Clearing Your Snorkel

OK, there’s water in your snorkel. Now what?

First, if you are a new snorkeler and didn’t leave the surface, it’s most likely a wave broke over the top of the snorkel, and poured down the tube, or you ducked your head down a little too low, and you probably aren’t expecting it. The first way to avoid that is to EXPECT it to happen, and know what to do.

Even if you have exhaled normally, most snorkels have a pretty small volume, and most of them also have a purge valve in the bottom end, so it really doesn’t take much to blow them clear. At the first hint that water has come down the tube, give a short hard last of air into the mouthpiece. This will almost certainly clear it so you can inhale safely again right away. It’s really a good idea – especially if you have never had any professional instruction – to just stand in chest high water, lean over, take a breath, and duck your head down so the snorkel top is below surface level, and let it fill. (You’ll hear it gurgling in). Lift your head a bit, and then blast it clear. Do this again and again until you are comfortable, and then lie on the surface and repeat. It’s actually very easy.

If you are coming up from a breath hold dive, you probably really want that first breath. In this case, tip your head back a bit – it’s always a good idea not surface fast without seeing what’s overhead – and when just a few feet below the surface, start exhaling a small amount of air into the snorkel. This will displace most of the water in the snorkel. As you break the surface, a short final blast will completely clear the snorkel, and it will be ready for that first inhalation. This works well with snorkels equipped with a purge or without.

Back to Basics – Rinse Your Gear!

A few weeks ago we talked about how the difference between renting gear and buying it can improve your early diving experiences. If you are renting now, you already know that most dive shops that rent gear have a “Bring it back clean” policy and will often add a surcharge if you take rented gear back salty or dirty. They do this because they know that salt and dirt left on gear is not good for it, and shortens its life.

When you have invested more than a few dollars in your own gear, it’s even more important to rinse it as soon as possible after the dive. Watch the experienced camera users, and the better charter boats – they immediately immerse their gear in a freshwater dunk tank before they even take it apart.

Salt water is pretty corrosive stuff, but DRIED salt is both corrosive and abrasive. Dried salt crystals embedded in any fabric part of your gear – wetsuits, drysuits, BCs and webbing – can cause unseen damage, make your gear look old before its time, and cost you money.

At the very least give all the gear a good hosing down with fresh water and hang to dry, hopefully in a cool dark place. (UV is no friend of dive gear either…)  Make sure the dust cap is back on the first stage of your reg, and then leave it in a tub of freshwater for at least the same time at it was in salt – especially if the salt water has dried, because you are back to those salt crystals, and you have to dissolve them.

There are many articles on the net about specifics of rinsing individual pieces of gear, but most of it is common sense. Remember that hot soapy water will wash just about any lubricant off gear, so keep it away from O rings etc. Read the manufacturer’s advice about how to get oil or creosote off your suit – solvent based cleaners can be death to neoprene.

Lastly, one of the most important reasons to always rinse your gear and store it well, is that it gives you an opportunity to inspect every piece for loss or damage BEFORE you are on the back on the beach or boat for your next dive and discover you are short a glove, or you have blown an O ring, or that mask strap has finally torn in half. Most divers carry a “save a dive kit”, but it’s been my experience when you are in a hurry and something is broken or missing, it’s always the ONE thing you don’t have a spare for.

Having your gear rinsed, dried, inspected and put away properly means you are ALWAYS ready for that last minute or unexpected opportunity to go diving, fully confident that everything is present and working, and you won’t have that embarrassing moment when everyone else is ready to jump in and one small lost or broken item ruins your day.

Diver Profile: Brian Pallock

Diving since: 1989
Total number of dives: 1500+
Favourite Quotes:
“Fact isn’t just the flavour of the day or someone’s opinion based on their limited experience…” – BP
“Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both.” – Horace Man


NAUI Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Dive Master

Instructor Ratings: NAUI OWSI, PADI MSDT, SDI OWSI, TDI Advanced Nitrox and Deco Procedures,
as well as multiple Instructor specialties from DAN, PADI and SDI

NACD and IANTD Full Cave Certified , Trimix


Canada –  Ontario & the Great Lakes, Nova Scotia, PEI; USA – Cape Ann, Florida (Keys and Caves),Bonne Terre;  Belize; Mexico – Mayan Caves & Cozumel, Aruba, Curacao and all over the Bahamas


Brian grew up as a farm boy helping his family grow apples and vegetables for their farm market. His interest in diving began in his youth when he spent hours snorkeling at his parent’s cottage or simply jumping in the water while out fishing with his Mom and Dad to see what there was under the waves. Television specials from National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau fueled this curiosity and he became certified as an open water diver in 1989, following formal schooling in Mechanical Engineering and adult training.

