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THE SCUBA SHOP
La Palapa Marina

#16 Airport Boulevard
Simpson Bay, St. Maarten
T: +1-721-545 3213
info@thescubashop.net
 

Dive Safaris Simpson Bay

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Buying Tips

Buying Tips for Snorkel Gear

We stock snorkel gear from 4 major suppliers, each offering a multitude of styles and colours - the task of choosing the right snorkeling gear can be daunting. Luckily our staff in the shops can help you find the perfect gear for years of snorkeling and diving fun - be prepared to spend a bit of time with us, trying everything on to make sure you get the perfect fit..

There are 3 main items you need, Mask, Snorkel and Fins. Optional extras include Snorkel Vest, towable Dive Flag, Fish and Critter ID Card, Waterproof Camera, Lycra Protection and a Mesh Bag to carry it all in.

The Mask
The mask is your window to the underwater world. It provides an air pocket so your eyes can focus and you can see clearly underwater. Your nose must be within the eye pocket so you can adjust for pressure changes (this is why swim goggles cannot be used for snorkeling). Look for masks that feature tempered glass lenses, double silicone skirts and wide, comfortable head straps with easy to adjust buckles. Depending on your personal preference and face features, options include single or double lens, side lenses, purge valve, black or clear silicone skirt....

A good quality mask will have it's lens(es) made out of high quality impact resistant (tempered) glass, not plastic and the mask skirt will be made out of 100% silicone, not some other material like rubber or PVC.

Don't buy a cheap mask - they may look the same, but the things you can't see (quality of skirt and lens material) are just as important as those you can. It is one of your most important pieces of gear.

How to Fit a Mask
A correctly fitted mask will seal smoothly to keep keep water out. To make sure a mask seals well, hold it against your face without using the strap around the back of your head and breathe in through your nose. If the seal is good the mask will "stick" to your face nicely and you can let it go without it dropping. Hair trapped under the skirt of the mask will cause it to leak so make sure you brush away any stray hair (or shave) before trying on a mask.

Once you are sure the mask seals correctly, make sure the skirt is not pressing up under your nose, that there is no pressure against the bridge of your nose or on your forehead between your eyes. Press the mask in towards your face and make sure it still feels good - when you are snorkeling or diving the water pressure will press the mask onto your face a bit.

Now try it with the mask strap on your head. You should get an airtight fit with very light strap pressure. The strap should sit high on the back of your head, not resting on or over your ears as this will begin to hurt after a few minutes.

If you have to pull the straps tight to get a fit then the mask is the wrong size for your face. If you have big red marks when the mask comes off, you have the strap way too tight. A leaky mask is more often a case of straps too tight than too loose.

Also, make sure with the mask fully on that you can easily pinch your nose so that you can clear your ears when diving underwater.

Lastly, with your mask on with the strap around your head, put a snorkel or regulator mouthpiece in your mouth and see what happens to the seal. Sometimes after inserting the mouth piece a simple re-adjustment of the mask will allow it to seal properly again, but sometimes it is back to the shelf to choose another mask.

Finally, if you have found a mask that fits you perfectly, buy it! This is the one piece of equipment that can make or break your snorkeling experience so spending a little extra is well worth it if the mask fits well.

How to Defog a Mask
Before using your mask for the first time, scrub the inside of the lens(es) with plain toothpaste (you can scrub with your tooth brush or a clean finger). The lenses need to be cleaned because there might be some anti-caking agent on it, used to mould the silicone skirt onto the mask, which will cause it to fog up very easily when snorkeling. Rinse thoroughly, preferrably with hot water afterwards. It is very good practice to repeat this clean throughout the life of your mask - dirt on the inside of the lens(es) will cause them to fog up.

Then, before each dive, use defogging solution according to the instructions. Or, for a less sanitary, but cheaper method, spit into your clean, dry mask, swirl or gently wipe it around on the lens(es) and give it a quick rinse in the sea before putting on your face. Note: this method does not work so well after a greasy lunch!
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The Snorkel
The snorkel lets you breathe with your face in the water. A snorkel should fit comfortably in your mouth with the tip at the crown of your head. The vast majority of snorkels will do this easily with minor adjustments, so your primary selection considerations are mouthpiece comfort and features.

