Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right swimmer’s snorkel for dominating your next swim.
The swim snorkel has become an essential tool for swimmers in recent years.
In this guide, I will walk you through some of the essentials when sorting through the landscape of swim snorkels on the market.
Let’s jump right in.
Swimmer’s snorkels differ from your regular, run-of-the-mill snorkeling mask in that it’s center-mounted and the tube is designed for moving quickly through the water. The tube shape on swim snorkels varies a little by brand and model.
For the most part, they wrap over the forehead and extend straight into the air when a swimmer is face down in the water. This allows reduced resistance in the water and also keeps the tip of the tube extended above the surface enough that water doesn’t rush in.
There are also some specialty snorkels on the market that use unique tube shapes.
The FINIS Stability Snorkel, my favorite swim snorkel of all-time, wraps closer around the head compared to the O.G., the FINIS Swimmer’s Snorkel.
This makes it ideal for supporting a high position in the water when sprinting.
The FINIS Freestyle Snorkel goes a step further, curving so far around the head that the exhaust hole is pointing backward.
If you struggle with picking your head up too much when swimming freestyle, this snorkel will fix that issue by providing some immediate feedback.
The moment your forehead starts to plow the water, the hole of the tube will get submerged and you will be blowing bubbles and inhaling water.
For a majority of swimmers, the “standard” tube arc on the FINIS Swimmer’s Snorkel will satisfy their needs in the water.
The mouthpiece on swim snorkels is typically made of silicone which is gently to bite into, doesn’t tire the jaw from long sessions in the pool, and provides a waterproof seal.
Silicone is an excellent material for chemically treated pools (referring to our old friend Mr. Chlorine, in case you weren’t sure) as it is highly durable and won’t fade or crack from extended exposure to pool chemicals.
Additionally, and this has been a more recent development, some mouthpieces can be twisted to the side (the FINIS Stability Snorkel has this feature).
This is handy for when you want to take a sip of water between reps or talk to your friends at the wall without having to twist the entire snorkel to the side to move the mouthpiece.
A purge valve makes breathing with a snorkel much easier. Typically located in the bottom of the tube, it clears excess water from the tube.
It is also great for giving peace of mind to swimmers new to swimming face down for extended periods of time. Keeping our face down in the water is unnatural and that moment of panic when we first put our head into the water is normal and instinctual.
Purge valves are one-way valves that expel water with gravity or a light breath. This is not to say that you won’t still have to give the mouthpiece a forceful breath when you surface from an underwater breakout, but the purge valve does make it easier.
Not all swim snorkels have them (the FINIS Glide Swim Snorkel, pictured earlier, for example, does not have a purge valve), but most do.
Keeping the swim snorkel in place when swimming is crucial. And the way that a swim snorkel is held in place is via head straps.
There’s a bit of everything when it comes to head strap design with the top snorkels in the pool, from double straps (verging on replicating swim goggle straps, as is the case with the TYR Ultralite 2.0 Snorkel, pictured below), to a single heavy-duty strap, to straps that part at the back of the head to provide a more secure grip.
Choose a head strap design that will keep the snorkel in place, no matter if you are cruising through a drill set or blasting away 25s fast with fins and paddles.
One of the first things you will notice when you put on a swim snorkel, besides the fact that you can hear your breath expelling through a tube mounted right in front of your face, is the bracket pushing into your forehead.
The bracket is padded for comfort, but some swim snorkels have a mount made totally of plastic. This can create some soreness after a while, particularly if the headstraps are adjusted snugly.
Some snorkels, including the Speedo Bullethead, FINIS Stability Snorkel, and the MP Phelps Swim Snorkel, have padded head brackets that are designed for extended use.
Tip: When putting on a snorkel for the first time, aim to place the head bracket just above the eyebrows. There is a natural ridge there that will allow the bracket to “sink” into your head without causing undue pressure.
More experienced swimmers who want to inject some hypoxic training can add cardio caps to the top of the tube to restrict airflow. Cardio caps create resistance by reducing the amount of air that can be drawn in and pushed out.
The idea of doing this is that it pushes your pulmonary muscles to work harder to inhale and exhale. Essentially, this is a form of respiratory training.
In my experience, this has limited use and distracts the swimmer from going fast and swimming with better technique. You’ll get a better (and more relevant) workout by picking up the pace than restricting airflow.
That said, if this type of breath training is in your wheelhouse, there are snorkels that include them.
TYR’s Ultralite 2.0 ships with two cardio caps, and FINIS offers an add-on cardio cap for its line of snorkels.
The Bottom Line
Investing in a swimmer’s snorkel is one of the best things you can do for your swimming.
There is a heap of benefits to swim snorkels, from reducing strain on your neck and traps to helping you swim with better technique.
Now that you know what to look for in a swimmer’s snorkel, check out my detailed guide on the best swim snorkels on the market, and take your swimming to the next level.
Beau Cormier is a former NCAA I swimmer, US Open National finalist, and swim nerd. When not swimming or working for a data company, you can find him running the trails of the Pacific Northwest with his wife and dogs.