Snorkel: Yes or No?
Unequivocally, YES. For your own safety, yes. To meet the requirements of most SCUBA training agencies, yes. For your convenience in rough waters at the surface, yes. To more comfortably surface swim to your descent point without wasting air, yes. That said, most divers will agree that when not in use, snorkels are uncomfortable, distracting, and in the way. So, one may ask: Is the benefit worth the cost? My answer, yes, but…
All divers must learn how to properly use their snorkels. It’s a basic skill that will aid in a diver’s safety in rough seas, allow a diver to conserve air on a surface swim, and to observe what’s going on under water or assist in donning or doffing gear without utilizing the air in your tank. For all of these reasons and more, student divers carry their snorkels at all times. Instructors use them for the same reasons and to set an example for their students.
Most SCUBA training agencies require a diver to have a snorkel but don’t specifically state that the snorkel must remain attached to the diver’s mask at all times. Over the years, divers have found ingenious ways to carry their snorkels without wearing them. This allows for better streamlining, greater comfort, less equipment malfunctions, and for many, more hair still attached to their scalp at the end of the dive. Some examples of these carrying methods include: Stuffing it into a BCD pocket, sticking it into the straps of a knife sheath on your leg, securing it to a tank with an elastic band, wearing an elastic band on the forearm to hold the snorkel, and many others. Manufacturers have even developed specialized foldable and roll-able snorkels for this purpose. Both of these types can easily be placed in a pocket or attached to the diver with a specialized case. The advantage of any of these makeshift or manufactured methods is that the diver will have a snorkel when needed or wanted, but not be inconvenienced during the dive. The disadvantage is that these snorkels will not be immediately available if the diver is exhausted and out of air at the surface in less than ideal conditions.
All said, yes, I still believe snorkels are an important part of a diver’s SCUBA kit. However, I believe each diver must decide what works best for them (once certified). I use a standard snorkel properly attached to my mask when teaching, but I choose to use a roll-able travel snorkel attached to a D-ring on my BCD for recreational diving. I’ve had occasion to use it only once in the last one hundred or so dives, but I was glad I had it.
For those that argue against carrying a snorkel at all, I ask, “Do you carry a safety sausage (SSMB)? How often have you had to use that?” Most divers will tell you they have never or have rarely used it but were very happy to have had it.
So… if you ask me, I’ll tell you as an instructor and as a diver: Yes, you should always dive with a snorkel.
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