Is Snorkeling Hard for Beginners?

Cameron Profile Picture

Expert: Cameron – I have snorkeled for over two decades and have been a PADI certified diver for over three years. I have used several methods to counteract my lack of ability to swim within my younger years in the water. I can assure you through proven experience that your ability will not prevent you from enjoying your adventure.


The underwater world, with its vibrant marine life and captivating landscapes, has long been a source of fascination for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.

For beginners, the idea of submerging into this mysterious realm is both exciting and slightly intimidating.

One common concern that often arises is whether snorkeling is hard for those who are new to the activity.

Is snorkeling too difficult for beginners?

No, snorkeling is not hard and is one of the easiest and most relaxing water activities that you can find yourself participating in. You are essentially floating the entire time using minimal muscle effort. If you have a difficult time floating or swimming, you are able to utilize a personal flotation device (PFD) to assist you while you snorkel.

In this guide, we will delve into the world of snorkeling, addressing this very question and providing insights into what beginners can expect when they take their first dip beneath the surface.

Snorkeling Basics for Beginners

I really wanted to break everything down that I was able to think of that gave me issues throughout my entire ‘snorkeling career’ if you want to call it that.

What is Snorkeling and How Does it Work?

Snorkeling is a water activity that allows individuals to explore the underwater world while floating on the surface.

Unlike scuba diving, snorkeling requires minimal equipment, making it an accessible option for people of all ages and skill levels.

The core components of snorkeling include a mask, snorkel, and fins; although fins can be optional.

These tools enable you to see clearly underwater, breathe comfortably through the snorkel, and move with ease as you glide through the ocean’s embrace.

For our complete guide on snorkeling for beginners, click here.

Breathing Techniques and Floating While Snorkeling

Snorkeling with Pool Noodle
#1

Breathing through a snorkel is a fundamental skill that requires minimal practice.

As a beginner, you might find the sensation of breathing underwater a bit unusual at first.

To master this technique, it’s recommended to practice in shallow waters, gradually getting accustomed to the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling through the snorkel.

If you are in the ocean or other moving waters being able to know what to do when waters splash over your snorkel will prevent a lot of unwanted water drinking.

Snorkels that have dry valves and splash guards can help a lot with this; my common snorkel uses the combination of these.

Still, when you need to dive down to look at something up close you will need to know how to clear your snorkel once you are back to the surface.

Floating Comfortably on the Surface While Snorkeling

Floating is a key aspect of snorkeling, allowing you to conserve energy and focus on observing marine life.

With your fins providing gentle propulsion, you can achieve a relaxed and effortless float on the surface.

This technique is especially important for beginners, as it helps conserve energy and promotes a sense of calm while exploring.

Do you need to know how to swim to snorkel?

There are all kinds of personal flotation devices out there that can help you out while snorkeling, definitely check out the above article for a breakdown of this.

Beginning in Calm and Shallow Areas for Snorkeling

For beginners, starting in calm and shallow waters is essential to build confidence.

These areas provide a controlled environment where you can practice breathing, floating, and using your snorkeling equipment without the added challenge of strong currents or deep depths.

I would recommend heading off to the pool, even if you have already snorkeled before but you have new equipment with you.

The last thing you want is to head to the ocean to realize your mask doesn’t fit properly or your snorkel is not reaching your mouth easily.

Gradual Steps to the Sensation of Breathing Through a Snorkel

Snorkeling Man Sitting

Getting used to the sensation of breathing through a snorkel can take some time.

Begin by placing your face in the water and practicing breathing with the snorkel while holding onto a stationary object.

As you grow more comfortable, you can gradually progress to swimming short distances while using the snorkel.

What I did with my daughter was hold her while I moved her around the pool and she used the snorkel.

This is what I recommend for children and she was able to move into the salt water much more easily from our practice at the pool.

Challenges for Snorkeling Beginners

Woman Snorkeling with Foggy Mask
#2

Water Entry and Exit While Snorkeling

Entering and exiting the water smoothly might seem like a small detail, but it can greatly enhance your overall snorkeling experience.

This is what I do to get in and out of the water:

  • Put on snorkel mask before entering water to ensure proper fitting and to prevent moisture from getting inside the mask while being worn.
  • Put on my snorkel/dive boots.
  • Walk over and enter the water with my fins in my hand until waste deep.
  • While in the water I put on my fins and begin my snorkel session.
  • When over I float/swim over to the shore until I can reach the floor of the beach with my hands.
  • At this point I will take off my fins and exit the water.
  • After reaching my beach bag I will take off my mask to prevent any sand from scratching the glass.
  • Even if I am staying at the beach I immediately rinse my gear to prevent any damage to my gear.

Clearing the Snorkel

Technique for Clearing Water from the Snorkel Tube

It’s common for water to enter the snorkel, especially if waves wash over you.

To clear the snorkel, exhale forcefully through the snorkel tube, effectively purging water from the device.

Practice this technique to build confidence in quickly clearing water and resuming your breathing rhythm.

Remember to always keep at least a small amount of air in your lungs when diving down to the bottom.

This is done so when you head back up your able to still clear your snorkel out.

It really sucks to inhale a boat load of water when coming back up; if you do this enough times you will get sick, trust me I have the experience to prove it…

Practice Drills to Build Confidence in Clearing Water Effectively
Sea Turtle Philippines

Engaging in practice drills where you intentionally flood your snorkel and then clear it can help you become more proficient in managing unexpected water entry.

These drills instill muscle memory and ensure that you remain calm and composed if water enters your snorkel while snorkeling.

These drills really help, I didn’t know how to clear properly until I got my diving certification.

