeling vest. The vest aids better floatation but also restricts you from diving deeper.

Practice More

Regular swimming in shallow water is not a hassle. But swimming with scuba fins can be challenging at first.

The additional weight can put a lot of strain on your leg muscles. So, carrying a pair of fins to the pool for more practice is helpful. Combine that with quick, short, and long stretches, and soon you’ll have a place among pro scuba divers.

Boost Your Ability to Hold Breath

Many inexperienced snorkelers float on the surface of the water, staring down and breathing through the snorkel. On the other hand, experienced snorkelers dive underwater into skin diving territory as they hold their breath.

If you want an excellent underwater adventure, train more on breath-holding.

Learn to Preserve Energy While Snorkeling

Swimming in tropical waters doesn’t seem like an intense exercise. On the contrary, snorkeling can take a toll on you!

Your body continually loses heat even when the water is warm. Moreover, propelling yourself forward with scuba fins requires a lot of energy. That is why understanding energy conservation is very vital for a successful snorkeling adventure.

Just like scuba diving, take a few moments to relax your body and mind before snorkeling. Keep your arms relaxed on the sides to conserve more energy. When you have fins on your legs, there is no need to use the arms.

Even so, avoid kicking too hard. A leisurely kicking pace is enough for forward and horizontal momentum.

How to Use a Snorkel

There are several stages of using a snorkel. We’ll take you step-by-step to ensure that you don’t miss anything.

1. Getting Started

  • Get a mask and snorkel that you are comfortable with. Wear the mask and adjust the straps accordingly for a snug fit. If possible, try them on in the water to ensure no leaks.
  • Ensure that the mask straps seal perfectly around your eyes and nose. And the snorkel tube is close to the mouth.
  • Lay flat on the water surface, face down at 45 degrees.
  • Bite the mouthpiece of the snorkel gently. Your lips should seal around it and hold it in place.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply with your mouth through the snorkel.
  • Just relax and be aware of every breath. You will soon get a rhythm.
  • Put on a buoyancy vest. The vest makes it easier to float on the water surface.

2. Keep Your Airway Clear

  • Learn to clear your snorkel. Sometimes, water can leak into your snorkel due to excess splashing, deep diving, or surf conditions. If this happens, breathe cautiously.
  • Hold your breath as you submerge your head and the snorkel beneath the water. You will feel water entering the snorkel barrel.
  • Lift your head to the surface, but don’t take it out of the water. Ensure that the top of the snorkel tube is out in the air.
  • Quickly and forcefully exhale through the mouth into the snorkel. Doing so will clear nearly all the water in the snorkel.
  • Make a second forceful blast to remove the remaining water.
  • Sometimes, water can enter your time when you don’t have any air in the lungs. That’s why it is good to master airway control.

If the water is less, breathe in slowly without getting water into your mouth and when you get sufficient air, blast it out forcefully. However, if the water is too much, lift your head out of the water and take a deep breath through the mouthpiece.

Once you get good at clearing your airway, you can comfortably dive deeper underwater.

3. Swimming with a Snorkel

  • Use fins. Wearing fins helps to amplify your movement and propels you forward quicker with less effort.
  • Rest your arms at the side to minimize drag. Stretch your legs behind you while keeping them close together.
  • Bend your knees slightly and kick slowly but forcefully with the fins. Avoid kicking with your knees, and move from the hips to use your thigh muscles instead.
  • Propel yourself forward with downward strokes.
  • Ensure that the fins are below the water when kicking.
  • If there is a wave, adjust your movements to its up and down surges.
  • Swim at a comfortable, steady pace to conserve energy.

How to Hold Your Breath While Snorkeling

Slow, deep breaths are key to a successful snorkeling trip when you have a full-face snorkel mask. It keeps your heart rate low, preserves energy, and helps you to relax.

Here are tips to help you get the most out of breath-hold.


Before diving in the water, take some time on the surface doing light movements. This way, you will get your breathing under control.

Maintain Deep, Controlled Breaths

Taking deep breaths helps prevent hyperventilating. Deep and slow breaths help to empty and fill your lungs. Then, take additional deep breaths to fill your diaphragm, followed by the chest and the top of your torso.

Make a Descent

Immerse yourself in the water at a 90-degree angle, ensuring your torso is vertically submerged.

Position your legs vertically above the water surface. Submerge your fins in the water and use them to gain depth. This method is more practical than the swimming ascent used by rookie snorkelers.

Once Underwater, Pace Yourself

Pacing yourself as you enjoy the underwater scenery will help boost your breath-hold. Swim slowly and try as much as possible to streamline your body.

Ensure that each movement you make propels you forward.


This step involves getting back to the water surface before you run out of air.

Repeat the process severally, prolonging your stay underwater every time you dive in. This way, you will have a precise duration to stay safe underwater.

Types of Snorkeling

There are two types of snorkeling:

  • Surface
  • Deepwater

Surface Snorkeling

Many people consider snorkeling at the surface of the water safe and comfortable. It is perfect when you are doing it with young children.

If you prefer surface snorkeling, consider wearing a full-face snorkel mask, as it gives excellent visibility.

Deep Water Snorkeling

This snorkeling requires additional diving skills to get to further depth. It is common in the Caribbean Sea and other major seas.

Related Questions

How Do You Breathe Underwater with a Snorkel?

Put on the mask, attach the snorkel, and put the mouthpiece in your mouth. Then, breathe in and out through the mouth in slow, deep breaths.

Can You Go All the Way Underwater with a Snorkel?

Yes, you can go underwater with a dry snorkel. However, you will not be able to breathe through it because it requires air exchange on the water surface. Instead, you will need to master breath-hold when doing deep water short dives.

Can You Breathe Underwater with a Dry Snorkel?

It is impossible to breathe underwater with a dry snorkel, especially when completely submerged. The dry snorkel only helps to maximize comfort at the surface and prevent leakage.


Snorkeling is one of the best adventures where you interact with underwater marine life, whale sharks, and local reef fish. Having the correct snorkeling gear is all you need; it could be dry snorkels, semi dry snorkels, or wet snorkels.

This equipment comes in handy in this outdoor adventure as they help you breathe through the mouth.

One downside of diving too deep is that it creates pressure on your ears. The best way to relieve ear pressure is popping your ears after you’re done diving.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube
Articles » Gear Reviews » How To Use A Snorkel – A Beginner’s Guide