2 snorkelers in float vests on the surface

Why Is A Snorkel So Short? (Snorkel Size Explained)

When you look at a snorkeler it can look kind of funny. The mask makes sense, but the tube that pokes upwards can spark a bunch of questions.

If it doesn’t allow you to breathe underwater, what might the point of it be? Why is that short? Why not make it slightly longer or not bother with one at all? It can be confusing if you’ve never used one, so why is a snorkel so short?

The snorkel is designed to give the user maximum head movement while using minimal energy to observe the underwater world. Too short and it becomes ineffective at giving an uninterrupted air supply. Too long, and it becomes unwieldy to use.

There are a few issues with snorkel length, so let’s walk through them.

Why Use A Snorkel At All? (Why Not Just Breathe Air)

This question can get asked quite a bit. If the snorkel is so short, why not just go without one and breathe like you might freestyle swimming.

In essence, surely it’s just unnecessary.

The fact is that when you actually try snorkeling, you will find the act of holding your breath while you look down at the underwater life and turning your head to breathe quite disruptive.

Of course, it can’t be too short otherwise moving your head to experience the visuals of underwater life would produce the head movement that may make the tube dip below the surface. 

Water would then enter the tube as if you were diving and interrupt the air supply.

So the snorkel has to be just long enough so that it remains free and clear of the surface of the water when you are moving your head.

A snorkel allows the snorkeler to move almost effortlessly forward with as little effort as possible while keeping your face down in the water. With a snorkel, you can observe the underwater world indefinitely and conserve energy.

Constantly stopping, or turning your head to breathe would interrupt the flow of snorkeling. Imagine seeing a turtle and following it but occasionally having to turn your head to breathe and then have to reacquire your vision on retuning to face down in the water again.

2 snorkelers on the surface looking at the camera

Why Not Make The Snorkel Longer?

So the snorkel can’t be too short. That comes with problems all of its own.

Why not make it longer?

Well, firstly it would be a bit unwieldy. As you move your head the tube would sway about tugging at the mask straps.

Potentially it might pull the straps and break the mask seal. As that happens your mask would flood with water, which makes the whole experience of snorkeling annoying.

Too long would just hamper the snorkeling experience. If you wanted to dive it’s just more drag on the water as you swim, again potentially tugging the mask straps and breaking the seal.

Water is denser than air and you want something aerodynamic for underwater swimming. If the snorkel is too long then it would just make it unmanageable.

Final Thoughts – Parting Waves

Snorkel size has been perfected after years of development and experience. There’s a reason you see them at this particular length, and not either shorter or longer.

Too short and it would be the same as not wearing one. It would be useless as an airway. A snorkel is designed so you can keep looking underwater without having to interrupt your flow.

Too long and it would be unwieldy. It would tug at mask straps and be impractical to dive with.

A snorkel has been designed perfectly so that you can swim along the surface and actually see the underwater world with as minimal effort as possible. It allows you to keep the splashing to a minimum and swim in a streamlined fashion.

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