Snorkeling Trips and Strong Swimmers

If you are a strong swimmer, you may be disappointed with how you are treated when you go on a “snorkeling” trip in a tropical location.  Some places require you to wear a life vest and have other restrictions.  The first clue that this is not a real snorkeling trip is, they don’t ask if you know how to swim.

Dear Tropical Tourism Boards, Legislatures, Rule and Law-making Entities, Snorkeling Trip Vendors :

Do not treat people who have worked hard to develop swimming skills

2008 LEN European Championships Final 400m Freestyle Women
Competitive Swimmers

the same as those who have not.

depositphotos_92827284-stock-video-people-relaxing-in-swimming-pool
An example of casual swimming

I am a 66 year old former competitive swimmer. I am a Water Safety Instructor,  I taught a LOT of kids how to swim in the YMCA program.  I was certified to SCUBA in 1987.

I work out three to four times a week.

What is Snorkeling?

“Snorkeling allows you to enjoy the underwater world from the surface of the water and diving down while holding your breath to get a closer look.”
— Scuba Diving vs. Snorkeling • Scuba Diver Life
https://scubadiverlife.com › scuba-diving-verse-snorkeling

That means that from time to time, if you see something interesting, and are a good swimmer, you take a momentary surface dive from the top to view something on the bottom a bit closer.

When we go on a tropical vacation, I do a few Scuba trips, and I also Snorkel with my wife.  I do not go to places that require snorkelers to wear a vest.  I am a very experienced snorkeler. I like to do surface dives (Also known as a Duck Dive  ) when I go snorkeling.

You cannot do a surface dive with a vest.

I am neutrally buoyant, with nine pounds of weight (I wear a full sun protection suit when I snorkel and dive).  I find taking weights is preferable to doing what they call Free Diving. There are many semantic differences and confusion about what free diving is. I refer to the more technical definition used by the some of the standard bodies (and for competitive free diving events) . See http://www.roatanfreediving.com/. I do not feel the need to use breathing techniques that require a lot of training, when, with a few pounds of weight, I can stay underwater for a minute.  Free diving requires skills and practice.  Wearing a few pounds of weights requires no special skills. Wearing nine pounds of extra weight does not impair my swimming or floating on the top — it just makes it easier for me to do a quick surface dive to get a closer look at some of the marine life or corals that are a few feet  below me.

If you are negatively buoyant, getting and staying underwater is easy.  If you are positively buoyant, it is more difficult. See Personal Buoyancy

I am not unusual in doing surface dives. Every tour guide I have ever been on a snorkel trip with will do many during the course of an hour snorkel. Any good swimmer will do a few when something catches their eye.

Having a one size fits all mentality for snorkeling safety does not make sense.

I am not unusual.  Statistics on the number of capable versus casual swimmers are not available.  The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_Swimming  has over 400,000 current members.  The number of people who have been members at some time in their lives is in the millions.  Think of these people as Olympic Hopefuls.  This does not include many of the swimmers who are members of their Junior and High School swimming teams.  College Teams…Water polo players ….  Swimming Instructors…  Synchronized Swimmers. .. Navy Seals … Japanese Pearl Divers .... Add in Iron men, Marathon Swimmers, and groups like the L Street Brownies.  Capable swimmers number in the tens of millions.

Dear Tour Operators and Tourist Boards:
If you want people to visit your area and enjoy the marine life there — for many, the very reason they have paid good money to be there — do not treat people who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours, working on becoming the best swimmers they can be, like casual swimmers. That disrespects their skills — and in essence penalizes them for knowing how to swim well.

In fact, these are the kind of people you want on your boats, just in case a situation arises where your team could use some additional help.

IMG-20191202-WA0006
Gary and Anne snorkeling

Snorkeler’s Pledge

 

  • Maintain good mental and physical fitness.
  • Ask in advance about snorkeling conditions like currents, tides, aquatic life from a knowledgeable, source who is familiar with local conditions.
  • Snorkel within your limitations.
  • Look but don’t touch — marine life is fragile.
  • Keep your fingers away from turtles, and eels.
  • Give sharks and rays a wide berth.
  • Snorkeling is a recreational activity. It is for enjoying nature, not competition.

Ten Tips for Divers (and Snorkelers) to Protect the Ocean Planet
The Divers Pledge to Protect the Ocean

I would be more than happy to sign a waiver saying I take personal responsibility for my snorkel trips. If I have a heart attack or stroke, my number came up. If I am swimming in a protected area, with a boat and dive flags, and I get run over by a drunken boater, that is another thing. Snorkeling insurance does not need to cover my heart attack. It should cover the rogue boater who runs over swimmers, or snorkelers or scuba divers.

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