Following his diving certification he pursued the sport with a passion becoming active in the local Ontario diving scene, helping to run several dive clubs, including the Dolfin Divers, Great Lakes Scuba Club and the Durham Divers and he continues to be a strong supporter and sponsor of local dive clubs and the role they play in mentoring new divers.

In 1996 Brian opened Dive Source Scuba in Whitby – Ontario, later moving to Oshawa in 2004 where it has grown to become one of the premier shops in the Province of Ontario. Dive Source is a full service PADI Five Star Dive Centre which teaches hundreds of divers annually and employs a staff of over 30 dive professionals and store staff and acts as an anchor for the dive community in Durham Region and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).

Supported by his family and a talented and friendly staff, Dive Source continue to bring innovation and passion to the sport of scuba diving with Brian at the helm. When not diving Brian enjoys golf, fishing, writing, photography and the outdoors which ties in well to his role as scuba diving adviser and occasional guest on the FishnCanada Television show.

Benefits of Owning Your Own Gear

I often think of the difference between men and women on the approach to buying and renting, when my friends and now my kids and their friends get married. I have never known a groom who went out and bought a tux to wear for three hours, and have never seen a bride in a rented gown. (Not saying it doesn’t happen; just have never seen it myself.)

It’s partly a practical choice, and partly an emotional one. Go to a tool rental shop and you’ll find all kinds of great and handy devices that you may only ever need ONCE for one job and that job pretty much can’t be done without it. You know you will pay about ten percent of the value of the tool, but you are pretty sure you won’t use it nine more times in the next ten years, so it makes sense to rent.

Now, with dive gear, to become a scuba diver you have to take a fairly expensive course, and invest your valuable time to get certified to enjoy our great sport. It’s probably not something you did on a whim, you thought about it for a long time, or a friend has got you interested, but the point is you made a commitment. The dive industry has known for years that the dropout rate of divers who invest in their own gear is lower than those who don’t. Who wants to wear a wetsuit that 500 others have worn before you, or have a regulator in your mouth under the same circumstances?

Dive gear is a life support system that is your gateway to one of the most exciting experiences on the planet. When you are 100 feet underwater having a great time, it can be hard to imagine that you are a fifty cent part away from being exposed to an environment that is as hostile to the human body as outer space.

When you own your own gear, you spend the time to get every piece of it adjusted and configured EXACTLY the way you like it. It becomes like an old friend; an old pair of slippers that just slide on easily every time. There are no surprises, and your task loading on the dive prep is much lower – especially if you are on a boat full of divers you don’t know, and some piece of unfamiliar rental gear starts giving you grief.

In cold water, it’s really hard to enjoy the beauty when your rented dry suit leaks, or wetsuit is just not keeping you warm. For the travelling diver, in the face of recent massive airline restrictions and fees, most manufacturers have introduced high quality lightweight gear. I recently flew halfway around the world to dive in Australia. I took every piece of my own gear, except for weights.

I geared up in a couple of minutes, everything fit, I knew where it all was and how it worked, and the second I hit the water I forgot about and enjoyed my dives. If you want to truly enjoy diving and stay in for the long haul, go buy some gear….

Diver Profile: Denise Quesnel

Hometown: Vancouver
Age: 27
Diving since: 2011
Total number of dives: 35


According to my dive log, various spots in Utila, Honduras and Playas del Coco, Costa Rica are most frequented. A quarter of my dives have taken place in British Columbia, which is where I live, but I don’t really have one frequented spot. There is no one convenient spot, and I always feel compelled to explore new sites before returning to an already visited one.


Q.When and why did you start diving?

