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Do you have to know how to swim to snorkel? Can non-swimmers enjoy snorkeling? These are the questions I often hear from people who want to experience snorkeling. You can still enjoy snorkeling even if you are a non-swimmer. Here is how to do it in the right way.

Snorkeling is an exhilarating activity if you love exploring the colorful underwater world. Since the water covers 71% of the entire planet, there is a lot that snorkelers can explore. However, for first-time snorkelers and non-swimmers, it is terrifying to get into the water.

a person snorkeling with a school of fish, Do you have to know how to swim to snorkel

a person snorkeling with a school of fish

You might also be asking, do you have to be a good swimmer to snorkel“?

Remember that enjoying snorkeling doesn’t mean you should have to be a good swimmer or know how to swim to snorkel. Also, there is no need to attend a certification course or haul a bag packed with heavy equipment to appreciate the incredible underwater world.

All that’s necessary to enjoy snorkeling is a tiny set of well-fitted gear and basic snorkeling skills. But what if you are a non-swimmer? Do you have to know how to swim to snorkel?

This article will address some frequently asked questions while providing valuable tips on making your snorkeling adventure safe, comfortable, and enjoyable.

So, let’s get started!


Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?


So, do you have to be an excellent swimmer to snorkel? Well, the short answer is no. Snorkeling is a surface water sport that requires very little swimming and mainly involves floating. We have a lot of non-swimmers who snorkel all the time. However, it is still important to prepare ahead of time and know how to do it correctly.

Do you have to know how to swim to snorkel

a person snorkeling underwater

Moreover, there is equipment that can help non-swimmers to get into the water and enjoy snorkeling. These include wetsuits, life jackets, fins, etc. These snorkeling gear help first-time snorkelers and non-swimmers to keep floating on the water with minimal swimming skills.

However, I recommend you have some basic swimming skills to enjoy a comfortable snorkeling experience. Now, let’s discuss the differences between snorkeling and traditional swimming.


Differences between Swimming and Snorkeling


Here are the main differences that will address the question, “do you have to know how to swim to snorkel?”

  • Body Positioning

While you are in the water and enjoying swimming, you have to stretch your body out and move forward with the help of your hands and legs. The activity can be exhausting for inexperienced swimmers as they need to swing their arms over their shoulders while also using their legs to kick constantly.

a person positioning his body to snorkel

a person positioning his body to snorkel

In contrast, snorkeling doesn’t need much body movement. You move and float slowly, allowing you to explore the sea life closely. In addition, you also don’t need to move your arms as you do when swimming. Instead, you can either have your arms in a cross position or have them on the sides.


  • Floating

For swimming, it is essential to use your arms and legs to stay afloat constantly. This can be tiring for inexperienced swimmers. In addition, you also need to coordinate your breathing pattern, arms, and legs.

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?, a person floating in the sea

a person floating in the sea

On the other hand, inexperienced or first-time snorkelers can benefit from a personal floating device (PFD). It is a life jacket designed to keep you afloat on the water’s surface. As long as you have an inflated PFD, you will keep floating.


  • Gear vs. No Gear

Another difference between swimming is snorkeling is gear. Except for using your arms and legs, you don’t need any equipment to swim and stay afloat. However, you will need some equipment for snorkeling, such as a snorkeling mask and a fin.

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

a person with gear vs. no gear while snorkeling

Since snorkeling is all about floating slowly to observe the underwater world, snorkeling equipment lets you do that. Snorkeling masks also come with a nose pocket to prevent water from getting into your nose, irritating first-time snorkelers.

In addition to a snorkeling mask, you can also use a tube, going from your mouth to the water surface, allowing you to breathe comfortably.

Furthermore, other snorkeling gear includes life jackets, flippers, and fins. While the fins are great for efficient movement in the water, flappers help you swim comfortably without exertion.



  • Different Water Conditions

Different water conditions are another difference between snorkeling and swimming. While swimming can be done in a calm like swimming pool water, snorkeling means you will be in the ocean to explore the underwater world.

