How Does a Snorkel Work? Which is Good to Breathe Underwater?

Snorkels have been long in usage for breathing air underwater, but over the years, the technology has improved, and the companies have introduced many new shapes and kinds of models. These tiny instruments have been a game-changer in the industry because they allow serious and enthusiastic swimmers to breathe fresh air underwater without any hassle and enjoy the beauties of sea life, like sea turtles and coral reefs.

But learning how to breathe with your snorkeling gear can be challenging, especially if you get nervous underwater and start fretting. A good way to remember your lessons is to know more about snorkels and how they work. There are three major kinds available in the market. Each is designed especially to cater to the different needs of swimmers.

Differences in the Way the Snorkel Models Work

Snorkels allow you to breathe underwater with your head submerged deeply in the water. People tend to get anxious in water and lose confidence in their ability to recover from any unforeseen circumstances. One way to ensure you remain calm and confident is to rely on your snorkels. This can only happen if you trust the device to come through.

Snorkels are designed to be durable and safe for both beginners and professionals. There is a range of models available in the market, and you should only buy the one that suits you best. But before that, you should also have general know-how of how different snorkels work underwater.

This will ensure that you pick the type most suited to your needs. There are three major categories in which all snorkels are places. These include wet models, dry ones, and semi-dry snorkels and they come separately, only attached with a snorkel keeper or together with full-face snorkel masks. As the name suggests, these require different working conditions to work and provide you with safety.

how snorkel work

Wet Snorkel

Wet snorkels are probably the most famous types in the market, and there are good reasons for that. They have a minimalistic and simple design that only contains a silicon mouthpiece. This is extremely durable and comes attached to a long J-shaped tube. Other models might include additional features. This includes a snorkel tube that offers flexibility through purge valves.

Wet snorkels don’t have a very complex mechanism through which they function. They allow for an easy air exchanging technique. They also tend to be more suitable for freediving and spearfishing or any other apneic sports that swimmers indulge in.

Moreover, wet designs tend to be shorter in size and much narrow compared to other types. But the best thing about them is their compact design. This ensures that they are lightweight and hence easier to handle. This feature also enables you to exchange all the air in the snorkel tube with a single breath.

Since wet units don’t typically have a purge valve, they might make tube clearance a bit of a challenge, especially for beginners. If your snorkel is flooded by water, you will have to remove the access water from inside. If you don’t have ample practice, you might find it hard to do this with a wet model.

You should also note that wet snorkels will come with a relatively low-volume face mask. They are hence predominately used by professionals.

So if you have done ample breathing exercises and know how to expel water away from the tube without getting anxious all the time, then this type might suit you best. Moreover, since it is suitable for a range of freediving techniques, it is recommended that you use it for spearfishing. Lastly, the compact design also makes handling and storage of a snorkel easy.

Semi-Dry Snorkel

Semi-dry snorkels have features that are identical to both wet and dry models. They try to reach a middle ground and offer convenience for both beginners and professionals. Their shape is somewhat identical to a wet snorkel, but the way both types function is different.

A semi-dry snorkel is made to be durable and strong and designed to keep excess water out using a specialized splash guard. This splash guard is placed at the top of the tube. A wet snorkel, on the other hand, comes with a wet or dry top.

Ideally, you should always try to breathe through your mouth with a snorkel, and you are good to go. One major issue occurs when fast water waves hit your unit, and water enters the tube. You will have to remove this excess liquid if you don’t want to get into any uncomfortable situations.

Semi-dry snorkels come with a one-way purge valve that will allow you to flush the water out. They also come with an extremely flexible tube section. This allows the silicone mouthpiece attached to hand out of the water making it also popular for scuba divers. But all this is rendered useless if you don’t practice breathing exercises daily.

Dry Snorkel

Although less popular than classic models, these tend to offer a wonderful mechanism as well. Dry snorkels have also risen in popularity even since scuba diving and free diving have become the new fashionable thing. Unlike the other two types mentioned above, a dry snorkel will ensure that water doesn’t enter the top of the tube at any cost. Even if it does, the snorkel is well equipped to remove it.

Dry snorkels hence come with a special floatation device that is attached to the top of the unit. It functions as a one-way float valve. This float is specially designed to allow flexible movement. It can rise and close at the openings and hence prevent water entry into the tube. It also ensures that no water enters your lungs at any cost.

Not just that, but these units also come with better snorkel masks. These consist of two individual tubes that contain balls inside of the tube. They also stop water from getting in, but the trapped air makes them buoyant underwater. You will also be pleased to know that most modern designs are made with high-quality materials. This not only increases the diversity of these snorkel tubes but also makes them more robust. This is bound to come in handy when you are deep into the water and need some confidence in your swimming techniques.

Dry snorkels also tend to be slightly heavier than other types. Although this is changing with the evolution of designs and technology, it is still important to remember that a heavy snorkel is likely to push you down and not allow you to swim faster.

Most designs also come with a plastic covering that sits at the top of the snorkel and provide additional resistance against water. They also assist the mechanism that seals the top of the tube every time you dive underwater into the pool or the beach.


Modern snorkels have evolved a great deal and now offer greater durability and protection to its users. They are made with the highest quality materials and incorporate many safety features that protect you underwater. It is also noteworthy to remember that even the most professional swimmers tend to get anxious in the underwater world. A good snorkel will hence come through and help them remain calm.

Most designs will offer a long length of the tube to allow for effective gas exchange. This will not only increase your chances of survival but will also enhance your confidence underwater. Units also contain ergonomic handles and shapes that increase your comfort level and put you at ease, even under distressing situations. The mouthpieces are also comfortable and made to keep water out of the tube.

So although all these snorkels differ in shapes and mechanisms, they are similar in the ease and comfort they provide. So before you choose your next unit, make sure you compare the working mechanisms of each type and access which one suits you the best. You should also consider your experience as a swimmer because some models are just easier to handle and use than others.

So if you are a beginner, we recommend you opt for a classical design. However, if you are a professional and have ample practice being underwater with a snorkel, any advanced type would suit you well.

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