Are you sure you’re using the right techniques while snorkeling? Do you even know how to snorkel? For some, it may seem that as long as they can swim and float in the water with a snorkel, then that’s already snorkeling. Well, that is somehow true, but there is a right way to do this and most people are not aware of it.
This might be because during their snorkeling trips, most tour guides don’t really care how their clients do it. As long as they are safe and are enjoying what they see underwater, that’s good enough already.
However, snorkeling can be so much more, and learning how to properly do it can further improve your swimming, kicking techniques and snorkeling skills, and even your scuba diving skills in case you plan to learn it as well.
What is Snorkeling?
Snorkeling is a simple water activity that lets you see underwater without having to dive too deep. Unlike scuba diving where you swim with your whole body submerged underwater, snorkeling is swimming on the surface and only the nose and/or head are underwater. Breathing is made possible by the snorkel itself.
What makes it different from regular swimming is you use equipment or gear like a snorkel, diving mask, and fins. The snorkel and mask let you breathe and see clearly underwater and the fins help you swim better. Air consumption is not a major concern because you can easily breathe through the valve on your snorkel.
No training is needed when snorkeling. Even if you cannot swim you can still enjoy this water activity with the use of a life jacket to help snorkelers float.
Snorkeling is a rewarding activity that lets you see and enjoy the beauty that the underwater world has to offer. You can even capture these amazing marine life underwater with a waterproof camera. Aside from it’s a fun activity, it also has a lot of health benefits just like other water-based exercises.
Why You Need Fins When Snorkeling
Although you can still snorkel without fins or flippers, wearing one during your snorkeling session can make a big difference. When vacationing, not all tour guides provide fins for their clients as they can do snorkeling without them. However, it can make your snorkeling experience more comfortable and fun with fins, and here some of the reasons why.
- Fins allow you to swim more efficiently without exerting much effort
- They provide better control when navigating around wildlife and corals
- They help you overcome waves and strong currents
- They allow you to perform frog kicks which is the right kicking technique when snorkeling
- No need to use your arms while snorkeling, they would allow you to use less body movement
- Fewer arm movements
- They can provide more buoyancy compared to not wearing one
- Fins can save your life
How to Kick When Snorkeling: Kicking Techniques
Now that you know how important it is to wear flippers, here are some of the most common finning techniques you can use when snorkeling and even when scuba diving.
Most snorkelers and beginners usually use flutter kicks as the default finning technique. You move your legs in an alternating motion of up and down. Among other finning techniques, flutter kick is the easiest to learn. Those who are new flutter kicking normally do a pedaling motion which makes it ineffective for propulsion.
Most divers and snorkelers use this technique to sustain speed and acceleration. It is also useful when swimming against the current. This is also the kind of kick used in freestyle swimming.
Aside from snorkelers, wreck divers and cave divers commonly use this finning technique. As the name suggests, you swim like a frog or it is the same leg movement when doing the breaststroke swimming style.
This cave diver kick pushes the water backward and less upward unlike with dolphin kick or flutter kick that use the alternating up and down movement. For frog kick to be efficient, it should have a period of low drag glide. If this is not done, your energy will all be wasted.
A scissor kick also called a split kick is somehow the same as a sidekick. The difference is that the diver’s face is trimmed downward. This technique has the characteristics of both flutter kicks and frog kicks. In this technique, one leg kicks the upper part while the other the lower part.
Unlike flutter kicks that have alternating leg movement, it is not advisable to alternate after every stroke. However, legs can be interchanged after several strokes.
This technique can be done with a monofin or paired fins. This is somehow similar to flutter kicks but because the legs also move up and down, the only difference is both legs move together and do not alternate.
For this technique to be efficient, it uses back and abdominal muscles and by extending the arms forward and the head tucked down which are not commonly used in other kicks.
Backward kick is also known as back finning, reverse frog kick, reverse kick, reverse fin, and back kick. This technique is helpful when you need to move away from a scuba diver or when you get too close to reefs, and when you need to maintain distance. This back kick is somehow a difficult compared to other finning techniques. Many divers find it hard to master this technique.
Step-by-step Guide on How To Kick When Snorkeling
Now that you are familiar with the different finning techniques or kicks, it’s now time to learn how to properly kick the next time you snorkel. As mentioned earlier, it does not take a lot of skills to snorkel, but doing it right can make this activity more enjoyable and less tiring.
The common mistake that most snorkelers do is they perform flutter kicks rather than frog kicks. Yes, frog kick is the right technique to use in this activity. You’ve probably experienced snorkeling with lots of bubbles and noisy splashes around you. Plus silt blurring your sight. Not the best experience, right?
One reason for this is because a lot of snorkelers perform flutter kick instead of frog kick. Well, we can’t really blame most snorkelers as a lot of them are not experts and we’re not taught how to do it right. It may seem unusual but this technique should be taught not only to scuba divers but also to snorkelers as it has a lot of benefits. It’s interesting to know that the frog kick is also considered as one of the choice cave diver kicks or techniques.
