Thursday, September 29, 2016


This is a common question asked when people board a dive boat. My answer is it is not required but I encourage it. Let me tell you why.

The other day I asked my friend John if I could relay his story. He was diving on a new dive site in favorable but less than ideal conditions. He is actually a great diver although he has only been diving a short time. Before he got back to the boat he realized he was low on air he ascended. After inflating his BCD he was really low on air and struggled to get back to the boat admitting he swallowed a lot of sea water. I noticed that when I went diving with him this week he had put his snorkel back on his mask.

A few years ago, when I owned a dive shop I read an article in Alert Diver magazine. It stated some interesting facts. Roughly 80% of all diving accidents happen to people not wearing a snorkel. At first glance a lot of you will say well almost 90% of all diving accidents occur at the surface so that makes sense. But do the math. That means more than 90% of the diving accidents that occur under water happen to people who don’t wear snorkels. The point of the article was this “Almost all diving accidents happen because the diver failed to do something he was taught in Open Water Class or attempted to do something he wasn’t taught in Open Water Class.” I will accept that the increase in some of the more technical aspects of diving within the recreational community has spawned some of this. However, the point of the article was “A diver who fails to use a snorkel, a required piece of equipment, has already accepted that the education provided for him by diving experts doesn’t apply to him all the time.”

Another day I was diving with a diver who I actually asked to wear a snorkel. He refused saying he was extremely experienced and assured me that in his 100 dives he had no need for one. Maybe I should have insisted. We were doing a scheduleD 40 min. drift dive. The reason for this was that the most scenic portion of the dive was too dangerous to bring a boat in and the strong current would have prevented us from returning to the starting point. Instead of informing me of the exact amount of air he had left when I asked he gave me the “time out” sign which generally means you have half a tank left. He was actually below 1000 lbs. Minutes later I saw him heading to the surface where I joined him. He was struggling to keep his head above water so I hit his inflator and his tank went dry before I got it filled enough to make him positively buoyant. I then dropped his weights and orally inflated his BCD the rest of the way. I asked if he could swim with me away from the dangerous area so the boat could retrieve us. He said he didn’t think he could because he was out of air and had no snorkel. I had to tow a 240 lb. diver to safety because HE didn’t wear a snorkel and HE was experienced enough to not need it. Apparently he was experienced enough to keep an eye on his air and report it accurately… NOT!

I have over 8400 dives and if you do the math this means I have spent almost 2/3 of a year in my life underwater. I always wear a snorkel. I understand that sometimes a snorkel could be a safety hazard as in cave diving and wreck diving. It can also be a hindrance for some underwater photographers and videographers. But, divers like myself may not always be there to rescue you as in this last story. It’s still your decision but a smart and safe diver wears a snorkel.

Until next time always make your total number of ascents equal your total number of descents.

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