So do not beat yourself up if you don’t get it immediately.

Equalizing Ear Pressure

Equalizing ear pressure is can be crucial when descending underwater.

I say can be because not all people experience the same amount of pain or can even dive down to a depth that will require ear equalization.

The change in pressure as you go deeper can cause discomfort or even pain in your ears.

To equalize, pinch your nose shut and gently blow through your nose while keeping your mouth closed.

This action equalizes the pressure in your ears with that of the surrounding water.

As you continue to descend, equalize periodically to ensure your ears remain comfortable.

Mastering this technique is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable snorkeling experience.

I have gotten incredible headaches from not equalizing my ear pressure throughout a day of snorkeling.

It can be scary at first, but once you understand how to do it successfully it will completely change your snorkeling experience.

Dealing with Mask Fogging

Common issue of mask fogging and its causes

Mask fogging is a common challenge that everyone, not just beginners encounter.

It occurs when warm air from your breath meets the cooler lens of the mask, causing condensation and reducing visibility.

Additionally, residual oils from manufacturing processes can contribute to fogging.

I personally use toothpaste to prevent mask fog and it works every time.

However, this depends on the mask you have and the material of your lens.

In a pinch you can use your own spit.

According to this journal of medicine, it is mentioned that saliva is even used as a way to prevent fog on flexible fibre-optic endoscopes.

How to prevent mask fog in your snorkel mask.

Apply Toothpaste to Snorkel Mask

Overcoming Anxiety and Discomfort

Snorkeler Overcoming Open Water Fear

Dealing with Anxiety or Fear

Anxiety or fear can rise from anywhere like the fear of open water while snorkeling.

Recognizing and Addressing Anxiety for Beginner Snorkelers

Feeling anxious before your first snorkeling experience is normal.

The sensation of being in a new environment, combined with unfamiliar equipment, can lead to apprehension.

Acknowledge your feelings and take steps to manage anxiety through relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and positive visualization.

Practicing with your equipment in a pool or at home before heading out into the ocean is a big help when it comes to anxiety.

These techniques can also help you get over your fear of the ocean or thalassophobia.

According to biology online, Thalassophobia is the specific phobia or intense fear of deep bodies, deep water, and sudden fear of large bodies. 

Relaxation Techniques and Mental Preparation Before Snorkeling
Woman Snorkeling Free Diving
#3

Engage in relaxation exercises before entering the water.

Practice deep, rhythmic breathing to calm your nerves.

Visualize a peaceful underwater scene, and remind yourself that you are in control of your experience.

These all may sound like basic entries, but my toddler had a big fear of the water and helping her breath and stay still/calm before getting in worked wonders.

Coping with Discomfort

Addressing Common Discomforts Like Water in the Snorkel or Mask

Experiencing discomfort while snorkeling, such as water entering the snorkel or mask, is common.

If water enters your snorkel, remember to clear it using the techniques you’ve practiced.

If water enters your mask, use proper mask clearing techniques to restore visibility.

If you have never done this before just check out these steps:

  • Remain calm
  • Place pressure, with your hand, on the top or forehead section of your mask.
  • Breathe in with your snorkel.
  • Exhale through your nose while continuing to hold onto your mask.
  • Take a slight inhale with your nose to gain strong suction of the mask back onto your face.

Staying calm is key to enjoying your snorkeling experience.

Remember that you can always surface, take a breather, and address any issues before continuing your adventure.

Tips for a Positive Beginner Snorkeling Experience

Choose the Right Location

When choosing a snorkeling location, opt for spots known for their calm waters and beginner-friendly conditions.

Avoid areas with strong currents, high waves, or other challenging factors that might make your first experience more difficult.

Research destinations renowned for their clear waters and gentle currents.

These locations provide an ideal environment for beginners to ease into snorkeling and focus on enjoying the beauty below the surface.

Guided Snorkeling Tours

Participating in guided snorkeling tours offers several advantages for beginners.

Experienced guides provide valuable instruction, safety tips, and support throughout the activity.

They can also lead you to the best snorkeling spots, ensuring a rewarding experience..

Guides are well-versed in snorkeling techniques and can assist you in overcoming challenges as they arise.

Practice and Patience

Snorkeling, like any skill, requires practice to improve.

Embrace the learning curve and understand that your confidence and comfort in the water will grow over time.

Each snorkeling excursion contributes to your skill development.

Summary

As a beginner, it’s important to approach snorkeling with patience and a willingness to learn.

Even if you cannot swim or float, there are still options out there for you to enjoy snorkeling with your friends or family.

Don’t be discouraged by initial challenges; instead, view them as opportunities for growth.

With each snorkeling session, you’ll become more adept and confident in your abilities.

Snorkeling, while initially intimidating, is a rewarding and accessible activity that can be enjoyed by beginners.

As you embark on your snorkeling journey, remember that every snorkeler was once a beginner.

With determination, a willingness to learn, and a positive mindset, you can overcome initial hurdles and immerse yourself in the joy of underwater exploration.

Click here to check out the Pros & Cons of snorkeling.


[Sources and References]

Patient Saliva: A Useful Anti‐fog Agent for … – Wiley Online Library, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02194.x. Accessed 23 Aug. 2023.
“Thalassophobia – Definition and Examples – Biology Online Dictionary.” Biology Articles, Tutorials & Dictionary Online, 17 June 2022, www.biologyonline.com/dictionary/thalassophobia.

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

Featured Image by Thomas Breher
#1 Image Image by Manfred Richter
#2 Image by ivabalk
#3 Image by Ray Shrewsberry •