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Snorkeling vs. SCUBA Diving

What if I told you that there is a way to enjoy the reef when SCUBA diving isn't an option or if you're a diver traveling with non-divers?

Snorkeling is an underestimated supplement to SCUBA and unless you've actually taken a class there are skills and techniques that would allow you to get much more out of your snorkeling opportunities.

So rather than snorkeling vs. SCUBA Diving like yet another MCU movie, snorkeling and SCUBA diving are buddies.

Let's dive into reasons snorkeling can be a valuable part of your next diving adventure!

Why a Snorkeling Episode?

When we spend the time, effort, and money to travel it's nice to know that we're ready to get the most out of the trip. Snorkeling can be both a supplement to your diving adventures as well as a substitute if something prevents you from SCUBA diving.

I want to dispel the myth that snorkeling is a 'surface only' activity. With some instruction and practice, you can learn to dive under the waves and swim down to experience the reef up close.

  • Expanding your skill set to snorkeling gives you options!
  • Snorkel during surface intervals.
  • Enjoy the reef with family and friends that aren't SCUBA certified.
  • Use it as a backup if you have gear or other issues that prevent you from SCUBA diving.
  • Get in the water when you're traveling and don't want to take your dive gear.


The good news is that if you already own quality SCUBA gear... you already have SCUBA quality mask, fins, and snorkel, your barriers to entry are essentially zero. Some instruction will benefit most snorkelers as there are techniques that can be used to dive under the waves and get the most out of your experience that you can learn and practice.

Snorkel Vests

Not to put too fine a point on this but I hate snorkel vests! I know why some operators insist on them but for the most part, it's extra stuff that isn't necessary if you're comfortable in the water. As I've said many times before and will many times in the future. If a vest provides you value or the comfort you need to enjoy the reef then by all means put one on and get in the water!

You'll see two basic vests. One is the regular life jacket which is the kind I really don't like because they prevent you from swimming down underwater. The second kind is the inflatable vests similar to what you see during the safety briefings on all the flights it took you to get to your dive destination :). These are okay as long as you don't inflate them unless you need to do so to stay on the surface safely.

Pro tip... need a little extra buoyancy but don't want to wear a vest? A wetsuit might be just enough lift to make you comfortable and it will keep you warmer for long snorkeling excursions.

Full Face Snorkel Masks

You may have seen full-face snorkel masks advertised at your local dive shop or resort destination. I will cover these more in the Gear Junkie's Garage below.


One great thing about snorkeling is that you can enjoy the reef without the encumbrance of dive gear. While I'm an advocate of taking a snorkeling class to get helpful techniques, snorkeling is a low stress, low gear sport.


SCUBA and snorkeling are both best enjoyed when you're relaxed and calm. I've found SCUBA diving to even be meditative! Take your time and chill.


There are three kicks we generally use in diving and I recommend that snorkelers learn them. Because we have an inexhaustible air supply when snorkeling you can do it for a long time. By alternating between different kicks you can use different muscle groups and reduce cramping which means you'll still be able to tango when you get back to the resort!

  • Scissor Kick (most common)
  • Mermaid Kick (both legs same motion)
  • Frog Kick (I can't even begin to describe this one in words - cave divers use it a lot)


There are two dives you'll learn when you take your snorkeling class. The head-first dive is probably the most comfortable and most often used while the feet-first dive may help in a constrained environment.


Gear Junkie's Garage

So... the full-face snorkeling mask. As I mentioned during the show, I don't own one of these and have never used one. I did talk to the owner of our local dive shop though and got some good insight.

Pros: The biggest benefit of these masks is the wide field of view which can feel less confined than some people might feel in a traditional SCUBA mask. It's unlikely that you'll get to actually 'see more' since a standard SCUBA mask has plenty of field of view for the region you can actually pay attention to but if you like having more peripheral vision these may help with that.

Cons: This is a huge one for me personally. Because of the way these masks are designed it's difficult (or impossible) to equalize the pressure in the mask with the pressure of the outside environment. This means that if you try to dive down the pressure of the water will press the mask against your face with increasing force as you dive deeper. We call this a 'mask squeeze' in SCUBA diving and it is easily remedied in a regular diving mask by breathing out gently through your nose. This makes full-face snorkeling masks a 'surface-only' piece of gear.


Fin Tip of the Week

Two Tips This Week

Camera Cases Reuse: If you have an old camera case for that pocket camera you bought before mobile phones took better pictures than cameras (kidding... photogs don't go crazy on me) and it's been in your basement or closet since before Y2K I have good news for you! These little pocket camera cases make great cases for your dive computer! No longer do you need to feel like a hoarder or get rid of that expensive case!

Take Your Camera: I'm an advocate of enjoying your dives without taking a camera unless you are a very comfortable diver. They add distraction and complexity to an already complex experience. And let's face it... you're not likely to get better shots than you can find in two seconds of searching on the internet. I get it... you want your own photos and video and that's cool but a great dive without a camera is much better than a 'meh' dive with one. That said, taking a camera snorkeling is a way to break into underwater photography & videography without impacting safety or comfort. Snorkeling provides a perfect platform to get your camera wet and learn a lot about underwater exposure, focus, camera control, lighting etc. Just don't forget the lanyard!



Join SKuba Steve in the Social Media Baitball!

🤿The surface interval's over...

get out there and dive!🤿

One thought on “Snorkeling vs. SCUBA Diving | Under Pressure Divecast | Episode 013

  1. Hi Steve,

    Regarding the inability to equalize using a full face mask: Most commercial diving helmets and virtually every commercial diving full face mask–every one I’ve ever seen (e.g., Kirby-Morgan KMB-9, KMB-10, et al) at least–come equipped with a device that allows the driver to block or “plug” his / her nose so that his / her ears can be eaualized. Some commercial diving helmets don’t come with this feature (e.g., the Desco “Pot”, US Navy Mk V, et al), but it’s usually possible to improvise one using several pieces of neoprene glued together, which I’ve also seen.

    I realize that many or perhaps most scuba divers may not have access to a commercial diving helmet (a.k.a., “hat”) anday not be aware that nose blocking devices exist, so I thought that this info might be useful.

    I learned to scuba dive in the St. Lawrence River in upstate NY in 1988 and have been a commercial diver (i.e., hard hat diver) since 1989. I’ve since retired from commercial diving, but it was my line of work for ~25 years. If you want me r need more information, please feel free to contact me via email and I’ll be glad to share additional information or otherwise assist you if I can.

    I enjoy your podcast. Thanks for doing it!


    M. Raymond Svestka
    The bottom of Lake Ontario (just kidding!)

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