Swim Snorkel vs. Regular Snorkel – Which One Should You Use?

Embarking on a snorkeling adventure can be an exciting experience, but choosing the right equipment is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable time. You might be wondering about the differences between a swim snorkel and a regular snorkel, and which one is best suited for your needs. Allow me to give you a brief introduction to these two types of snorkels.

Swim snorkels are designed for use in the pool, primarily as a training tool. They help you to focus on your stroke technique and body position by eliminating the need to turn your head to breathe. Regular snorkels are designed for snorkeling in calm waters. They facilitate easy breathing, allowing you to view the underwater world without surfacing for breath.

In this article, we will go over the main differences between a swim snorkel and a regular snorkel. When deciding which one is right for you, take into consideration the points discussed below, how you plan to use the snorkel, and what your goals are to make an informed decision.

Understanding Swim Snorkels and Regular Snorkels

What is a Swim Snorkel?

A swim snorkel is a training tool used by swimmers to focus on their stroke technique and body position without the distraction of frequently turning their heads to breathe. When using a swim snorkel, you can maintain a constant face-down position in the water, which allows for better body alignment and helps to improve overall swimming efficiency.

These snorkels are usually worn in the pool and feature a center-mount design, attaching to your forehead with a strap around your head. Thanks to this strap, you do not need to attach the snorkel to a snorkel mask and you can continue wearing swim goggles.

Swim snorkels come in different sizes and spout designs, catering to various preferences and needs, such as larger spouts for more oxygen flow or ultralight snorkels for experienced sprinters focusing on hypoxic training.

What is a Regular Snorkel?

On the other hand, a regular snorkel is designed for use in calm, warm waters abundant with sea life. These snorkels are meant for relaxed exploration and are used by snorkelers or divers to enjoy underwater sights without needing to surface frequently to breathe.

Regular snorkels typically attach to a mask on the side and require you to breathe in through your mouth and out through the snorkel. When snorkeling recreationally, little energy is needed compared to swim snorkeling, as the focus is on leisure and enjoyment rather than fitness and improving swimming techniques.

There are also a variety of snorkel designs, some of which are shared with swim snorkels, such as the traditional J-snorkel, snorkels with a splash guard, snorkels with a purge valve, and even full face snorkel masks.

Key Features of Swim Snorkels

Swim snorkels are specifically designed for swimmers to improve their stroke, body alignment, and breathing technique. In this section, we’ll discuss some key features of swim snorkels and how they can benefit your swimming training.

Swim snorkels have a centrally-mounted snorkel tube positioned on the forehead. This design allows you to maintain a proper head position while swimming, ensuring that your neck and spine remain aligned. The average swim snorkel’s length is perfect for preventing water intake from waves, yet it doesn’t obstruct your view when wearing goggles.

One notable feature of swim snorkels is their silicone mouthpiece. The high-quality silicone ensures that the mouthpiece is comfortable during extended training sessions, reducing the risk of jaw fatigue. Some swim snorkels even have a one-way purge valve to quickly expel any water that may enter the snorkel tube.

With a swim snorkel, you can focus on your stroke technique without the interruption of turning your head for breaths. This is especially helpful for refining different strokes, such as freestyle or butterfly. The snorkel keeps your head still while you swim, allowing you to concentrate on your arm and leg movements, like your kick and flip turns.

Swim snorkels can also be combined with other swimming equipment, such as fins, for a well-rounded training session. Fins help you develop a stronger kick, while the swim snorkel assists you in maintaining a steady head position and breathing pattern.

Key Features of Regular Snorkels

When it comes to choosing the right snorkel for your swimming adventures, understanding the key features of regular snorkels can help you make an informed decision.

Regular snorkels are designed to enhance your comfort and stability while swimming, whether in a pool, or in the ocean. They come with various features to ensure a smooth and enjoyable snorkeling experience.

One major feature of regular snorkels is their lightweight design. This makes it comfortable for you to swim with increased balance and body position, without feeling weighed down by a bulky snorkel. Additionally, the streamlined shape allows for a better swim and sightseeing experience.

Mouthpieces on traditional snorkels are made of soft, flexible material, ensuring your comfort throughout your swim. Look for a mouthpiece that fits comfortably in your mouth and allows you to breathe easily and efficiently.

When it comes to pool use, regular snorkels may not be as specifically designed as swim snorkels for training purposes. However, they can still be used, as they allow swimmers to practice their body alignment by removing the need to constantly turn their head for air. This can improve your stroke technique and overall swimming efficiency.

