The snorkel is perhaps the simplest piece of Scuba Diving Equipment and also one of the most controversial pieces of Dive Equipment. The snorkel itself is simply a plastic tube approximately 16 – 18 inches long and about 7/8 inches in diameter. It is usually has the overall shape of the letter “J”.
Snorkels are used by scuba divers on most every dive. A snorkel makes diving easier and more enjoyable. Quality scuba snorkels, such as those by AERIS Diving Equipment, Mares Diving Equipment, Sherwood Diving Equipment and Scuba Pro Diving Equipment are constructed of high impact plastics. They are slightly longer in length than a snorkeling snorkel to compensate for the scuba diver being slightly lower in the water. Good snorkels have smooth inner surfaces to reduce drag and enhance ease of breathing. The snorkel is usually purchased by the diver when they learn to scuba dive and is a required piece of Scuba Diving Equipment in almost all Dive Training.
Snorkels with Purge Valves:
Snorkels are available in a variety of styles. Most snorkels today have a Purge Valve. A purge valve is a thin membrane or wafer that forms a one way valve at the bottom allowing water to drain out but not re-enter. The purge valve makes a snorkel much easier to clear water from and thus easier to use.
Flexible or Contour Shaped Snorkels
While the overall shape of a snorkel is always a “J” shape the shaft can be either contoured to lock in the “J” shape or it can be flexible so the mouthpiece portion of the snorkel falls away when not being used. The contour snorkel is used primarily by snorkelers who do not scuba dive since the snorkel is almost always in their mouths.
Scuba divers alternate between having a snorkel or the scuba regulator in their mouth. The contour snorkel very nicely falls out of the way when using the scuba regulator so scuba divers usually prefer the Flexible Snorkel.
Open Top - Semi Dry Snorkel - Dry Snorkel
Open Top Snorkel: The least expensive snorkel has an open top. This is probably the most commonly used snorkel due to the lesser costs involved. This works well but in heavy rain or in waves water can run down the top of the snorkel barrel.
Semi Dry Snorkel: Many snorkels have a deflector on the top of the snorkel barrel. This deflector is designed to deflect rain or waves and to keep the water from running down the barrel of the snorkel. This is a useful feature and only adds about $10.00 to the price of the snorkel.
Dry Snorkel: Many snorkelers prefer to have a Dry Snorkel. These snorkels have a lever or rotating piece that actually seals the top of the snorkel if the diver’s head goes under water. This is a very useful feature for those who are just not comfortable with water in their snorkel. This feature adds about $15.00 – $20.00 to the price of the snorkel but is well worth it if water in the snorkel bothers you.
Why Use A Snorkel When Scuba Diving?
At the very beginning of this article we stated that the snorkel was a controversial piece of scuba diving equipment. Scuba Divers routinely use a snorkel to get from the back of the boat to the anchor line where they will descend. The snorkel allows the divers to conserve their air supply while on the surface. If the scuba diver is diving from shore he will snorkel out until he gets to deep water and will then submerge. Again the snorkel saves air in the cylinder allowing for longer and safer bottom times.
All of the major scuba certification agencies require the use of a snorkel during scuba diver training. This is for both practical and safety reasons. Many scuba divers, however, prefer not to use a snorkel. The reasons for this is to just carry one less piece of equipment. The snorkel, however, is a safety item. If the diver has a long surface swim or needs to wait a long period of time for the boat to pick them up the snorkel is not only convenient but can be life saving in the presence of severe waves or chop. I personally, always scuba dive with a snorkel.