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

a person snorkeling with a fish

In addition, since the ocean waters are salty and denser than fresh waters, it is easy to float in the ocean.

Now, let’s discuss whether do you have to swim to snorkel?


 Do You Have to Be a Good Swimmer to Snorkel?

A few challenges that non-swimmer might face while snorkeling includes:


  • Surface Waves

Snorkeling in the calm, flat ocean waters is relatively easy, even if you are a non-swimmer. However, remember that conditions can change instantly with the wind creating waves. These waves can make snorkeling uncomfortable by pushing you around and removing your mask.


  • Surface Waves

    Surface Waves


Current is another challenge while you are on the water. Even for experienced snorkelers, it can push you out, taking you away from shore very quickly. Especially for non-swimmers, currents can be substantial, making them struggle to swim against the current.


  • Gear Failure

It is doubtful that your snorkeling equipment fails to work. However, if the equipment stops working while you are in the water, it can be life-threatening. For instance, water leaking into your snorkeling mask is a common issue that can make it hard to breathe underwater.

gear failure, Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

Moreover, your snorkel can also cause a problem if water gets in. In such circumstances, you may swallow it, leading you to choke.


Tips: Do You Have to Swim to Snorkel?

Here are a few essential tips for first-time snorkelers so you can get the best snorkeling experience while staying safe beneath the surface.

  • Acquire Basic Swimming Skills

Remember that no law states you have to know how to swim to snorkel. Still, acquiring basic swimming skills is essential. It doesn’t mean that you have to know all the different strokes or be a professional swimmer, but knowing how to dog paddle in the water is essential.

a couple hovering on the surface of the sea

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

Moreover, if you want to experience snorkeling but aren’t a good swimmer, you can wear a life jacket as an alternative to swimming. In addition, having a float vest that goes around the waist can also be another option.


  • Protect Yourself from Sun

Unfortunately, a lot of first-time snorkelers underestimate the sun’s rays. Remember that they can get you to burn severely even when you are in the water. The most common target is the back of your thighs. In addition, your arms, shoulders, and the back of your neck can get fried if you don’t have protection from the sun.

One of the best ways to protect you from the sun is to get a well-fitted wetsuit. However, if you are reluctant to wear anything more than a bathing suit, make sure you have a waterproof, good-quality, powerful sunscreen. Furthermore, wear a hat too, which will cover your scalp.

women in wetsuit going snorkeling

women in wetsuits going snorkeling

  • Ensure You Have Well-Fitted Gear

Ensuring that your fin and mask fit you well is critical. Not only will it work efficiently, but it will keep you comfortable in the water as well. Additionally, if you rent the gear on vacation, be pickier and rent high-quality equipment that fits you well. Alternatively, testing the kit in a swimming pool is always smart before going into the ocean.


  • Drink Liquid Before, During, and After

Another vital factor to remember is that keeping yourself hydrated while snorkeling is essential. While there will be water all around you, snorkeling in the hot sun can cause dehydration. In addition, salt in ocean water is also known for dehydrating the skin.

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

drinking water

So, drink a lot of water before, during, and after snorkeling. Regular breaks during snorkeling are another way to sip more liquid to stay hydrated.


  • Use Anti-Fog Gel on the Inside of Your Mask

Have you seen a car’s windshield fogged up on a cold day? Similarly, your snorkeling mask can become foggy as you warm up. So, buying an anti-fog gel and pasting it inside your snorkeling mask before going into the water is essential. Additionally, ensure the gel you purchase is non-toxic to avoid harming fish and reefs.


  • Learn Deep Breathing Techniques

Practicing how to breathe deeply is a skill that can help you prevent dizziness, stay calm and relaxed, and improve your safety while in the water. Remember that living through a snorkel means you are putting more workload on your lungs due to the additional respiratory dead space.

a child getting a deep breath

a child getting a deep breath

Moreover, if you cannot exchange air efficiency through your snorkel, it can build up carbon dioxide in the blood, making you feel dizzy. That’s where deep breathing techniques come in handy to prevent these issues.

