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Hawaii Snorkeling

Snorkeling Technique
Snorkel Instruction - How to Snorkel
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Hawaii Snorkeling

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Snorkeling for Beginners

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Snorkeling Technique - Snorkel Instruction
How to Snorkel

Remember, snorkeling is simple …. When you are nine years old.
For the rest of you, snorkeling is easy. Just follow these three tips
and pretend you are nine years old.


I have taught many people to snorkel over my years in Hawaii, including my two daughters. I have found the above three words of advice to be the most important of all. Having said that, here is the method I find most effective for beginners.

Snorkeling for Beginners

Snorkeling involves three basic pieces of equipment; the mask, the snorkel and the fins. When you come aboard the Royal Hawaiian Catamaran Snorkeling Cruise, we provide basic snorkeling gear for average size adults and children. For beginners who are uncertain or uncomfortable I recommend starting with the mask alone. If you are happy go lucky and fairly comfortable with new experiences by all means, put the gear on and go snorkeling. It really is easy.

First try just the Snorkeling Mask

First, find a mask that fits your face. For me personally, the most critical fit is the nose, I have a big one. If the nose doesn't fit comfortably the mask won’t work for me. For some people it is the width of the mask and the width of their face that must match. To check a mask for proper fit first wet the mask, then put it on your face without using the strap. Once the mask is against your face and you find it comfortable, inhale through you nose. As long as you have made sure you don’t have any hair in the mask it should securely suction to your face. If not, you either have a leaking mask or a poor fit. Check for hair and try again. If it does not suck tight to your face try another mask. Once you have found a mask that fits, adjust the strap to a length that will fit your head high on the back of your head, not down around your neck. The straps are all adjustable. Do not try to stretch them excessively as they will just break or be uncomfortable.

At this point I recommend you try some swimming with just the mask, no snorkel, no fins. Get in the water, relax, and then put your head down and look around. When you need a breath, raise you head. This will let you get used to the feel of the mask.

This is a good time to master the most important move in snorkeling. Just relax and lay flat in the water. Don’t struggle or swim, just float. Toothpaste, spit (sorry but it works), naupaka (a kind of Hawaiian beach side leaf) and many other things, including special concoctions you can purchase, can help keep your mask clear. Don't worry, we clean and sterilize the masks and snorkels each trip. My personal technique is to spit in the mask, rub it around, rinse it out, and then keep a little water in the mask that I can whoosh around to keep the lens clear.

Using the Snorkel

Once you have mastered the mask, it is time to add the snorkel. The snorkel is a curved tube that allows you to breathe without lifting your face from the water. It attaches to the left or right side, sometime depending on the snorkels design. You will notice some snorkels are angled so they point more vertical when in you mouth. I recommend you rinse the snorkel and clear it of excess water, then put it in you mouth with the flat part in front of your teeth and inside your lips so you can bite down gently on the little tabs. The snorkel tube should be just forward of your ear.

Breathing through your Snorkel

Take some breaths through the snorkel while you are above or out of the water being careful not to lift your head so high you stick the snorkel top in the water. Get comfortable breathing through your mouth. Exhaling through your nose will just fog your mask. Once you are breathing comfortably and normally, slowly put your head down in the water. Reach up and make sure the snorkel is vertical and out of the water. Relax, breathe slowly and normally. If you dive down or just accidentally fill your snorkel with water you can exhale hard and clear the snorkel of water. If this doesn't work just put your head up, take the snorkel out of you mouth and clear the water. I do this many times a day whenever I am snorkeling.

When Snorkeling, Flippers are not necessary

Aboard the Royal Hawaiian Catamaran you will notice the Captain almost never wears fins to snorkel. Unless I am planning on covering a lot of ground or doing a lot of diving to the bottom, I have found fins are not necessary for me to enjoy my favorite style of snorkeling, laying still and quiet on top of the water and really observing what goes on below me. Unless I wear scuba fins, which fit over comfortable booties, I mostly just get foot cramps from wearing snorkeling fins. If I use them at all I usually just use one, so I can switch it from one foot to the other.

Flippers are good for swimming.
There are not so good for walking.

Fins can be added at any time. They should be snug but not so tight as to cut off circulation. It is best to put them on near or in the water as they are difficult to walk in. When swimming with snorkleing fins you should use long gentle strokes to move yourself along quietly, without a lot of splashing. This will give you the best opportunity to see the many creatures and features under the sea. At this point you should have mastered relaxing and floating and quietly observing the ocean environment below. You are snorkeling in Hawaii, Wow! You are a snorkeler. Congratulations!

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