GORE-Tex Professional

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Snorkels

As far back as 3000 B.C.E, (5000 years) people were going after natural sponges off the coast of Crete and breathing through the world’s first snorkel tube that they made from hollow reeds. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, recalled instances of divers breathing through a device similar to the trunk of an elephant.

In later years, the Assyrians developed an alternative snorkel device. They filled animal skins with air to breathe from when they were under water. Aristotle wrote about divers who used a tube that led from the surface to the divers below.  The consummate Renaissance Man, Leonardo Da Vinci had many designs that he called diving or underwater apparatuses. He designed a self-contained dive suit and even sketched diving gloves with webbed fingers. Technically, they could be considered the fist fins.

The development of the diving bell which contained air bubbles for divers to inhale while underwater was overseen by Alexander the Great.

• 900 B.C.E- Assyrian divers used animal skins filled with air in order to lengthen the time they could spend below the surface of the water.

• 333 B.C.E Alexander the Great encourages divers to develop and use the first diving bell — a large bell-shaped object that trapped air in the top of the bell (and a person) to submerge and maintain the ability to breathe.

• 1538- Greeks in Spain (Toledo) submerge themselves in large diving bell-like contraption to the bottom of the Tagus River only to emerge later with dry clothes and a still burning candle.

The same concept allows modern-day snorkelers to breathe air from the surface with their face submerged. Modern rubber and plastics make equipment durable and comfortable while offering maximum safety. With the advances in rubber and plastic composite materials, snorkels have significantly improved their function and use. The most popular snorkels is the J-shaped plastic tubes connected by a flexible strap or clip assembly to the diver’s mask.

Snorkels for diving

The snorkel makes it possible to breathe safely on the surface without using the air in your tanks. When choosing a snorkel, think first what you want to use it for and how you will use it the most. The diameter is important because it minimizes your effort while using it. Most snorkels are brightly colored so dive boats can easily spot them and more importantly you.

Free-diving Snorkels

Free-diving snorkels are often the simplest models. They are made without a complex purging system and without valves to limit breathing noise, those snorkels are also shorter to easily expel water from the tube and are easily tuck away. They usually have a slightly larger diameter to properly ventilate between two dive immersions. They are one of the best for Combat swimmer to use, as they are small and can be packed away easily and mostly come in dark colors.

Types of Snorkels

There are four common types of snorkels and each has their advantages and disadvantages.


The classic snorkel, also called a J-style snorkel, is a plastic tube with a mouthpiece attached. This snorkel is usually slightly bent, but it can also be made to fit a more specific shape. The SCUBAPRO Apnea snorkel can be rolled up and easily stored in a pocket or attached to the sides or bottom of a Rebreather. This is the one best suited for combat swimmer operations.

Flexible Snorkel

The flexible snorkel has a purge valve. This snorkel has a flexible portion and a rigid portion, as well as a one-way valve located at the bottom that makes it easier to expel any water that may get into the snorkel. The added flexibility allows divers to fit the snorkel better around their masks and faces. The purge valve at the bottom of the mouthpiece helps ensure uninterrupted breathing as it flushes water out every time you exhale.


The semi-dry snorkel is a mix of a classic and dry snorkel. The top features a splashguard, and sometimes even a flexible tube and a purge valve. The splashguard at the top helps to prevent splashes or sprays of water from easily entering the tube. It doesn’t prevent all the water from entering, especially if you fully submerge yourself underwater or if water covers the top like in a high wave.


The dry snorkel has a valve at the top of the snorkel. The valve blocks water and air when the snorkel is submerged—and a purge valve at the bottom. They are great for snorkeling on the surface and occasionally dive without having to worry about constantly clearing water out of the tube. When used for diving, the advantage is that divers don’t have to clear them of water when they reach the surface.

As with semi-dry snorkels, the one-way purge valve at the bottom allows the user to easily flush water out with a few quick exhalations. While the dry snorkel is more convenient and efficient to use, it can also has its drawbacks. The valve at the top of the snorkel can sometimes become blocked. The dry snorkel may also be more buoyant underwater.


3 Responses to “SCUBAPRO Sunday – Snorkels”

  1. Toadman says:

    Who makes the best semi dry/ dry snorkels right now for the money? There is such a wide spectrum of costs.

    • PPGMD says:

      IMO for semi-drys they are all a wash, comfort should be your number one consideration. I personally use the SP Escape, but mostly because I wanted the top half of my snorkel to be bright yellow, and it was comfortable enough for my surface swims.

      Dry snorkels don’t have much purpose in diving, as the author mentions they tug on your mask strap as you are diving.

    • Airborne_fister says:

      I use an aqua lung dry when ever me and the family go snorkeling. But when diving I don’t use a snorkel. I am a paraplegic and I need as much room to push my arms around my head without hitting any of my gear. Also when I get to the limits of my tank I use the BCD to put me up in the surface and pretty much straight up. Plus I inflate a dive marker so you can see my from a great distance away.