You might not think which side of the head you wear the snorkel on makes a difference, but this can actually affect your ability to breathe as well as how comfortable the snorkel feels on your head.
If you are right handed, your natural instinct is to wear the snorkel on your right. However, in this case the “right” side is typically the wrong side.
Most snorkels are designed to be worn on your left side. This design decision was made with scuba divers in mind, who often also wear a snorkel in addition to using a regulator. By having the snorkel on the left, it does not interfere with tubes hanging over their shoulder which are often on the right side.
For snorkelers, it should not matter whether a snorkel is worn on the left or right, however due to the possibility of it being used for scuba diving, most snorkels are designed to be worn on the left side.
Essentially, there are snorkels that are worn on the left side only (this is the most popular design, since it works well with scuba diving as well as snorkeling), but there are snorkels that can be worn on the right side as well. The issue arises when someone tries to wear a left-sided snorkel on their right side.
In this article, we will do an in-depth discussion on which side to wear your snorkel on, the consequences of wearing the snorkel on the wrong side, and how to wear the snorkel properly.
Can you wear snorkels on the right side?
The “right” side, in this case, means the literal right side (i.e. not the left side).
The snorkel clip and dive mask allows you to wear a snorkel on either side, however since many snorkels are designed to be worn on the left, if you try to wear a left-sided snorkel on the right side, it may cause the tube connected to the mouthpiece to twist awkwardly just to reach your mouth.
There are some possible downsides to this. First, this may place undue stress on the tube and may cause it to wear down much faster.
Second, depending on how it’s bent, it may become severely constricted and decrease your airflow, making it hard to breathe. This can make the snorkel functionally unusable since you are not able to get enough fresh oxygen.
Third, even if the mouthpiece can reach your mouth, if the tube is forced into that position, then you might feel a tug in your mouth as the mouthpiece tries to bend in the other direction. You will need to flex your lip muscles to hold it in place, but this is tiring and the mouthpiece might not even feel comfortable like this. It’s probably more effort than it’s worth.
Lastly, the tube may not even be able to be twisted into a position such that the mouthpiece can reach your mouth when worn on the wrong side. This will probably make you realize that you’re wearing the snorkel on the wrong side.
That said, there are snorkels that are designed to be worn on either side. However, most snorkels bought from dive shops and online stores will cater to scuba divers who wear the snorkel on the left side.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to wear a left-sided snorkel on your right and force the tube to bend the other direction without damaging it or restricting your maximum airflow at all, but don’t bet on it.
Why are most snorkels worn on the left side?
Even though snorkeling does not require a snorkel to be worn specifically on one side, we have scuba divers to thank for the popularity of left-sided snorkels.
This seems counterintuitive for most people, the majority of which who are right handed, who would think the snorkel should be worn on the right.
However, if you ever take up scuba diving, it will become clear why they prefer left-sided snorkels.
For one, scuba divers have a lot of tubes already. They will have the regulator hose, as well as pressure gauge and various other equipment hanging over their right shoulder.
Having a snorkel also on the crowded right side will just lead to possible entanglement with your air supply and increase difficulty reaching the other equipment.
Furthermore, by having a standard setup that all scuba divers abide by, then when there is an emergency, the rescuer can easily figure out your setup (or vice versa) because it’s similar for all divers. Time is of the essence, so there should not be any time wasted guessing on which tube connects to what.
So as you can see, snorkelers have been influenced by scuba divers because it doesn’t hurt to have the snorkel on the left side, however scuba divers have much to gain.
By focusing on left-sided snorkels, manufacturers can serve both groups. Plus, it’s highly possible that a scuba diver could also snorkel or vice versa, so you are covered for both activities by just using a left-sided snorkel.
That isn’t to say that you can only wear your snorkel on the left, just that it’s rarer to find a snorkel that can be worn on the right.
Snorkel placement: why left is right and right is wrong
Snorkeling is meant to be a calm, relaxing activity. So that you can snorkel for as long as possible, you need to make sure you are comfortable and not wasting much energy.
Thus, if you’re struggling to breathe, your lips are hurting, and you’re constantly fiddling with your snorkel, then it’s going to negatively impact your snorkeling experience, perhaps ruin it outright.
So, one of the possible reasons you might be having problems with your snorkel is that you are wearing a left-sided snorkel on the right. When you do that, you may encounter a whole slew of problems which we detailed in the section above.
Snorkels are designed to be worn on the left for good reason – both snorkelers and scuba divers can benefit from it, whereas a right-sided snorkel cannot also be used for scuba diving.
If you have no intention of ever taking up scuba, then fair enough, you can use a right-sided snorkel for snorkeling exclusively. However, a left-sided snorkel is more versatile and leaves you with more options for other water sports.
Whatever the case, if you’ve never gone snorkeling before and are confused about which side to wear a snorkel, the answer is: left is right, and right is wrong.