I said for many years that I had no interest in diving. I think its because I was in denial, I knew once I tried it I would be hooked and it would be game over for me. I took the plunge before I left for my wedding in Belize. I wanted to be able to dive there because many people reported Belize to be among the most incredible and eclectic dive sites in the world. I got my PADI certification in Vancouver, since I wanted to be able to drysuit dive in the waters at home as much as possible. I love the water, and I am completely fascinated by what is beneath it. I started recording photos and video of my dives as soon as I felt competent underwater, and I now almost always take my stereoscopic 3D camera down with me. It really brings the dives back to life when I review the 3D footage afterwards, and non-divers really enjoy it too.

Q.What was your most exciting dive experience?

My most memorable experience was off the shore of Kona, Hawaii on a night dive. On this particular dive you bring lights down with you and chill out on the bottom, and before long plankton are drawn to the light, which in turn brings oceanic manta rays. Being that close to the mantas and seeing them emerge like massive gentle monsters from the dark was a completely captivating experience. They come within inches of you; I brought my 3D camera system on that dive and have some great moments from it. Any dive for me is amazing if I can find some little creatures too- I like to go on the hunt for them. A good dive for me will feel easy and natural; I can only really go a month between dives before getting the itch to get back in the water again.

Happy diving everybody!

Mask Skirt Silicone – What’s the Best Colour?

There are many pieces of dive gear that arouse great differences of opinion, and all make for interesting discussions on the dive boat. One of these discussions is the best colour for the silicone skirts of dive masks.

Back when dives masks were pretty much all made of rubber, 90% of them were black, and a few were some pretty ugly shades of green or blue. Most “experienced” divers stayed away from the coloured ones, as they faded out from UV in the hot sun, and became even uglier!

So for years, black pretty much reigned. Then the new miracle material for divers – silicone – came along, and at first, just because it has always been done that way, they were black. Then, the huge phenomenon of CLEAR silicone masks came out, and immediately became popular, especially with snorkelers and new divers. Many people felt that black opaque masks felt claustrophobic, dark, and gave the effect of tunnel vision, and the new clear masks felt much more open, and let more light in.

Millions of nice, bright clear masks were sold in the marketplace, but there is a big problem with that brightness that may people don’t realise until it’s too late. All that light coming in the back of the mask – especially when you are snorkelling face down in the sunshine, or even on scuba in clear, sunlight waters, bounces off the mask lens right into your eyes. The result is you see yourself in the lens, which can be annoying and obstruct some of your vision, but the biggest issue is the bright light tends to make your iris contract, allowing less of the light coming up from below – where all the stuff you are trying see is – to get to your retina. This is really easy to test if you have a clear mask. Next time you are out snorkelling or diving on a bright day – or even just go outside in your front yard if you don’t mind your neighbors questioning your sanity – place your cupped hands on each side of the mask, by the straps and block the light from coming in. I guarantee you’ll see more of the stuff you are looking for below you.

So, you were faced with one of two choices. A nice, bright clear mask that gives you reflections and reduces what you see, or a dark, claustrophobic one that gives you good vision, but makes every dive feel like a cave dive.

Until now. Last year I had my first opportunity to dive with a high quality frameless style mask with a skirt made of pure white silicone. When I first saw it I thought it was a gimmick, or possibly only popular in the Japanese market, where everything in white is very big. I could see no practical reason for it, other than a fashion item to match other white gear.

I was wrong! Once in the water, the aspect was so much nicer than a black mask. The dive seemed bright and open and just great – and then I realized I was seeing no reflections. Ten minutes into that first dive I was sold, and my long trusted black mask has never left my dive bag again, and probably won’t.

Next time you are in your local dive shop, ask to try one on. You’ll be glad you did!

How to Choose a Pair of Fins

Along with the mask and snorkel, a pair of fins is often the first equipment purchase that you will make as a snorkeler or dive student, and the choice can be a crucial factor in your enjoyment of the sport. Fins come in many sizes, shapes, styles, degree of stiffness or flexibility, designs and working principles, so choosing the right one can be a confusing task.

1. What type of diver are you?

In order to find the right pair for YOU, you must first have an idea of what you will do with them. Years ago, the basic flutter kick was the most popular, but now as the more sophisticated kicking techniques of technical, wreck and cave diving are being taught at basic scuba certification levels, you should look for a fin that performs well in all these categories.

