One of the most common questions we come across regarding diving and the various techniques, along with dive equipment and anything else involved in the sport we love is ‘what is a snorkel and how does a snorkel work?’
This is a justified question because after all, they are one of the most easily recognized pieces of equipment used by divers of all experience levels.
So if you’re serious about learning more about snorkeling and have invested in a great new dry snorkel for diving and it’s becoming more than just a passing hobby. finding out how they work might be something you’ll want to learn before going to explore your next best snorkeling destination.
How Do Snorkels Work?
In the following blog post, we are going to cover exactly how a snorkel works. Interestingly, you may or may not know it but there are actually a few different types and design, they all work the same but with minor differences.
First and foremost, a snorkel makes it possible for you to breathe while your head is submerged in the water. But understanding a bit more about how they work will help you to improve your diving experience overall. It will also increase your confidence while underwater and help you to identify when there may be issues with your snorkel.
Let’s take a look at the different types and how they work.
Different Types of Snorkels
Snorkels range in quality, from the basic J shape type that is commonly used by most amateur divers and freedivers to the more advanced snorkeling equipment with one-way purge valves for easy clearing, and, floor valves to prevent water from entering into the tube if you dive down. They range from basic classic models to more advanced dry and semi-dry snorkels.
In its purest form, they are simply a tube with a fixed curve section that finishes with a mouthpiece. Its sole purpose is to allow you to breathe easily and efficiently without having to raise your head out of the water, this makes them brilliant for shallow diving and looking at coral reefs, etc.
Scuba divers prefer this design because they are the simplest and easiest to tuck away for when they need them on the surface. Although, there is a big debate on whether or not snorkels are necessary for scuba diving.
Freedivers who can dive to great depths on a single breath and rely on being as streamline as possible use only this type due to their simplicity and reduce drag through the water.
The traditional style is a simple J shaped tube which finishes with a mouthpiece. You use this by attaching it to your mask or goggles either by using a clip or fixture provided. Adjusting the height to ensure it arrives at the level of the mouth correctly and avoids any discomfort.
This way, it is well-positioned out of the water while most of your head is underneath the water. While wearing this you will not be breathing through your nose, you will only use your mouth while ensuring the top of the tube is above the water.
They are designed to sit to the left side of your head and face. This is because of how the mouthpiece curves. It is crucial that you have it pointing straight up when snorkeling near the surface, this helps to avoid the possibility of water getting into it.
While it may seem like perfect common sense, it’s also imperative that you remember to keep it in your mouth, sounds silly we know but it is possible to get distracted by experiencing all the beautiful seascapes that you will be seeing. It is also possible that you may get jaw fatigue, common to new snorkelers.
Dry snorkels have become an increasingly popular piece of scuba equipment, along with scuba fins, over the last few years within the diving community. Unlike other styles, these are designed to stop water from getting into the tube a great advantage. They have a special floatation device attached to the snorkel’s tip that functions as a one-way valve, which means the float will rise and close the opening which stops you from accidentally swallowing water and maybe even getting water in your lungs which are a safety concern to be considered.
It’s worth noting that this type is a new player in the world of diving. The first designs of dry snorkels were incorporated into special snorkel masks, that consisted of two tubes that had balls inside their tubes to stop the water from getting in. Fortunately, the design has progressed and evolved.
Modern variations are not only made from higher quality material, which makes them far more robust and durable but also utilizes improved tech so that they provide a better experience when swimming than the older designs. They are also a lot lighter and slicker in design.
All manufacturers have a slightly different way of doing things but, they are all just as effective. Most models feature a plastic covering that sits over the snorkel and prevents water from entering the tube when it is above the water. When you dip under they have a mechanism that automatically seals the tube.
Let’s take a look at the ScubaPro Spectra Dry Top Snorkel from our list of the 10 best dry snorkels for scuba diving in more detail to understand better how dry snorkels work.
Although the name may suggest another side, dry snorkels are not actually totally dry. There is the possibility of water getting into the tube, for instance, if it drops below the surface while it’s out of your mouth.
As an effective way of combatting this though, snorkel makers include what are known as purge valves. All you need to do is simply do an exhale breath deeply to remove any water from the tube.
Semi-dry snorkels are a similar design to the dry design, explained above. They are actually designed to keep water out by using a splash guard at the top of the tube instead of a dry top.
If however, water does manage to get inside the snorkel, usually due to big water splashes or choppy seas on the surface, a semi-dry snorkel features a one-way purge valve that allows you to flush water out easily.
These types also usually feature a flexible tube section which allows the silicone mouthpiece to hang out of the way when on scuba dive.
There you have it, guys and girls.
As well as understanding what a snorkel does when you use it for diving, you need to know how to use one properly. Snorkeling will take a while for you to get used to because of the breathing, but stick with it and the experiences you have will take your breath away, no pun intended.
The best way, of course, is to attend some practical and informative diving and snorkeling classes taken by veteran divers with plenty of experience. They will also ensure that you can learn to use, face snorkels, and the full face snorkel and your breathing, and equipment like snorkeling fins if you want to use them.
You will also learn techniques and safety to be considered like carbon dioxide in masks and how to ensure you don’t have a build-up of it, and water pressure with what depths are safe to dive to and much much more of course. That really is the best way to gain all the skills and knowledge you need to be as safe as possible while getting the very best out of diving and exploring the watery depths.
We hope this has been a helpful guide to understanding a little more about snorkels. Here are our three best dry snorkel picks;
There are also full face mask, snorkel masks, as well as the diving mask, like the Tribord Easybreth, these differently as they cover your whole face. We hope it helps you get the most out of your dives and snorkeling experiences.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Hopefully, we have covered all that you need to know above. But here we will answer some of the questions that we get asked the most.
Can You Go Underwater With a Snorkel?
Yes, you can go underwater with a snorkel if you have a Dry or Semi Dry snorkel, also you can get a full face snorkeling mask design, as they are all designed to let air in but keep the water out. If you fully submerge below the waterline without these types then water will fill the tube.
How Long Can You Stay Underwater With a Snorkel?
When wondering how long can you stay underwater with a snorkel it varies as to how long you can hold your breath when fully submerged. There are snorkels out there that allow for longer periods as they contain a small air supply to allow for up to 10 minutes, but they are in the high end of pricing.
Can You Breathe Underwater With a Dry Snorkel?
If you asking yourself can you breathe underwater with a dry snorkel well, no, not when fully submerged? They are called dry snorkels whether it is traditional J shape snorkel or a snorkel mask due to no water being able to get in through the tube.
The big advantage is that you will not take water into your mouth accidentally and so avoid the hazard of choking.
How Do you Breathe Underwater with a Snorkel?
Breathing underwater is easy when you are using a snorkel on the surface. However, it’s important to know that this is only possible while you swim on the surface of the water, with the snorkel tube above the water. If you want to be able to breathe while diving, you should try scuba diving!