Snorkeling and Freediving

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Snorkeling and freediving are inexpensive, safe ways to have your very own window into any underwater world.

From the comforts of your local pool to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, snorkeling and freediving can be done almost anywhere. These recreational activities are for people of any age. The only thing you must have is a sense of adventure. Be ready to have some fun.

There is no end to the fish, coral and underwater life you can see, all by just floating on top of the water, looking and breathing through your mask and kicking with your legs and fins.

Snorkeling is all about staying on the surface of the water and looking down through your mask. Freediving is taking snorkeling one step further by taking a deep breath and diving down below the surface where you can see the underwater world up close, until you have to go back up for more air.

To snorkel and freedive, you don't have to be in shape. Anyone can do it. Unlike scuba diving, there are no age restrictions for snorkeling and no certification courses. This makes snorkeling and freediving more widespread and popular pastimes.

You don't even need to know how to swim. You just need to feel comfortable floating on top of the water, and be able to propel yourself by kicking with your legs.

You can learn to experience a whole new world under the water.
Courtesy of: Carl Roessler

Even physically challenged people can snorkel or freedive. Everyone floats because weight has no measure in water. There are certain types of extensions and gear available for people who don't have arms or legs.

Snorkeling can lead to some interesting careers. It encourages some people to get into the business of teaching others, starting their own dive shops and education programs. Others set out about creating and manufacturing better snorkeling gear. Some people get excited about learning more about marine biology and protecting the environment.

Experts and experienced snorkelers and freedivers say the interest in these sports will grow by leaps and bounds in the future. With the number of television shows and documentaries showing the wonders of the ocean, more people will want to see those wonders for themselves.

Getting Started

Here's some equipment you will need:

Mask -- Your mask is the most important piece of equipment for snorkeling or freediving. It should be comfortable. Most of all, your mask should fit around your face and create a snug, watertight seal, so it doesn't leak.

Snorkel -- A good snorkel has a soft mouthpiece and is comfortable to breathe through. Look for a contoured snorkel, as it will reduce the drag when you are gliding through the water. A purge valve will allow you to clear water easily.

Some snorkels have a second valve or splash guard which keeps water from waves breaking around you from entering the snorkel. Experienced divers say first-time snorkelers might appreciate this little extra!

Fins -- A comfortable set of fins is very important. They should match your physical size and level of fitness. You'll need to decide between full-foot fins or strap fins with boots.

Other gear -- If you aren't a good swimmer, and don't feel totally comfortable floating on the water, a snorkeling vest offers floatation and, in some cases, extra warmth and sunburn protection. Vests are a good idea for children.

A mesh bag provides a convenient way to tote and store your equipment. The mesh makes it even easier to flush your gear with freshwater when you've finished snorkeling for the day.

A sun protection suit or another type of wet or dry suit are a great way to hide exposed skin from the hot sun, and to protect you from cool water. It's important to protect the core of your body because that is where you lose the most warmth.

Sunscreen is essential. It should be waterproof and at least 15 SPF. Remember to reapply it regularly.

A waterproof fish identification card can provide information in the water, tell you about what types of animals you saw, and help you avoid the ones that could be dangerous.

Once you are more comfortable with snorkeling and freediving, you should try to take along an underwater camera so you can capture your adventures on film!

It's not an expensive hobby. A basic snorkel and gear can cost as little $60 but as much as $500, depending on what styles you buy.

You don't need to take a course in snorkeling or freediving, but those who have been doing it a long time say kids should take one. Even some adults should take them, if they are concerned about safety.

Full packages are offered by dive shops. Including gear, they can cost as little as $50 for one or two weeks. That usually includes everything from how to care for your equipment to techniques like inner ear equalizing and kicking.

Safety is important when you are in the water. Experts recommend you study up on the area you are going to snorkel or freedive in. You need to understand certain things like water temperature and what sort of animals are in the area.

Knowing important things, like whether there are poisonous jellyfish around you, will keep you safe. It's also important to remember that if you get tired, it is OK to take a break!

There are many snorkeling and freediving clubs around the world. They get together to talk about their sports and go out for snorkeling excursions on a regular basis. There are also freediving sport clubs that hold competitions and try for world records for the longest freedive, the deepest freedive and so on.


Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Americas

National Association of Underwater Instructors


Where to Freedive
Some tips on good spots

British Sub Aqua Club
Read all about this diving club that promotes underwater sport, exploration, science and safety

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