Lots of Goodies for Fun in the Water
Article by Joel Simon
In preparation for this article, I walked into one of my local dive
shops, announced proudly that I was a snorkeler, not a diver, and
I was in the market for some additional equipment. The implication
of dollars quickly caught the attention of the young sales attendant.
Looking up from glossy pages showing blue water splashed with colorful
reef fish, he politely said, "Hi, my names Phil. What
do you need?" I thought about this question for a moment. It
was a good question. A right question. One Id asked myself
many times, without coming to a definite conclusion. "I have
what I need already", I responded, "Now Im
in the market for accessories, all the things I WANT!"
"Oh goodie", said Phil, clasping his hands together, then
closing the magazine, "you came to the right place!"
you have snorkeling accessories here?" I casually asked.
Now it was his turn to think for a moment, which he did with an
appropriate appearance of concern. First turning one way, then the
other, he was quickly surveying the stores entire inventory:
colorful hanging displays, glass counter tops, the undercounter
shelves, cardboard boxes under undercounter shelves, pegboard walls
punctuated with masks, fins, and snorkels in yellow, pink, blue,
and green. Then the photo area, the book and magazine racks, the
wetsuit area, the drysuit area, the B.C. area, the underwater lights
display, the tank filling station behind the open curtain, the board
listing upcoming certification courses and store sponsored vacation
packages to warm water dive your dream destinations. "Yes,"
he said tentatively, "except that some of this stuff also gets
used by divers." That worked for me.
Phil in the
dive shop had made a good point. When it comes to equipment, there
is indeed some overlap. "OK, Phil, lets take a look",
sure you have a mask?," he asked almost apologetically.
technically a mask is not an accessory, in fact its probably
the most essential piece of equipment, but today there are so many
options and features you should know about. Do you have a silicone
mask? ... they really do last longer, much longer than the old rubber
ones. Im sure you remember those. And silicon makes
a better seal around your face, and is much more comfortable.
have a silicon mask." I answered. And he was right. Silicon
is a tremendous improvement over the older rubber masks.
glasses, he added, a prescription mask or do you use contacts? "Yes:
a prescription mask," I answered. Corrective lenses have made
a world of difference to me. My recommendation: If you need them,
or even want them, make the investment and get them.
age pretty accurately he continued.
see, youre about bifocal age? arent you?"
Uh-ha, I responded,
bifocal mask yet?"
wagging my head no, "not quite yet."
or even tomorrow, you can get these little plastic or glass reading
lenses. Just glue them in place either in conventional or prescription
masks. Makes a big difference. All my Dads friends love them.
a new snorkel?" he asked, waving his arm casually at the brilliant
line-up. "Ive got some here: fancy purge valves top and
bottom that really work, comfortable silicon mouthpieces, ergonomic
curves, all different colors." I told him I had a snorkel.
asked Phil. "Youre probably still using those heavy old
black ones that never wear out. Like the kind in our garage".
white, otherwise youre correct," I replied. Phil showed
me several new pairs of lightweight fins ideal for snorkeling, including
some with adjustable straps. These facilitate the use of neoprene
booties, a kind of rubber slipper that protects feet and toes from
abrasion. Due to their buoyancy, they also help keep snorkelers
easily horizontal in the water. Booties can be invaluable for beach
entries and exits, where rocks and coral rubble can be uncomfortable
or worse on bare feet. Plus, they keep feet just a pleasant bit
the updates, Phil, but remember, Ive got my basic equipment
already. How about some accessories?" "Coming right up",
And first up
was the "snorkelsuits" section. Despite bikini-clad models
basking in sun drenched tropical advertisements, many real-life
snorkelers know that floating over a coral reef is the perfect opportunity
for an unforgettable sunburn. Todays choices for protecting
sensitive skin range from waterproof suntan lotion to the popular
full body Lycra suits. These suits come in an increasingly flamboyant
array of colors and patterns, and due to nearly limitless elasticity,
sometimes fit all too well. Although Lycra doesnt offer much
thermal protection, these suits do insulate from the sun, the occasional
stinging zooplankton or jellyfish, possible coral abrasions, and
other unwanted collisions that could injure bare skin. Lycra does
a good job, but almost any kind of attire from pajamas to long-sleeve
T-shirts will also offer similar protection.
