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Top 9 Tips for First Time Snorkelers

Perhaps it’s already warm enough near you to hit the water at a nearby state park for a snorkeling excursion (lucky you!) or maybe you just have snorkeling at the top of your warm weather to-do list this year. Either way, a few tips on how to snorkel like a pro, or at least like a non-newbie, couldn’t hurt. Before you grab your swimsuit and head to the beach, check out these top tips for first time snorkelers:

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1. Take Time to Choose Proper Equipment

It's understandable that you'd be in a hurry to rent your equipment ASAP and get right to exploring the underwater world awaiting you. However, rushing through the gear rental part of your adventure can leave you with ill-fitting equipment that leaves you spending more time viewing water-filled goggles than awesome underwater sights. When you're patient and take the time to find the right gear, you'll have a much smaller chance of encountering snorkeling snafus once you begin exploring.

2. Make Sure Your Mask Fits

Most masks are adjustable, but you first need to know what you're working with! Is your face wide or narrow? Are your eyes wide-set or narrow? How about the schnoz, is it big or small? These are the things to keep in mind when choosing a mask. Pick one that looks like it will fit the contours of your face, not just one that looks cool.

Once you've made a pick, try it on without straps first to see if it fits comfortably. There should be no uncomfortable hard parts jabbing you, and no loosey-goosiness either. Do the suction test by pressing lightly, inhaling slightly, and letting go to make sure the mask stays on your face and doesn't fall off when you move around. If the mask stays put with just a little suction, then test the strap. It should sit high on the back of your head rather than resting on your ears, which will eventually hurt. Lastly, test the mask with a snorkel in your mouth to ensure it doesn't break the seal of the mask.

3. Choose a Dry Snorkel

They cost a bit more, but if money is no object (lucky you, again!) it may be worth splurging for a dry snorkel, or at least a snorkel with a splashguard. Since nobody likes swallowing seawater, the amazing dry snorkels come equipped with a special valve that seals shut if the snorkel dips underwater. They also have a purge valve at the bottom of the snorkel, which allows you to blow water out of the tube. It'll be infinitely easier for you to enjoy exploring marine life if you're not choking on saltwater, so dry snorkels are the way to go.

4. Pick Proper Fins

Snorkeling just seems so face-centric that it's easy to neglect your tootsies. Big mistake! Well-fitting fins are essential to the snorkeling experience, since they are a must for safety as well as for powering your swimming and saving you energy. Lean more toward a snug fit than a roomy one, since your cold, wet feet will likely shrink a tad. Not too tight, though! Tight fins or fins with hard spots can cause sores, which are not only annoying, but will keep your mind off all the fun you should be having. Meanwhile, loose fins can potentially go flying off your feet once you're in the water, which would put a serious damper on your adventure.

5. Practice Before You Go Whole Hog

Yeah, yeah, yeah, practicing is so much less fun than just getting right down to business. However, it's important to get a feel for your gear before you're in the thick of your snorkeling adventure. Try on your equipment and let yourself get used to it before diving in. It's wise to practice snorkeling first in a pool or a calm, shallow spot at the beach. This is a great way to test drive the equipment that you so carefully selected to make sure it's not leaky or problematic. It'll also help train your body to get comfortable breathing through the snorkel with your face in the water.

6. Swim Slowly

This is a bit of a no brainer, since anyone showing off their awesome breaststroke will no doubt miss many of the great sights to discover under the water. More importantly, swimming slowly is essential to avoiding exhaustion, which is often a problem with first timers. Although there will surely be many exciting sights to be seen, try to remain calm! Staying relaxed while you swim will help you save your breath and energy.

7. Snorkel From a Beach, Not a Boat

Boating rules, but it's best to not mix pleasure with pleasure when heading out on your first snorkeling trip. Jumping into deep water from a boat can be scary, since even the most practiced and prepared newbies are often afraid that they'll sink like a stone. Additionally, using the mask and breathing through a snorkel is probably still going to feel pretty weird. Remember that staying calm is part of the trick, so it's best to avoid the anxiety of being in deep water far from shore.

8. Pick a Calm Location

This is another duh, but don't, for example, choose a happening surfing spot for your first snorkeling destination. Wavy water not only makes the whole experience more dangerous, it will suck more energy out of you and can even make you seasick. Additionally, waves can reduce underwater visibility, clouding your view. Instead, settle on somewhere calm. A good bet is to venture out in the morning when seas are calmer.

9. Don’t Snorkel Solo

Duh times a million. As you've probably heard since pre-school, "Safety in numbers!" so make sure you snorkel with a buddy in tow (preferably one who is experienced with snorkeling). Regardless of preparation, things can go awry, and it's best not to be alone if they do. It's also wise to choose a beach with a lifeguard, because, again, duh.

Now that you're all caught up and in the snorkeling loop, you're probably itching to hit the water. If you need a bit of guidance choosing a snorkeling location, simply search your Pocket Ranger® app By Activity and select "snorkeling." Have fun!

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