The short answer is that no – you do not need to know how to swim to snorkel.
But why is that so or how is that possible? That is a fantastic question to ask when going on water adventures.
If you do not know how to swim, then you can wear a life jacket or snorkel vest while snorkeling. Head to Outdoor Swim to see the best options for each! This might be a bit uncomfortable, but you will still have a great time. Knowing how to swim would be beneficial if you want to swim down from time to time. If you are just wanting to be on the surface staring down, then wearing a life jacket/snorkel vest should be sufficient.
Since ocean water is salty, this will help you float on the surface also.
Since you will be in a prone position and not vertical, you are further making it easier to stay afloat. If you were vertically treading, then knowing how to swim is important. If you are not bothered by being in the ocean, you should not have any problems floating around and staring through your dive mask. Read more about choosing a dive mask here.
If you do not know how to swim, but want to dive down more, then it would require a bit more from you. You would need to kick to push yourself down, hold your breath and clear your snorkel by blowing the water out of it when you resurface.
This can be a challenge, especially for inexperienced snorkelers. You can use flippers, which can help make this process easier.
Snorkel Tips if you Can’t Swim
Practice, Prepare, and Plan Your Movements
A great way to practice or see if this is something you can do is to try floating face down in a pool. If this is something you can do, then you should be able to acclimate to snorkeling easily.
If you do not have time to take swimming lessons ro do not want to prior to going snorkeling, you can utilize a flotation device such as: pool noodle, life jacket, and an inflatable vest.
If you talk to the lifeguard or a guide in the area that you are snorkeling in, they should tell you what would be most beneficial.
You should plan how far out you want to go before you actually get into the water. If you went as far as 20 meters away from a shoreline or boat, would you be able to get back? Knowing how to swim would be beneficial in case there is a current that you have to swim against.
Before your planned day of snorkeling, spend as much time as possible in a pool. You want to try swimming until you are tired and then see if you can make it to the other side of the pool.
Make sure you are also wearing your lifejacket when you practice.
You want to try to recreate what you would be wearing when you snorkel as much as possible just so you know your limits.
While snorkeling is mainly about floating on the surface and gently propelling yourself with flippers as opposed to actively swimming, you still want to make sure that you are not biting off more than you can chew.
It is important to have practice that way should something happen to your pool noodle, or if you are not an avid snorkeler, you can have the confidence to know that you can get yourself back to shore.
Get Your Pool Noodle and Do Some Research Too!
You want to make sure that you have something to keep you afloat in addition to your life jacket, such as a pool noodle. To make the snorkeling experience a pleasant one, you have to be able to stay relaxed and be in control of your breathing.
Do some research on the area that you are going to be snorkeling in, if you are going to be in shallow waters that are close to shore, then you can relax. This information should make you feel at ease.
Look up snorkeling techniques on how to properly clean your mask and your snorkel of water intrusion, and when you go to do your practice in the pool, practice those techniques.
Bottom Line: Enjoy Your Snorkeling Experience With A Few Tips
If you are uncomfortable or panicking, you will not enjoy your snorkeling experience. You want to practice slow and controlled breathing through your mouth.
Bay waters tend to be calmer and shallower, so if possible, try to plan to have your snorkeling experience in an area that has calm and shallow waters. When you are practicing, do not be alarmed if you get in the pool with your snorkel and start hyperventilating. This is normal. The hyperventilating will likely continue until you get used to having your snorkel on. Make sure you stay in the shallow end with your face in the water until you feel like you are used to breathing through the snorkel.
This is where you can practice taking slow deep breaths.
You can learn this while in the ocean, but you would be more comfortable if you practice beforehand. This way, when you do get out into the ocean, you won’t have a hard time acclimating. Being in the pool and practicing will help condition you as well, which is an added bonus.
If you do not feel like you can get comfortable snorkeling in the pool, you do not have to worry.
Remember that the ocean will be more comfortable because of the salinity, which will cause you to be more buoyant. The pool will be a bit more of a challenge, which means you are almost under preparing for the ocean.
If you could still try to spend a little bit of time to get comfortable in the water and familiarize yourself with the breaststroke, floating on your stomach, floating on your back, and holding onto something to practice flutter kicking, then you will be good to go.
Since snorkeling will require you to exert your legs more than any other body part, you want to try to build up your endurance if at all possible. Your arms are essentially going to be how you steer your body and what you use to stabilize.
If you decide that you want to be able to swim before snorkeling, you still have options. You can look for a tour with a glass-bottom boat or a kayak tour.
The main thing you need to focus on (if after practicing in the pool, you feel confident) is whether or not the water you will be snorkeling in is calm.
Even if you do not know how to swim, you would be safe if you are in calm water with a lifejacket. Just make sure you are on a tour or with others who can swim.
If you are planning on being in a body of water with waves that can direct your movement, and you are not a strong swimmer, you can end up being taken to shore or thrown into rocks, which is not safe.
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