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Going Underwater With A Snorkel [ How Long is Safe ]

Snorkeling is one of the most accessible ways to explore sea life. The activity requires no technical training and can be enjoyed by anyone old enough to swim. Snorkeling is also inexpensive and requires little athleticism. Instead, you float and watch life pass you by. So how long can you go underwater with a snorkel?

Snorkeling underwater has no time limit so long as your snorkel has access to air. However, how long you can be fully submerged, diving deeper than your snorkel is limited by how long you can hold your breath. That is unless you snorkel with specialized equipment.

Most people think of snorkeling as an activity that requires a basic mask and a plastic tube that sticks up above the water. While this is true, technology has broadened the options making it easier to navigate choppy water and even the depths below.

However, some options are safer than others, so you will need to research and assess your personal risk level.

Your Equipment Determines How Long You Can Snorkel

Snorkeling is generally an inexpensive activity. While on vacation, some places will rent you equipment, but you can easily buy your own mask and snorkel for well under 30 bucks.

This will allow almost anyone to stick their face in the water and look around. But your time underwater will be limited, simply due to getting cold and becoming frustrated at the water running down your tube.

You can extend your time in the water by selecting better snorkels and wearing clothing that will keep you warmer, such as a rash guard or wetsuit. Fins will also add safety and add enjoyment to the activity.

Types of Snorkels

  1. Traditional J-Snorkel is primarily found in the kids’ section these days. This is a mask and tube that goes in your mouth. In this snorkel, any splashing, small wave, or dipping your head slightly too deep will send water straight down your tube. Depending on the brand and quality, the mask might easily fog up.
  2. Semi-Dry Snorkels are like the above but with a splash guard. It helps prevent water from a splash from entering the tube. However, it won’t protect against bigger waves or if you submerge deeper than the tube. Semi-dry snorkels sometimes come with a purge valve, making it easier to get rid of water that’s made its way into the tube.
  3. Dry Snorkels, such as the Cressi, are made to keep water out, creating an easier and more comfortable experience. These are also popular as a full facemask system which often comes with a camera mount. However, there is a debate over the safety of these systems, so do your research.

Scorkl: A snorkel that isn’t.

Scorkl has changed the limits of snorkeling, allowing users to be fully underwater for up to ten minutes. Scorkl straddles the world of snorkeling and diving. The lightweight tank can be pumped by hand and is reusable. It comes complete with a pressure gauge.

Using a Scorkl, or other compressed air kits, comes with risks, especially if the directions and warnings are ignored. Compressed air kits are not an option for people younger than ten.

Supervision is required for users under fifteen. In addition, many diving associations are against their use. As with anything, do your research.

From Rash Guards to Wetsuits

One of the biggest reasons people cut their time in the water short is due to getting cold. Snorkelers tend to catch chill faster than their surfer and boogie board mates due to the laidback nature of the activity.

Floating creates little body heat this is why wearing more than trunks, or a two-piece bikini is wise while snorkeling.

Rash guards are your lightest weight layer and come in short sleeves and long. They add very little warmth to your swim, but they do add extra sun protection.

That said, there are items like the Scubapro Women’s 1.5mm Everflex that will provide some protection from the chill.

Spring Suits are a wetsuit that is very much like a swimsuit. Like the Scubapro, the neoprene is thin, 1-2mm.

They are great for temperatures of around 65 to 73 °F, or for people who easily catch a chill when wet. Unfortunately, this option is mainly geared towards women.

Shorty is a wetsuit that doesn’t cover the entire body. Generally, shorties have neoprene that is 3mm or less. People often pair these with a rash guard for comfort.

They are an excellent option for snorkelers exploring cooler water or who are going to be wet for an extended period.

Full Wetsuits are more commonly associated with surfing and diving. However, the benefit of a full wetsuit goes beyond keeping you warm. The neoprene protects against some jellyfish stings and abrasions from rocks or other sharp objects.

The suits also add some buoyancy. Those with unstable joints may also find that a full suit offers some support to their knees, shoulders, and elbows.

Full wetsuits come in a wide range of thicknesses. This chart can help you determine your needs. Keep in mind, that the thicker the suit, the harder you might find it to move.

A compromise is getting a suit with thicker neoprene in the body and thinner neoprene for the arms and legs.

Fins for Snorkeling

Technically, fins are not necessary to snorkel. It isn’t about being lazy; a strong current can sweep you far from the shore or your boat, creating a dangerous situation.

Thus, fins make snorkeling safer. Fins save energy, giving you more time to either get yourself to safety or be rescued.

Fins come in a variety of lengths and fits. Generally, snorkelers wear short fins, under 25 inches. Short fins are easier to kick in and take up less room in a suitcase.

They are also a more neighborly choice when snorkeling around others. Nobody wants a fin in their face.

Longfins are more common in scuba diving, where longer distances are covered. However, they also require more energy to use and eat up space both in the suitcase and the water.

That said, scuba shops are often the best place to get advice on fit. Fins are useless if they come off your feet on the first kick. You can read more about how fins should fit here.

Three options to consider are:


Snorkeling is a relatively inexpensive activity that’s fun for all ages. However, investing a bit of money will extend how long you can stay underwater.

If you are looking for snorkeling gear we have a huge list of lists to help you find just the right snorkeling gear to get you up and moving, check it out here!