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Each year, thousands of people flock to oceans and beaches to strap on their snorkel gear and experience underwater worlds through snorkeling. While this activity may look easy, you’re likely already aware of the challenges it presents and the skills it requires.
If you’ve already mastered the art of strapping on fins and a snorkel and you’re fine with floating, you may begin searching for ways to improve your abilities.
Whether it’s learning how to clear your mask or practicing breathwork to begin skin diving, there are numerous ways to boost your snorkeling game and build upon what you already know.
1. Suit up for Warmth
If you’re going snorkeling in the Bahamas or another tropical location, you might assume you’ll need nothing more than a bikini or swim trunks. However, just because the air is warm doesn’t mean the water will be.
In the early summer, the sunshine is only beginning to heat the ocean to a warmer temperature, and you might get chilly without proper gear. Make your snorkeling adventure more comfortable — and prevent sunburn — with a rashguard or wetsuit.
2. Wear a Swim Cap
You might also improve your snorkeling game by adding another piece of protective gear to your repertoire — a swim cap. Wearing one as you float around will prevent hair from getting in your snorkel. Plus, it’ll protect your scalp from sunburn, allowing you to focus on the creatures below instead of the blistering sun above.
3. Employ Anti-Fog Tricks
Even professional snorkelers have experienced their snorkel masks fogging up. Reoccurring incidents can seriously hinder your underwater adventure. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent your mask from restricting your view.
Before jumping in the water, you can apply toothpaste, anti-fogging solutions, baby shampoo and even your own spit. If you’re still struggling to keep your mask fog-free, you might be exhaling through your nose or have an ill-fitting mask.
4. Learn How to Clear Your Mask
If you’re renting equipment from a dive center, odds are your full face snorkeling mask won’t fit perfectly. Consequently, water may seep in, which can block your view and end up in your nostrils.
Learning how to clear your mask underwater can easily solve this problem without breaking the surface. Simply hinge the top open slightly and blow out forcefully through your nose. With some practice, one breath should be enough to clear your mask.
5. Skin Dive
Take your snorkeling skills to the next level by learning how to skin dive. Depending on your lung capacity and how long you can hold your breath, you may be able to dive 10 to 30 feet below the surface to explore coral and get a closer look at marine life.
This skill will require you to equalize your ears as well, so the increase in pressure doesn’t rupture your eardrums. Practice popping your ears before attempting skin dives.
6. Improve Your Core Strength
In most cases, snorkeling doesn’t involve much swimming. Instead, you spend most of the time floating on the surface of the water. However, if you want to learn to skin dive and see more of the reef on your adventure, work on improving your core strength.
Doing so will reduce drag and help you swim faster and more efficiently. Incorporate planks, scissor crunches, Russian twists and hip bridges into your fitness routine to increase abdominal strength.
7. Find Fins That Fit
It’s important to find snorkel fins that but fit just right. Loose fins could cause blisters and chafing, while ones that are too tight may restrict ankle mobility and keep you from fully enjoying your snorkeling adventure.
Use your shoe size to determine your best fit and try them on. If you can fit multiple fingers between the fin and your foot, they’re too big, even if the strap feels snug on land.
8. Practice Deep Breathing
Breathe and retain oxygen more efficiently — while skin diving and staying at the surface — by practicing deep breathing. Take a long, slow inhale through your mouth like you would while snorkeling, filling up the belly, then the chest.
Hold your breath at the top for a second or two and exhale slowly through the mouth. This simple exercise will strengthen your diaphragm and allow you to breathe easier and calm your nerves while snorkeling.
9. Practice Buoyancy Control
Adjusting your breath by elongating the inhales and shortening exhales can also help you maintain buoyancy. This is necessary for maintaining a vertical position near the water’s surface. Moreover, you won’t have to use your arms and legs as much to stay afloat.
You may even be able to cross your arms in front of you, relying solely on your lungs and fins to keep you buoyant and moving.
10. Observe at an Angle
No matter how skilled you are, at some point, you’re going to get water in your snorkel and mouth. Improve your know-how by learning how to deal with it. First, minimize your chances of inhaling or swallowing by keeping your gaze at a 45-degree angle to the ocean floor.
11. Know What to Do in a Panic
Of course, you already know how to respond to your own fears if a stressful situation were to occur during your adventure. Simply flip over onto your back, float and breathe. However, others might not think of this simple solution during a panic attack.
If your snorkeling buddy or someone nearby displays anxiety or fear, keep your distance and remind them to flip onto their back. Coaching them through it could help save their life.
12. Explore New Waters
Generally, those new to snorkeling shouldn’t explore waters with strong currents, riptides or waves. However, as you expand your skillset and become an expert, choose more difficult locations that will challenge your buoyancy control, breathing and swimming techniques.
Only then will you be able to learn, grow and guide others on snorkeling expeditions — if that’s one of your goals.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As with any sport or skill, practice won’t necessarily make perfect, but it will certainly help you improve. Every chance you get, strap on your fins and leap off the boat. Wade into the ocean and float across its surface, appreciating the life it holds.
Additionally, take time to focus on breathwork, core strengthening exercises and research while you aren’t snorkeling. Doing so will improve your skillset and allow you to help beginners kindle a love for the activity, too.