July 26, 2016
Snorkeling is an easy and exciting way to explore shallow waters. Whether you’re pursuing tasty scallops in the Gulf of Mexico, enjoying a refreshing dip in a freshwater spring or exploring marine life on a reef, it doesn’t take a great deal of gear to get started. However, there are a few things to know about selecting snorkel gear.
Many beginners believe if you mash a dive mask to your face and it sticks, that’s it, you’ve got a winner. It takes a bit more effort than that, and it’s worth spending time on this important piece of snorkel gear. It is, after all, your window to the underwater world.
Try this process: Place the mask lightly onto your face and check for gaps where the mask skirt touches your face. Gaps, of course, represent where water will get in. Repeat this step until you find a fit without gaps. Now inhale lightly through your nose. When you inhale, the mask skirt will flare out and you’ll need to recheck for gaps. Now the mask should stick to the face. However, it’s best to try several masks; not two or three, more like five to seven, if possible. Make sure it fits comfortably and provides the view you want.
Masks come in a variety of lenses, from single lens (popular with snorkelers) to double lens and even beyond. Look for a lens with tempered glass, as this resists scratches and breakage. Prices generally range from $25 and go up from there.
There are two major types of snorkels: the fixed bend snorkel (also known as a J-snorkel) and the flexible snorkel. The mouthpiece of a fixed bend snorkel stays in place more easily and reduces jaw fatigue. Fixed bend types are the most popular pick for snorkeling on the surface. The mouthpiece on a flexible snorkel tends to want to pull away, so it take a bit more effort to hold onto it. However, if you also like to SCUBA dive, you might prefer the flexible snorkel because it adapts better when using other gear.
Snorkels come as basic (simple tube and mouthpiece) or semi-dry (flanges at the top prevent some water penetration from waves or splashing at the surface), or dry snorkels. Prices range from $12 and go up.
When it comes to dive fins for snorkelers, less is more. Snorkelers don’t wear heavy gear and generally they stay at the surface, so the shorter length closed pocket fins are the popular choice. These fins are designed for use without boots, and the heel area is enclosed. You’ll want a snug fit to prevent chaffing and blistering, so try going down one size from your regular shoe size.
Another kind of dive fin is the open-heel boot fin. These fins are longer, thicker and designed with power propulsion in mind. They are the choice when diving at depths. Prices for fins can range from $19 and go up significantly.
Depending on water temperatures, conditions and your own cold tolerance, wetsuits may or may not be necessary. If you just want to prevent sea lice, jellyfish stings or the like, a thin lycra layer is all you need. However, if you desire more heat retention, you can go with a thicker suit, like neoprene. There are full suits covering you head to toe or shorty wetsuits that stop mid thigh. Prices can range from $120 to more than $400.
If your water adventures include hunting for scallops or lobsters, consider getting a pair of gloves. Materials range from neoprene for heat retention to kevlar to prevent injuries from handling lobsters or scallops. Prices start as low as $4.
The fun is done, but to ensure your snorkel gear is ready for the next adventure, spend a few minutes taking care of your equipment. Rinse all your gear with clean, fresh water, then let it dry completely. Store it in dry, cool place, not a damp shed, humid garage or on your boat. Avoid direct sunlight. Prevent your gear from coming into contact with oil, gasoline, solvents or chemicals.
Snorkeling is a great way to explore the water all around us, and getting started won’t upset your budget. Contact the Bill Jackson’s Dive Shop staff for more information about snorkel equipment.