The splash guard on regular snorkels is an essential feature for preventing water from entering the snorkel tube. This helps you maintain a clear airway, so you can focus on enjoying the underwater views and sea life instead of worrying about clearing out water from your snorkel.

Snorkels as a Training Tool

Swim snorkels have become a popular training tool among swimmers and triathletes. They not only improve your swimming technique but also help to build strength, speed, and cardiovascular strength. Let’s talk about how swim snorkels differ from regular snorkels and why they are so effective for training.

First, using a swim snorkel takes the challenge of turning your head to breathe out of the equation, allowing you to focus more on your technique. By keeping your head in a stable, streamlined position, you can concentrate on balancing your strokes, building power, and maintaining proper body alignment. This will lead to better swimming efficiency, which is crucial for competitive swimmers and triathletes.

Another advantage of a swim snorkel is its ability to help improve your lung capacity and aerobic capacity. Since it restricts your breathing slightly, it simulates the sensation of hypoxic training, where you train with less oxygen. This increased difficulty in breathing will strengthen your diaphragm and enhance your overall breathing technique. When it’s time to race, your increased lung capacity will help you swim faster and with more endurance.

Swim snorkels are also durable and easily adjustable for comfort. They are designed to stay in place throughout rigorous training sessions, and some even feature special straps for added security. As you progress, you can experiment with different size spouts to further challenge your lungs and cardiovascular fitness.

Including swim snorkels in your training regimen enables you to perform a variety of drills targeting specific aspects of your technique. The steady airflow provided by the snorkel allows you to focus on body rotation, kick, and pull without worrying about breathing. Incorporating these drills will lead to improved efficiency and speed in your swimming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a regular snorkel for swimming, and can you use a swim snorkel for snorkeling?

Yes, you can use a regular snorkel for swimming, especially for leisurely swims or when exploring shallow waters. However, it’s not designed for rigorous swim training as it is often positioned on the side of the head, which can affect the swimmer’s alignment.

On the other hand, swim snorkels are designed specifically for swimmers to improve technique, body position, and breathing while swimming. They are mounted in front of the face and allow swimmers to focus on their stroke without turning their head to breathe.

While it is possible to use a swim snorkel for recreational snorkeling, it might not be as comfortable or efficient as a regular snorkel, especially if you’re diving below the surface frequently. Swim snorkels usually don’t have a purge valve, making it more challenging to clear water if it enters the tube.

How does the position of the snorkel affect swimming technique?

The position of the snorkel plays a crucial role in swimming technique. Regular snorkels, attached to the side, can create drag and potentially alter the swimmer’s body alignment, leading to an inefficient swim stroke. Turning the head to breathe while using a regular snorkel can also throw off the swimmer’s rhythm.

In contrast, swim snorkels are center-mounted, which means they sit in front of the swimmer’s face. This design allows swimmers to maintain a streamlined position in the water. Swimmers can focus entirely on their stroke mechanics without worrying about breathing patterns.

By removing the need to turn the head to breathe, swimmers can achieve a more symmetrical and balanced stroke, which is especially beneficial for butterfly and freestyle techniques.

Is it harder to breathe through a swim snorkel compared to a regular snorkel?

Breathing through a swim snorkel can initially feel different than a regular snorkel because of its design and intended use. The tube’s diameter might be slightly narrower in some swim snorkels, and there’s usually no purge valve, which exists in many regular snorkels to easily expel water.

However, the primary objective of a swim snorkel is to aid swimmers in refining their technique. With consistent use, swimmers often become accustomed to the breathing pattern required with a swim snorkel. For someone transitioning from a regular snorkel to a swim snorkel, there might be a short adjustment period.

How do I keep water out of a swim snorkel while training?

To minimize water entry in a swim snorkel:

  1. Ensure a Proper Fit: Ensure that the mouthpiece fits comfortably and securely in your mouth, creating a tight seal.
  2. Maintain Good Technique: Keeping a streamlined body position will reduce splashing and water disturbance around the snorkel.
  3. Use a Snorkel Cap: Some swim snorkels come with a cap or splash guard on the top to prevent water from entering, especially during turns or when there’s choppy water.
  4. Exhale Through the Snorkel: If some water enters, a strong, consistent exhale can help push it out. Since most swim snorkels don’t have a purge valve, this technique becomes essential.
  5. Practice Regular Drills: Incorporate snorkel drills, like flip turns with the snorkel, to get used to clearing any water that might enter during more complex swim movements.

