How to Snorkel

Learning how to snorkel is one of the easiest and most rewarding water activities you can do. On this page, I'll focus on teaching kids how to snorkel, but the same snorkeling technique applies to kids, adults, and seniors alike!

With a short amount of snorkel instructions, you and your family can enjoy this easy but adventurous activity any time you're near a body of water. You can snorkel in ANY water body that's safe to swim in, snorkeling equipment is relatively inexpensive and small enough to carry with you on virtually any vacation, and it doesn't require any special certifications or difficult to use equipment. Safe, easy, AND adventurous! What's not to love? I'll cover some snorkeling basics here to get you ready for your first snorkeling adventure!

kid learning how to snorkel It's always a good idea to practice using snorkeling equipment before you head off to a coral reef (especially with kids and seniors)! You can start in a pool or at the beach (if the waves aren't too intense) or even a bathtub can work (kids love a snorkel tub bath)! It's ideal to learn in water that they can stand up in!

Snorkeling Basics

  1. Start by having everyone grab their mask and snorkel and heading into shallow water. The fins can wait until later. Attach the snorkel to the mask (if it isn't already) about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up from the mouthpiece.
  2. Rub a little saliva onto the inside of your mask (this prevents it from fogging up), dunk the mask in the water, pour the water out, and then put on the mask. Adjust the mask straps until the mask is snug but not painfully tight. Put your face in the water to see if there are any leaks.
  3. Next, place the snorkel's mouthpiece in your mouth and breath through it (in the air first). Your teeth should rest lightly on the rubber. Adjust the fit of the snorkel's connection to the mask if needed.
  4. Now, stand up in the water (assuming a pool or shallow beach water) and just practice putting your face in and looking around. The top of the snorkel should be above water. Then, do the same thing but try breathing in and out. Make SURE your kids won't get splashed (and get water in the snorkel) the first time they try this! It takes a leap of faith to try breathing under water when you've always either held your breath or blown bubbles. The first time needs to be easy and go off without a hitch.
  5. The next step is to let a little water into the snorkel and have them practice blowing it out.

How to blow water out of a snorkel:

A short, fast blow is better than the blowing bubbles kind of technique. You start with your tongue between your teeth and then blow out in one quick puff while making a "t" sound (or a "tw" sound might feel more natural). This can be MUCH easier to demonstrate than explain, so try to get the hang of it yourself before you try to teach your kids.

Water is bound to get in a snorkel eventually so this is an important practice step before moving on to using fins and eventually snorkeling underwater! Have your student keep trying this until they get it.

If your child/student is having trouble with this: Demonstrate yourself first with them just standing by and watching. They should be able to hear (and see) the quick puff of air you used to spray the water out the snorkel's end. Have them practice the "t" or "tw" puff, above water, without the snorkel in their mouths and then WITH the snorkel. Then, have them try it with a small amount of water. They can even do this step above water until they're comfortable: Have them hold their breath as you put a little water in their snorkel tube (quickly), and then have them blow it out as soon as they're ready.

  1. Once they've gotten the hang of these basic snorkeling basics, have them try it while floating (in a life vest can be best if they're not really strong swimmers).
  2. Finally, give them some fins and show them how to kick properly (very small, subtle back and forth movements with their legs hardly bending). Focus on smooth, slow kicks. Point out that, when you're at a coral reef, it's very important to stay horizontal with the water and not try to stand up or float vertically because your fins can damage the coral. Have them practice floating around for long periods of time, breathing in and out smoothly, and kicking only when necessary to propel themselves forward.
  3. Side note: Do kids need snorkeling fins? Snorkeling fins can be the most fun piece of snorkeling equipment for kids. They get to walk silly, like a duck or a monster, AND they help them swim super-fast, with each little kick propelling them super-far. For some kids though, especially weak swimmers, finds might get in the way and actually make it harder to snorkel. There are a lot of things to think about when you're just learning so take it a step at a time and save the fins for last (or just use a life vest and have them hold a grown up's hand to move around the water).
  4. Watch them go!

Advanced Step: Underwater snorkeling

You and your kids can have fun snorkeling at the water surface for years without ever swimming completely underwater! But, when you see something really interesting below, you might want to be able to swim down to take a closer look. That's where underwater snorkeling comes in.

It can be intimidating the first time you decide to try snorkeling underwater. I have good news though... you most likely already know how to do it! You basically just swim underwater just as you would without a snorkel (holding your breath) and then, when you want to come back up to the surface, you can blow out a few bubbles very gently through your snorkel to help propel you back up (or just keep holding your breath, whichever you prefer). The big difference is that when you get to the surface, you don't have to take your head out of the water and gasp for air. You just need to have saved enough breath to blow the remaining water out of your snorkel in a quick burst (as you learned above) and then you can go right back to breathing through your snorkel!

If you've spent enough time practicing surface snorkeling, you're bound to have practiced this same technique plenty! When you're ready, start practicing underwater snorkeling by taking in a big breath, going under water a short distance, coming back up, blowing the water out, and then breathing through the snorkel again. Go deeper and deeper with each practice run but DO remember that, just as with non-snorkel swimming, you need to head back up to the surface before you're completely out of air! Fins can help you get deep AND get back up again very quickly.

Snorkeling starts to feel very natural and easy once you've done it a few times. We hope you enjoy learning how to snorkel and teaching your loved one. Make sure to come back here, tell us how it went, and share any snorkeling techniques you learned along the way.

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