Phil asked me,
"Do you get cold in the water, Joel?" Yes, Im human,
I answered to myself. Stretching out a couple of green and purple
sleeves from the rack of hanging suits, he continued. Polartech
and neoprene suits will help keep you warmer while snorkeling, even
in the tropics. They come in full body or "shortie" versions.
Rummaging through a box, and then like a magician pulling a rabbit
out of a black hat, "Oh look, Joel, heres some hoods
as well. And in bright colors, these make a snorkeler more visible
in the day. Did you know most body heat is lost through your head?"
I couldnt discern if he was asking or telling me. Not when
you wear a hood, he assured me.
hoods, and booties will add buoyancy. For some snorkelers, the more
securely they float, the happier they are. Wearing foam belts around
the waist, or water-ski-type jackets can add floatation confidence.
Other snorkelers prefer to adjust their buoyancy, giving them freedom
to easily dive and explore under the water. A modest weight belt
will compensate for neoprene suits and for the natural buoyancy
many people experience in salt water. Used in tandem with a lightweight
inflatable snorkeling vest, this combination adds both versatility
and safety. Vests are also a logical place to attach a small but
powerful whistle, just in case you ever need to attract some attention.
other options for flotation, including those that add mobility such
as kayaks and so-called "boogie boards". Kayaking is becoming
increasingly popular, and these lightweight, yet sturdy "vessels"
make excellent platforms from which to explore relatively calm marine
environments. Before you jump off, just make sure you know how to
get back on!
surface dive, Joel? How deep do you go?? Oh, I dont really
care" said Phil, "but thought perhaps you might. Here,
take a look at this nifty little capillary depth gauge. Just wear
it like a watch." I hadnt seen one of these in years,
a simple flat disk holding a circular clear plastic tube. Water
enters the tube and shows the depth. No moving parts, yet very accurate
in the shallows and virtually indestructible. Perfect for snorkelers
and inexpensive. Phil also showed me some economical digital dive
watches in case I was curious how long I was in or under the water,
and some small round submersible thermometers so Id know how
cold I should feel.
Phil was on
a roll. "Now that were talking wrists ... look at these
adjustable lanyards. You can easily fasten anything on to your wrist
with these." I asked Phil for a few examples. Except for your
snorkeling buddy, the suggestions are good ones.
Lights. There is an assortment of small submersible dive lights
ideal for snorkeling. These can be used in the day, especially for
illuminating dark areas under coral ledges, and of course for night
snorkeling. Before purchasing a light, be sure you understand its
operation, maintenance, and how long a set of batteries may last.
Some fancy lights burn bright, but for a short time, or require
specialized batteries and bulbs that can be difficult to find in
remote snorkeling areas. In general, for snorkeling, a small simple
light is best.
Snap" Cameras! Snorkelers can be enthusiastic underwater
photographers. A wide variety of cameras can be used while snorkeling,
but the small single-use models, or the "little yellow ones"
tend to be the most popular. They are relatively inexpensive, easy
to use, and can produce surprisingly pleasant images. They are also
easily carried on a wrist while in the water. Check to see if your
chosen camera includes its own elastic wrist strap, or some other
method of securely carrying it around while snorkeling.
plastic fish cards! This is one of my personal favorites and
has been consistently popular among snorkelers over the years. Little
colorful drawings (or photos) of the most prevalent reef fish (and
invertebrates) make identification more immediate, more positive,
and a lot of fun. Fish ID cards are available in several editions;
Caribbean, Hawaii, Australia, etc. In addition to the cards, there
are also waterproof fish ID books which can be dripped on or even
used while snorkeling. And Phil is right, a wrist lanyard is an
ideal way to carry books or cards around in the water.
This put us
in the instructional media section of the store where a variety
of magazines, videotapes, CD-roms, and books on marine life were
available. "These resources are as valuable to snorkelers as
they are for divers", said Phil picking up the magazine he
was reading when I first walked in. "Here, take a look at this
for example," he said with a sly smile. He leafed through a
few pages, then opened up to the Snorkeling Tourbook Editorial Page!
Oh, we had a good laugh over that. Hed suspected all along
that my goal was information rather than purchases. With Phils
valuable assistance, we defined many snorkeling accessories, and
agreed that, at least for some of them, divers could use them too.
our tour winding and weaving through the racks of gear. My guide
was never at a loss for words, or enthusiasm, as together we explored
snorkeling applications for a variety of submersible equipment.