So, before you take off for a water adventure, practice diaphragmatic breathing, which involves inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. Furthermore, you can try these techniques without a snorkel and then progress to practicing with a snorkel tube in your mouth while on land. Once you feel confident, try the same in confined, shallow waters.



Snorkeling Gear for Non-Swimmers

Whether you are an experienced or a first-timer snorkeler, it is always wise to keep your snorkeling equipment ready ahead of time. Ensure that your snorkeling gear is appropriate and well-fitted, especially your mask. Remember that a too big and loose mask can cause problems as the water can get in quickly.

Additionally, beards, mustaches, or facial hair sometimes cause water to enter your eyes. So, ensure to invest in comfortable snorkeling gear before making a purchase. Here is a bucket of valuable snorkeling equipment you will need for an enjoyable and safe snorkeling excursion.

  • Snorkel

Leave the question “do you have to know how to swim to snorkel?” aside. The most important thing that you need for snorkeling is a snorkel. This is the device that will help you with breathing when you are busy exploring the underwater world. For first-time snorkelers, it would be great to practice puffs and learn how to time them.



Additionally, there are two main types of snorkels available on the market. You can either get a full-face or a half-face snorkel. Moreover, regardless of the type of snorkel, ensure it is correctly attached to the mask’s straps.

Furthermore, I won’t recommend long snorkel tubes if you are a first-timer. You might struggle to breathe in the water. Also, remember that you always need to purchase a snorkel as you can rent or utilize the ones offered by snorkeling companies.


  • Diving Mask

Snorkeling masks have become increasingly popular in recent years due to various reasons. For instance, one of the most significant advantages of a diving or snorkeling mask is that you don’t need to have a physical snorkel in your mouth. They also help you breathe easily through your mouth and nose, even in water.

Dive Mask

Dive Mask lying on the sand.

Additionally, snorkeling masks enable you to continue making saliva and enjoy snorkeling. They are also comfortable, make breathing more manageable, and offer a broader field view than regular snorkeling goggles.



So, do you have to be an excellent swimmer to snorkel? Well, not really if you have a snorkel vest on. There are plenty of life-saving reasons to wear a snorkel jacket, especially if you are a non-swimmer. While wearing one might feel a little dorky, you would be an intelligent dork.

Dive Vest

Do You Have to Know How to Swim to Snorkel?

Snorkeling vests save thousands of lives every year. If you get exhausted or unconscious while snorkeling, a snorkel vest will help keep you afloat while keeping your mouth out of water. A few reasons why both experienced and first-time snorkelers should wear a snorkel vest include:

  • They provide extra buoyancy.
  • You can easily swim in the water even if you are a non-swimmer.
  • Snorkel vests are waterproof. They come with pockets that you can use to keep your valuables.

Similarly, there are various other floatation aids that you can use as an alternative to snorkel vests. For instance, PFDs, boogie boards, pool noodles, and floatation belts can also help you stay afloat.



  • Fins

Fins on the beach

Fins used for diving and snorkeling

Unlike a snorkel and snorkeling, you don’t necessarily need fins. However, they are nice to have to go farther in the water. They are also great for easy and fast swimming, assisting you to increase buoyancy without much effort. Moreover, since the diving fins are long and hard to handle, especially by non-swimmers, I recommend getting shorter fins for easy movement.


Are You Ready to Try Snorkeling?

So, do you have to swim to snorkel? Well, not really. It is possible to enjoy snorkeling without having excellent swimming skills. However, I highly recommend learning a few things to make your snorkeling excursion safe and enjoyable. Firstly, make sure you are confident about getting into the water. Secondly, you should know how to float. Thirdly, practice deep breathing and how to control it when you are in the water.

Learning these techniques will make your snorkeling excursion safer and more comfortable.


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