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Snorkeling 101  

No matter either you just learned how to swimming and excited to go for your next adventure of snorkeling, or you already know how to swimming but never try snorkeling before, we hope the following information can help you learn the basic and enjoy of your snorkeling.

How to Select a Mask
It is important to select a snorkel mask that fit you so that you could ease your mind of water flood too often while you dive.  You don't want a mask that leaks constantly because it doesn't fit your face.

To try on the mask, move the strap out of the way, brush your hair out of the way, and just push the mask firmly onto your face. If it will remain there unsupported, then it is making a good seal. Once you have determined which masks will fit properly, other considerations are comfort, field of vision--some masks permit more view to the sides than others, and of course the cost. Get a snorkel also and maybe a spare strap to hold it to your mask. The snorkel mouthpiece should be soft with flexible edges to be comfortable in your mouth.

1. Fold the strap over the front of the mask so that it is out of the way.
2. Hold the mask against your face.
3. Make sure the mask fits comfortably around your eyes and nose.
4. If it does not fits you choose another size.
5. While the mask is against your face, inhale through your nose.
6. Take your hand away. The vacuum created in the mask should hold the mask against your face.
7. If the mask does not stay put, try the above steps with another mask until you find one that does.

How to Use the Mask and Snorkel

The Basics

  1. Test your mask and snorkel together to determine fit and comfort.
  2. Position the small rubber strap that attaches the snorkel to your mask so that the snorkel passes just above your left ear. (If you are using a special left-handed snorkel, it will be on your right.)
  3.  Take a deep breath, bite down on the mouthpiece and submerge your head in the water.
  4. Exhale sharply once to clear any water that may be in the snorkel shaft. This is commonly called 'blasting' or 'purging.
  5. Inhale gently at first in case there is any residual water. Blast a second time if needed, and continue to do so whenever water enters the snorkel.
  6. Learn to move gently on the surface' rapid or abrupt movements can fill the snorkel with water.
  7. Inhale and hold your breath, then dive to explore the underwater environment around you.
  8. Ascend, make sure the snorkel end is above the surface, then purge to clear the tube of water.
  9. Breathe cautiously to be sure the snorkel has cleared completely. If you don't have enough air left to purge, lift your head above the surface and take the snorkel out to breathe.

How to clear the Snorkel of Water/How to Clear Your Snorkel

There's no doubt about it. Water will get into your snorkel, whether you submerse yourself intentionally or a wave splashes water into it. It's an important scuba/snorkel skill you need to know.

Here's How:

  1. Make sure you are gripping the mouthpiece of the snorkel securely with your teeth.
  2. Exhale forcefully through your mouth. The majority of the water should be expelled from the tube. This method is commonly called "blasting" or "popping."
  3. Inhale gently at first in case there is any residual water. Blast a second time if needed.
  4. Continue blasting whenever water enters the snorkel.


  1. Try not to exhale all your air on the first blast.
  2. When checking to see if the airway is clear don't suck in a huge gulp of air. Do it slowly.
  3. Perfect this skill in a swimming pool first.

Clearing your Ears

Learning to properly clear your ears is essential if you plan to snorkel down more than just a few feet. Equalizing the pressure you feel in your ears will protect your ears from damage and allow you to continue to enjoy snorkeling in the future.


Clear your ears properly by holding your nostrils shut and blowing, very gently, without releasing any air from your mouth or nose. You should feel a little pop in your ears, and the pressure should subside.

2: Prepare to snorkel by clearing your ears before you even enter the water. This ensures that your nasal passages are clear and will make equalizing them in the water a little easier.

3: Plan to stop your descent and clear your ears every few feet. Equalizing your ears is best done before the pressure is felt.

4: Ascend back to the surface if you aren't able to clear your ears while snorkeling. If you are able to clear your ears at the surface, you may try to descend again, but if you can't, it's best to enjoy your snorkeling from the surface of the water instead.

Tips on How to Snorkel

1. Defog.
The basic principal is to spray a mist of the anti-fog onto your lenses and vapor will no longer gather on your mask and fog it. It is the cheapest and easiest way to stop fog. If your mask is fogging up while diving, secure yourself, remove your mask and just rub your fingers around inside the mask, replace the mask and clear it, now you're good to go for the rest of the dive.

2. Practice breathing through the snorkel with your head out of the water before the real thing.
Put the mask on your head, suck it into your face, breathe through the tube. Don’t bite, just rest your teeth on the bite thingies - or your jaw will get really sore.
When ready, practice calms floating in the face down and horizontal position. Having something to focus on helps by distracting you from overanalyzing.

3. Masks should remain reasonably dry on the inside, but they can accidentally fill with water.
This usually happens when the strap has slipped down too far. A flooded mask can be easily cleared by raising the head, pulling the lower edge away from the mouth, and simply letting the water drain out.
The same applies to snorkels. A burst of air (similar to a dolphin blow, or saying the word "two") should clear a flooded snorkel, but breathe in cautiously afterwards just to make sure. If you're out of air, then simply remove the snorkel from the mouth to breath. It's helpful to practice deliberately flooding and clearing both mask and snorkel to calmly learn these techniques.

4. To use your fins correctly, kick from the hip and keep your knees and ankles relaxed to prevent your leg muscles from cramping.
Fins remain below the water line, always. AVOID using a bicycling type kick, but instead think of your fin as a beautiful flowing mermaid tail. Once you are proficient in this skill, you will notice that your fins propel you through the water. You will hardly need to use your arms and can let them rest easily at your side, or fold your hands over your lower back. Point your toes in the opposite direction from where you want to travel.

5. Practice controlling your movements in the water.
You will increase your comfort level as you improve maneuvering abilities and you will also minimize accidental bump-ins with objects in the water such as other snorkelers, reef elements, buoys, etc. It's easy to lose track of your location with your face in the water, and loss of peripheral vision. Don't forget to look around for your exit spot or boat every couple of minutes.

6. Knowing your personal limitations is a vital skill often overlooked.
Recognize them and remain alert to them. There is no good reason to push your limits. They will change with each snorkeling opportunity presented. Factors to consider are water temperature, surge, currents, and visibility.

Hawaii Ecotourism Association