In our shops you will find a wide array of snorkels which basically fall into four categories:

  • J-shaped – a very basic and durable snorkel, preferred with a soft silicone mouthpiece.
  • With Purge and Open Top – with a purge in the bottom so you can easily clear the snorkel from water that might have come in. These snorkels usually have a flexible curve that allows the mouthpiece to hang down and out of your way when not in use (nice when scuba diving).
  • With Purge and Splash Guard Top like above, but with a "guard" at the top to deflect small splashes of water from entering the tube.
  • With Purge and Dry Top – like above, but then with a top that will close when you swim down and the snorkel submerges, so no water will come in.
  • Snorkels have many different mouthpieces, from the more rigid PVC to soft silicone, different sizes or the so called ‘comfort’ mouthpieces. Some snorkels have handy detachable snorkel keepers, so you can store your mask in its box easily. There are snorkels with an extra wide tube for maximum air inhalation and of course snorkels come in as many colours as masks.
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    The Fins (aka Flippers)
    In the diving industry we like to call those large floppy "shoes", also referred to as "flippers", fins. Fins provide a large surface area to push against the water allowing you to swim using your powerful leg muscles to move you more efficiently through the water and frees your hands. Snorkel fins should also provide some floatation for your feet which helps to keep you horizontal on the surface.

    Fins basically come in two types
    The Full Foot Fins, where you can slip in bare foot, are mostly used for snorkeling and diving in warm waters, and the Open Heel Fins (with neoprene boot), mostly used for scuba diving and colder waters, which are more comfortable and usually more powerful.

    Which type of fin you choose depends on where and how you want to use your fins. Do you only snorkel or are you a scuba diver too. Is there any current where you snorkel or dive?

    Full Foot Fins are easy to don and off, ideal for warmer waters and lighter in weight which makes them easier for travelling.

    If you are planning to snorkel or dive in colder waters as well as our warm tropical waters, then an Open Heel Fin with a boot would be your choice. The same goes if your feet get cramped or blistered easily, or if you are just between sizes. Dive instructors, even in warmer waters, prefer open heel fins since they are more durable and, as most are designed for scuba diving, more models are designed to achieve a more powerful thrust which is sometimes needed for chasing after wandering guests.

    There are some exceptions to the rule of open heel fins needing a neoprene boot – we do stock a simple Snorkel Fin with an open heel that is designed to be worn without a boot. This fin is not as comfortable as a good fitting Full Foot Fin, but the advantage is that it can be used by a number of different people with a wider foot size range or growing kids..

    How to correctly fit your fins
     Here’s how to be sure you get the right size :

    Full Foot Fins run 2 sizes at a time so don't expect to get an exact fit like with a sneaker.

    • The most common mistake is buying fins that are too small - you want a snug fit, not too tight, not too loose.
    • You should just be able to insert a small finger between your heel and the back of the foot pocket - if you can't get your finger in your fins could be too tight. If you finger wiggles around with room to spare your fins are too loose.
    • Your fins will get slightly looser in the water and slip easier so you don't want them too loose.
    • Also make sure that there are no hard spots that dig in when you flex your foot back and forth (it is easier to test this when sitting on a stool) - this can happen at the sides if there is hard plastic on the bottom part of the foot pocket.
    • It is not necessary to see your toes stick out the end, however if you have narrow feet they will - in this case you need to make sure that your toes are not "squeezed" out the opening and that the edges do not rub your toes, in particular on the top.

    Open Heel Fins with Neoprene Boots are usually much more comfortable than Full Foot Fins with the added benefit that they keep your feet warm.

    • Try the fins on wearing your neoprene boots, or the most similar ones in the dive shop.
    • Put your bootied foot into the fin pocket. You don’t need the strap. Your foot should go all the way in until the top edge of the pocket reaches just in front of your ankle. If your foot slides in too far, the top edge of the pocket will irritate the front of your ankle. Your toes do not have to reach the end of the foot pocket.
    • If your foot slides only part way in either because it is too tight or your toes reach the end, the fin is too small, even if it feels fine. A fin that goes only partially onto your foot will overtire you because it has too much leverage against your ankle.
    • Once you have the right size, adjust the strap to fit so it is snug but comfortable.
    • The fin pocket size and blade size correspond, so that for most people, if the fin fits your foot, the blade size is right.
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    Kids Snorkeling Gear
    Kids love snorkeling too! Our kids snorkeling gear is of the same quality as our adult snorkeling gear, but designed to fit smaller faces, mouths and feet. We even have snorkels with Dry Tops for the little ones.
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    Snorkeling Vest
    A snorkel vest floats you at the surface and adds visibility for safety. We prefer bright orange or yellow inflatable snorkel vests (not solid foam) - these allow you to have just the amount of air you need, or no air at all until you need it, so that you can still free dive to get a closer look at the underwater world.

    Snorkeling Bags 
    Keep it together with a snorkeling bag. From simple mesh bags to dedicated over the shoulder bags with padded straps to mesh duffel bags for multiple sets, a snorkel bag will keep your snorkel gear in one place and make it easy to carry and clean after use.

    Lycra Protection
    A lycra Rash Guard will protect against contact from marine life (jelly fish). Look for ones that include a high sun protection rating for that added protection against sunburn.
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    Click here for Maintenance and Cleaning Tips

     

     
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