a snorkeler in shallow water over corals

Which Side Of The Head Do Snorkels Go On?

Snorkeling is a bit of a ‘let me have a go’ sport. It’s recreational in nature, and can be learned by trial and error.

While taking lessons can be beneficial, many don’t bother, especially if they are a good swimmer. As such, a few things have to be thought of while you work out your preferences. 

Many questions can get worked out, or don’t matter but if you’re trying to put a snorkel on, it becomes clear that it can go on the left, or the right side of the head.

Does it matter, or is there a reason? Many will ask which side of the head the snorkel goes on?

The snorkel can be worn on either the left or right side of the head. The snorkel will attach to the mask strap on whatever side is preferred. Most mouthpieces will be more comfortable on the left side because of twist. Most snorkelers will wear the snorkel on the left, as scuba divers have the regulator over the right shoulder, which they may wish to progress to.

So, in a nutshell, choose whatever side is most comfortable to you, it won’t have any impact on anything, whatever you choose.

If it’s your first time thinking about this though, and at some point, you want to try scuba diving, then read on, as there are some good reasons for choosing the left side.

a young man snorkeling in crystal clear water with thumbs up

Why Most Snorkelers Wear It On The Left

While it technically doesn’t matter which side the snorkel goes on while you swim around, there is a good reason that most choose the left.

It may be that most people are right handed, and that tends to be the preferred side, but you may want to choose the left side even if you currently have no preference.

If you ever take up scuba diving, they will put the snorkel on the left side. This is for obvious safety reasons. Underwater, someone having trouble needs to have a standard setup so rescuers don’t spend their time guessing.

The regulator (equipment that takes air under tank pressure and delivers it to a diver) for a scuba diver always goes over the right shoulder. Correspondingly, the snorkel they use goes on the left side.

The snorkel should not be allowed to tangle with a scuba divers air supply.

So the reason that snorkels tend to be worn by snorkelers on the left side is two-fold.

Firstly, snorkels tend to made to favor the left hand side of the head, so they are more useful to scuba divers. As it doesn’t matter to snorkelers they have the snorkel equipment pre-configured for scuba diving.

The second is for safety. When dealing with breathing underwater, it’s well worth not over complicating the issue. If everybody wears it on the left, then it’s not something that has to be thought about in emergencies.

The other advantage is that if you are trying snorkeling for the first time, it’s more than possible that you will think about giving scuba diving a go. If you’ve already got used to having the snorkel on the left, the integration process is easier.

If you take a look around, it’s certainly common to see it on the left side. Much more so than wearing it on the right.

Can The Snorkel Be On The Right?

Well, it certainly can, but you’d need to try the snorkel first.

Let me show you what I mean.

left and right mouthpiece of a snorkel

The above photo is a picture of the mouthpiece of one of my snorkels. As you can see, the mouthpiece will fit in the mouth and let you breathe through the snorkel.

It will attach to the straps without any problems as well.

The problem is that most snorkels are made preferentially to be worn on the left. When the snorkel is in the mouth it tugs slightly upwards if I have it on the wrong side. On the left, it feels ‘right’.

On the right, however, I have to strengthen my lip muscles to stop it tugging. I could certainly snorkel like it, but it’s more effort. More annoying than anything else.

The snorkel tube is made to provide less twist when it’s on the left hand side.

When you are talking about snorkeling, and breathing underwater, it’s best for things to work when you are relaxed. You shouldn’t have to work to be comfortable.

Final Thoughts – Parting Waves

When you snorkel, everything should be as smooth and relaxed as possible. Leaking and fogging masks need to be addressed for sure, but equally the snorkel should fit comfortably in the mouth so as little effort to maintain easy breathing is maintained.

Snorkels are used on the left for good reason. So much so that I find that when I put them on the other way around, they don’t ‘quite work’ as well as they might.

It’s not an issue, and if you have no intention of taking up scuba, and prefer it on the right, then go ahead. There are no snorkel police to question your decision.

If you find it more comfortable, then go ahead.

However, if you don’t mind, and can do it on whichever side, then I’d recommend the left. It’s more in line with standard safety, and you will be prepared if you decide to ‘upgrade’ to scuba diving.

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