How do I choose the right size and fit for a swim snorkel?

Choosing the right size and fit for a swim snorkel ensures comfort, efficiency, and prevents water leakage:

  1. Check the Mouthpiece: It should fit comfortably in your mouth without causing jaw fatigue. Some snorkels offer replaceable mouthpieces of different sizes.
  2. Adjustable Head Strap: Look for snorkels with adjustable straps to ensure a secure fit on your head. The strap should hold the snorkel in place without being too tight.
  3. Tube Length: The snorkel’s tube should be an appropriate length. Too long, and it can create unnecessary drag; too short, and it might not adequately rise above the water’s surface.
  4. Consider Your Activity: If you’re a competitive swimmer, you might prefer a snorkel with a slimmer design to minimize drag. Recreational swimmers might be fine with standard models.
  5. Read Reviews and Recommendations: Online reviews, coach recommendations, or feedback from fellow swimmers can provide insights into the best fit and models for your needs.
  6. Try Before You Buy: If possible, test different snorkels to find the most comfortable and efficient fit for your face and swimming style.

Can swim snorkels be used for other water activities?

Yes, swim snorkels can technically be used for other water activities such as water aerobics, synchronized swimming, or water polo drills. However, they are primarily designed for swim training and technique refinement. If you’re considering using them for other activities:

  1. Evaluate the Need: Understand the requirements of the activity. For example, while a swim snorkel might work for some water aerobics exercises, it might not be suitable for activities requiring frequent diving or rapid head movement.
  2. Safety First: In dynamic water activities, there’s an increased risk of the snorkel getting caught or causing interference, which could be hazardous.

How do I clean and maintain my swim snorkel?

Cleaning and maintaining your swim snorkel is crucial for hygiene and prolonging its life. The process is largely similar to maintaining a regular snorkel:

  1. Rinse After Use: Always rinse your snorkel with fresh water after each use to remove chlorine, salt, or any debris.
  2. Deep Clean: Periodically, soak the snorkel in a mild dish soap solution to remove any build-up. Ensure to rinse thoroughly afterward.
  3. Inspect for Wear: Regularly check the snorkel for any signs of wear, such as cracks, loose parts, or deteriorating material.
  4. Dry Properly: Allow the snorkel to air dry completely before storing it. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent material degradation.
  5. Avoid Chemicals: Refrain from using harsh chemicals or solvents on your snorkel as they can damage the material.

The main difference in maintenance might be due to additional features in regular snorkels, such as purge valves, which would require occasional checks for functionality.

Are there any safety precautions I should be aware of when using a swim snorkel?

Yes, there are several safety precautions to consider:

  1. Adjustment: Before swimming, adjust the snorkel to ensure it fits securely and comfortably.
  2. Awareness: Always be aware of your surroundings. The snorkel can protrude and might get caught on lane ropes, other swimmers, or equipment.
  3. Breathing: If water enters the snorkel, remain calm. Stop swimming, and either exhale strongly to push out the water or lift your head and remove the snorkel to drain it.
  4. Supervision: Especially for new users, it’s wise to use the snorkel in supervised settings like a swimming pool with lifeguards or coaches.
  5. Training: Before integrating it into rigorous training sessions, spend time familiarizing yourself with breathing through the snorkel.

Why don’t swim snorkels have a purge valve, like some regular snorkels?

Swim snorkels are designed for training in a controlled environment, primarily swimming pools. They prioritize streamlined design to reduce drag and assist in maintaining proper body alignment. Purge valves add bulk and can affect the snorkel’s hydrodynamics.

Additionally, swimmers are trained to control their breath and exhale forcefully to clear water if needed. Thus, the added complexity and potential drag of a purge valve are often deemed unnecessary for the primary purposes of a swim snorkel.

Can I attach a mask to a swim snorkel, or is it designed to be used with goggles only?

Swim snorkels are typically designed to be used with swimming goggles. The strap and fit are optimized for the streamlined and snug fit that goggles provide. While it might be technically possible to use a mask with a swim snorkel, there are a few considerations:

  1. Fit & Stability: Masks cover a larger area of the face and might interfere with the snorkel’s positioning or stability.
  2. Purpose: Swim snorkels prioritize training and technique. Masks are broader and might create more drag, counteracting some of the benefits of using a swim snorkel.
  3. Comfort: The combined pressure of a mask and a snorkel might be uncomfortable for extended periods.

If you want to use a snorkel while wearing a mask, a regular snorkel designed for snorkeling or diving would likely be a better choice.