Advantages of using frog kick in snorkeling:
- Frog kicks use creates less turbulence and less silt fogging your sight
- It does not require a lot of effort, thus saving you a lot of energy
- Your fin kicks will be away from the sand and corals
- It is a useful skill when you decide to learn how to scuba dive
- Low air consumption
- Starting position for helicopter turns and back finning
- High body and buoyancy control
Anyway, the point here is learning how to properly kick when snorkeling has all the benefits. So, here’s how to do it right.
Your starting position or neutral position in preparation for your frog kick is like when doing the whip kick. Straighten your legs behind you and keep your feet pointed.
Preparing to Kick
To start with the frog kick, move your knees forward without bringing your heels too close to your butt. Compared to whip kick, this movement only requires light bending on your knees and hips.
Same with whip kick, your ankles should be flexed and your feet should turn to point your toes outward. After that open up your knees and straighten your legs to push backward. To make sure that you have the right ankle position, check if the broad side of your fin blades is faced behind you when pushing your feet backward.
As you’re done with the kick, put your ankles together and like the first step, your toes should be pointed. The soles of your feet should be facing each other, you can do this by turning your ankle a bit.
As you perform this, the movement of your ankles, feet, and legs will make your fin’s blades clap the water at your back which will make you go back in your neutral or starting position.
Glide then Repeat the Process
Gliding is swimming in the water either underwater or at the surface without using your legs and arms. You can enjoy the benefits of gliding if you keep your body moving smoothly and avoid doing another kick too early.
As you glide, you just repeat the process throughout your snorkeling journey. Do not overwork or perform too many kicks, as it will defeat the purpose of the frog kick. Just relax and enjoy the underwater world.
Lastly, as with any other skills you want to develop and master, practice is the key. Keep doing it until you’ve mastered it and the movements come naturally without even thinking.
How To Flutter Kick
So you might be wondering why this is included when it was mentioned earlier that this is the wrong technique. Technically, it’s not wrong but frog kick is better than flutter kick when snorkeling. But some people may find frog kick a bit challenging, they may stick with the flutter kick. So, here’s how to do this right.
As we always say, snorkeling should be a relaxing activity. So when doing flutter kicks be sure your strokes are slower compared to when you normally swim without fins. You don’t want to overwork your leg muscles. Make sure that your legs are bent from the hip and not at the knees and your toes pointed. Never draw your knees too far down as you may accidentally kick the sand or corals below.
Like with frog kick, practice makes perfect. Keep in mind that flutter kick is more on control but less on speed and power. If you normally swim with your knees bent too much, remove that habit and make sure that your fin kicks just beneath the surface. This will avoid too much splashing.
Tips on How To Master Your Kick
Practice in a pool
You do not need to practice frog kicks at the beach or in the open water right away, you can start by practicing in a swimming pool first. It is best to try it in shallow waters first. To give you the feeling of snorkeling, wear your snorkel, mask, and fins during your practice. Make sure you have the right kind of fins.
How to Choose the Right Fins
- Choose soft and shorter fins
- Never use fins intended for scuba diving
- Stay away from heavy and stiff fins
- Full-foot fins are ideal
- If you still prefer the flutter kick, choose split fins
Try different degrees of power and when bending your knees. Do not be afraid to play around, you will notice that even the slightest change in the movement of your ankles and shin will offer numerous positional control.
Resist the Urge to Use Your Arms
Again, one of the benefits of the frog kick is to exert less effort or body movement. So your arms shouldn’t be doing any work to help you move forward or keep your balance. It can be hard at first since it’s one of the lessons we learn from swimming. However, with practice, you’ll be able to do it.
You can use a flutter board and hold it to your front to reduce the urge of using your hands. This will help you take your mind off of your hands and make you more stable.
Some snorkelers tend to get tired which shouldn’t be the case since again, it should be a relaxing activity. However, when this happens, here are some tips you can do.
If you are a swimmer, then you know that floating is the best way to rest when swimming. To float with less effort, fill your lungs and keep your body in a horizontal position.
Use a Vest
If you still can’t float on your own, you should try using a floating vest. If you are on a tour, most tour operators provide life vest for their clients. If you snorkel a lot and on your own or with family or friends, then you should get yourself a nice vest.
Perform frog kicks instead of flutter kicks
Frog kicks exert less effort compared to flutter kicks. The glide you make with frog kicks makes it easier for you to get to places without feeling tired.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the basic position when snorkeling?
The mouthpiece should be worn properly and the snorkel’s tip must be above the crown of the head when underwater. This position makes it harder for water to get inside the tube.
What is the first thing we should do before putting on the snorkel?
Before you put on the snorkel, try on the mask first and make sure the elastic strap fits well on your head. The strap should be placed over your ears and not at the base of your head.
How do you sink when snorkeling?
For your body to sink when snorkeling, you should breathe out some air.
Can you snorkel even if you don’t know how to swim?
Yes, it is possible to still snorkel even without learning how to swim. Just be sure to wear a vest if you want to try this activity.
Is it safe to snorkel alone?
Doing it alone can be dangerous as you can never tell when you will experience leg cramps or any other swimming-related injuries.
So, which finning technique is right for you? Whether you prefer frog kick or flutter kick, the bottom line is you know how to properly do it the next time you snorkel. Remember that snorkeling should be fun and relaxing, so don’t stress yourself too much about air consumption, or if you can’t master the frog kick or flutter kick after a few tries. Take your time and keep on practicing.