• Rin Iimi and Joyce Wu

Pro Snorkel or No Snorkel?

A snorkel is a piece of swimming equipment that allows you to breathe continuously while at the surface of the water. It is often used during swim practice and many other recreational activities, such as snorkeling and fin swimming.

Rin: Personally, I think the snorkel is the most aggravating piece of equipment in my mesh bag. Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

  1. Not enough time to put the snorkel on: In a fast-paced sport like swimming, while doing hard sets, the interval for each swim is very fast. Often times I only have 5 or 10 seconds before having to push off again. If I have to put on or take off my snorkel during that time, I end up missing the interval and get yelled at by my coach (never a good thing). You would think he would give you even an extra 30 seconds to put your equipment on- WRONG! My coach just says, “Put it on faster!”

  2. Does not actually let you breath: Although the snorkel is supposed to allow you to breath while keeping your head down, it does not actually work very effectively. When you pass people in your lane or in the lane next to you, water can very easily be splashed into the top of your snorkel and cause you to choke on water. Then you have to stop to fix or readjust your snorkel (which always ends in your coach yelling, “HEAD DOWN!”). Also, the tube itself is very small, so the already horrible air conditions in an indoor pool makes breathing even more difficult than it already is.

  3. You can’t flip turn or open turn: It is very difficult to do any sort of turn with a snorkel on your head. Even Joyce said to me one day that open turning with a snorkel is hard! Technically, after you push off under water, you’re supposed to blow out the water in your snorkel and then breathe normally. However, when I try to do it, I blow out with the little air I still have in my lungs after brutal underwaters, and I suck in- thinking there’s going to be air somewhere in there. There is not.

  4. You’re basically putting a moldy piece of plastic in your mouth: That is enough said. Disgusting.

  5. It gives you headaches: Because you have to tighten the straps so much before you can actually turn without the snorkel falling off, your head is basically being compressed for long periods of time. For me, if I try to use my snorkel consistently for long periods of time, I get really bad headaches. No one likes that… right?

  6. You can’t see where things are: The snorkel puts your head in a permanent downward position so that you can’t lift or twist your head to tell where the wall or other things are. I like to be able to see where the wall and lane ropes are to make sure I don’t run into inanimate objects! Also, it's always good to be able to see where other swimmers are, so you can see how far behind you are.

What I’m saying is that the snorkel is neither comfortable nor beneficial in any way, and no swimmer should have to endure the pain of using one.

Joyce:

I love my snorkel, and it is by far my favorite piece of equipment. Whether we’re training hard during the mid-season months or tapering for our championship meets, you’re bound to find me strapping on my clear, yellow snorkel.

Below are some reasons why snorkels are the best and most exciting piece of equipment all swimmers should have in their mesh bags:

  1. Aids in technique:

Snorkels allow you to swim in what my coach likes to call “a perfect streamline.” This means that your body is in its most hydrodynamic position, which decreases areas of drag and makes you faster!

  1. Practice good habits:

You don’t need to constantly lift your head up or turn it around while you breathe. This becomes very useful as it reduces the risk of Swimmer’s Neck (yes, it’s a thing!!). Unfortunately, avoiding the urge to breathe would likely result in a suffocating swimmer, but a snorkel could spare you from repetitive motions while providing you with life-giving air.

  1. You don’t need to make eye contact with your coach

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen (or been the victim of) an angry coach. During practice when sets are getting harder, and the lactic acid is building up, breathing to the side (especially if you happen to swim near the endlane) would bring you nearly face-to-face with your coach, quite a frightening sight. Happy belated Halloween!!!!

  1. More breaks!

Who doesn’t enjoy the pleasure of rest and recuperation? This is why many swim coaches give you time to put on your gear, which fortunately means more rest! (Much love for Rin ;))

Also, You can breathe as much as you want without physical restrictions (your coach would yell at you if you breathe every stroke in free, but if you use a snorkel, he/she wouldn’t know!)

  1. Keeps you engaged:

A snorkel is a godsend when it comes to technique work. When I’m tweaking my stroke, my main focus is on my technique and not when I need to breathe. With a snorkel, I can breathe as I normally do, and improve my stroke.

Furthermore, I find that a snorkel keeps my focus on swimming. When I’m bored, I would let water come in my snorkel by releasing the grip, and then I’d blow the water out. You can also imagine that you’re a dolphin by breathing in and blowing out through your very own “blowhole.” This becomes very useful when you’re entertaining yourself during a long set or if you enjoy deep breathing.

  1. Fun to use!

Singing with a snorkel on not only makes it easier to catch some air for the upcoming lyrics but also allows people around you to enjoy your mellifluous tunes.

  1. Versatility:

A snorkel is versatile! As mentioned in the introduction, fin swimming is a sport when an athlete wears a pair of monofins and snorkel or scuba gear and dolphin kicks a certain distance, depending on the event. Snorkels help you with activites far beyond a tough swim practice!

  1. Reduces the risk of sore jaws and neck:

Very recently in practice, I found myself staring blankly at the whiteboard, which said 3X1650s on 21 minutes (=198 laps, or 3 miles). While swimming, my neck became stiff and sore from turning my head a bajillion times. Towards the last mile, my jaw was really sore from breathing so much, a reaction that certainly won’t happen when I swim with my snorkel since my lips can rest on the high-grade silicone of my snorkel. (I guess my coach likes that since we can’t complain about her torturous sets when our mouths are sore, but hey, other than Rin, most people love their snorkel.)

  1. Customization:

You can customize your snorkel to express your personality with stickers, tape, drawings and motivational quotes to keep you going and excited!

  1. Prevents odd faces:

You wouldn’t want to look like a chipmunk with food in its mouth, right??

Snorkels are the most useful and exciting piece of equipment swimmers have in their mesh bag. (Some people call it “fin bag,” but I like “mesh bag” because you have to be inclusive about your snorkel, right?) It’s no surprise snorkels are my favorite piece of equipment; they are an excellent training aid and allow you to keep your head down while doing what you love.

Rin and her snorkel:

-Joyce