How to Snorkel Like a Pro

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Snorkeling is one of the most exciting things you can do in the ocean, and even in fresh water. Once you know how to swim the rest will come naturally. Exploring the beautiful oceans or checking out some fresh water dive spots will open a whole new world. There is so much to see underwater and this guide will help you get there confidently.

Safety First

Water, and the ocean especially, can be unpredictable. Undercurrents, waves, and certain marine creatures can make for a bad time. Do a little research about the area before you get there. What kind of animals live there? How strong are the currents? What is the weather like? 

When you first get to the beach, sit on the sand for a few minutes and watch the water. Look for where the current is going out and check which area has the rougher waves. Plan where you will enter and exit the water.

Some sea creatures have awesome defense mechanisms and will not hesitate to use them, especially if they feel threatened. Keep your distance and go to a lifeguard if you get hurt.

Lastly, save your energy. Too many people exhaust themselves in the water, forgetting they still have to swim back. Once you are back on the sand, drink plenty of water to rehydrate.

Pro tip: Use vinegar on jellyfish stings-not urine-the lifeguards will likely have some vinegar on hand. Be sure to get all the barbs/stingers out of your skin right away by using a credit card to scrape along your skin.


Gear

Don't forget your camera! If you do not have an underwater camera you can rent one at most dive shops, which is what I recommend, or you can buy super cheap ones at many drug stores or gas stations.

When it comes to snorkeling gear, you get what you pay for. If you’re not very experienced or only need to use the gear for a family vacation then the US Divers brand at Walmart will work perfectly. If you plan on getting into snorkeling as a hobby then I recommend going to a diving store and getting something on the cheaper end of the spectrum to start out with and moving up accordingly. I do not recommend renting your gear because it can be pricey and it is not always in great shape.

Make sure it fits! Try it on in the store, make sure you like how the mask feels on your face and check that the fins do not cut into your heel or slide off easily.

After you snorkel, be sure to rinse your gear with fresh water and dry it to keep it in good condition.

Pro tip: The best mask anti-fog is a 50/50 mixture of baby shampoo and water. Wipe a few drops into your mask and you’re good to go!

Practice

When you first get to the beach be sure to practice in the shallow, calm waters.  Figuring out your breathing pattern can be tricky if you are not used to breathing through the snorkel. Staying in shallow water allows you to get used to your gear while allowing you the safety of being able to stand up if you accidentally get water in your tube or if you get a little scared. Make sure none of your hair is under the mask, this causes leakage.

Remember to always remain calm. Panicking in water is extremely dangerous. Just pop your head out of the water and take a deep breath to calm yourself.

Pro tip: When you get water in your snorkel just blow air out of your mouth and into the snorkel really hard to push the water out. I always feel like a whale when I do this.

Avoid Dirty Water

In Hawaii, we learn not to swim in the ocean if the water has low visibility. This is for two reasons. First, murky water is prime real estate for predators to hide in while hunting for prey. I am not afraid of sharks, but I will also not put myself in the position to be confused as prey when the visibility is low.

Secondly, if you plan on snorkeling in Hawaii then you should know that O’ahu has leptospirosis in the fresh water and dirt. If it has recently rained know that the rain will cause the bacteria to seep into the ocean and nobody wants that. 

Also, why would you want to swim in dirty water anyway? You cannot see anything!

Look But Don’t Touch

An animal's natural curiosity should never be interpreted as friendly behavior.

When you are in the water, you are in THEIR home, respect it. You are going to see some awesome sea creatures and corals during your underwater journey. Corals are living things, stepping on coral can kill the coral polyps and harm the other animals living in the coral. If you must stand up, look for the sandy areas. 

While some critters may swim close to you, do not touch them. We need to respect these animals and watch from afar for their safety as well as yours. Also, disturbing them will most likely cause the animal to swim away. I recommend a distance of 6 feet or more.

Your sunscreen could harm the reef. Some ingredients in your sunblock can kill or bleach coral reefs. Use a sunscreen that is “reef safe” and has been tested biodegradable. I recommend Natty Block Suncare or Badger Sunscreen.

Have Fun

The number one reason that people snorkel is to enjoy the beauty of our underwater world. There is so much to see from the many creatures to the crazy colors of the reef, the ocean is a thing of beauty.

I do not really think of snorkeling as a physical activity but more of a meditation. You are focused on your breathing and the movements of your body, how the water flows and how the fish are swimming. It is therapeutic. Whatever you get from the experience, be sure to enjoy it.

Mahalos,
Alecia <3

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