New divers

Compare the benefits and drawbacks of the various styles of fins. Paddle fins are basic and do the job, and split fins are generally comfortable. Ask an instructor or more experienced diver what they look for in a fin. Make sure the fin that suits you now can grow with you as you increase your experience and demand more from your gear!

Experienced divers

Will look for a fin that can provide peak performance under more demanding diving conditions that new divers may not be exposed to. Cold water, currents, longer dives requiring more stamina require a more versatile fin that excels at all kick styles. Photographers and videographers especially require instant response for accurate positioning without damaging their subjects.

Technical divers

Any diver operating outside the accepted realm of open water dive qualifications, especially wreck or cave divers, will need a fin that can be used without stirring up silt or mud in an overhead or confined environment. Reliability is crucial to these divers, as due to depth and decompression requirements, or cave or other overhead restrictions, immediate surfacing due to a failed piece of gear is often not an option. Everything that takes you in must also get you out.

2. Categories & Comparing Fins


The most common style of fin, paddles come in many forms, shapes, and performance levels. Some of the more powerful models have very thick and high side rails, making them less efficient for frog kicks etc.


A patented design breakthrough in the 1990’s with new “propeller fin technology” the split fin concept has been very popular, but now many divers report they lack true top end power, and are not as good for technical style kicks.

Open heel or full-foot?

For decades divers in warm waters have used full foot fins. These days however, many tropical divers complain they have no protection walking barefoot over rocky or coral beaches, that they get sand in them, and chafe marks or blisters if the foot pocket is too loose or tight. More and more, warm water divers are switching to strap fins as they can wear a good boot for protection and comfort, get less sand inside, and enjoy the ability to accurately adjust sizing with a rubber or spring strap.

Fin choice has also historically been based on how much propulsion you require for the type of activity you expect in the water. A diver in a shorty wetsuit snorkelling in tropical water needs much less propulsion power than a fully equipped cold water drysuit diver in a current. It’s always been easy to find soft and comfortable fins, or big, stiff, powerful fins, but you’ll never get full top-end power from the soft pair, or every-day comfort and easy kicking from the stiffer ones, so it’s always been a compromise.

3. What to look for in a fin

The aquabionic warp1 fin uses revolutionary new patent pending warp technology that automatically adapts to a divers strength and style of kick. warp stands for “water adapting responsive propulsion”- and defines a new category for underwater propulsion. As you kick harder the blade geometry responds by generating a three-dimensional profile required to achieve maximum efficiency and power. The fin has very low side rails, allowing it to slice cleanly through the water on the outstroke of the more technical kicks like Frog, Scull, Back-fin, and Helicopter. This reduces resistance and improves efficiency on these kicks.

Diver Profile: Simon Morris

Age: 55
Diving since: 1973
Total number of dives: 2000+


NAUI Basic1973
PADI Openwater: 1978
PADI Advanced: 1986
PADI Rescue: 1987
IANTD Nitrox: 1996
NACD Intro to Cave: 1999  


Australia, British Columbia, Great Lakes, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, China, England, Grand Cayman, France, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, Florida, California, Pribiloff Islands, Bering Sea (Alaska) Washington State, & Hawaii.


Simon has always loved being in the water, whether it be river, lake, cave or ocean. Certified at 15, he just celebrated 40 years as an avid diver. Simon has always worked in the Diving Industry, for some of the major corporations, and currently as a partner and VP Marketing and Sales for CETATEK products inc., maker of the aquabionic warp1 fin.

At the same time he has enjoyed a successful career as a bronze sculptor with private and corporate collectors in nine countries, as well as several life size or larger commemorative public statues, and is the creator of the two nine foot tall bronze mermaids in Powell River, BC and at Sunset House in Grand Cayman.

His favorite dives include both mermaid sites, and most of the tropical locations he has visited, but the clear, cold and current swept waters of Northern Vancouver Island around Port Hardy and Port McNeil have always been the most electrifying. His most exciting dive was probably in a large school of Giant Bluefin Tuna in St. Margaret’s Bay, Halifax, in 1988, but there have been 500 close seconds with mantas, whale sharks, sea lions, walrus, wolf eels, manatees, mermaids, sharks, dolphins of all kinds, and most recently a friendly and inquisitive sea snake wrapped around his leg….

Happy diving everybody!

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