I have often wondered whether a long snorkel hose would let me explore more underwater and be easier to use than a shorter snorkeling hose.
The answer, I found, was “no.” It is not only harder to breathe with a long snorkeling hose, but it has some potential downsides that could prove deadly. The maximum tube length a diver should use is 16 inches, while the ideal length is 12 to 15 inches. There are several reasons why this is so. Here are a few:
Snorkel vs. Scuba Diving
To dive underwater with a snorkel is very different from scuba diving. Scuba divers wear an oxygen tank on their back, which gives them an unlimited air supply, and their exhaled air is not recycled through their oxygen tank. They can dive deep into the ocean despite the atmospheric pressure.
A diver using a snorkel must stay close to the water’s surface because they must clear their snorkel to breathe. Staying close to the surface limits their diving depth while allowing them to enjoy observing marine life.
A Long Snorkel Hose Requires More Work
The longer the snorkel tube, the harder you have to work to breathe air. Several factors, such as water pressure and air pressure, play into this difficulty. Snorkeling in a shallow depth is also easier than deeper underwater.
You can experiment with a snorkeling hose of the recommended length (12 to 15 inches), a long tube of 16 inches, and a long hose of 24 inches. You will notice a substantial difference when you put your mouth on the tube and suck air through a short snorkel compared to a long hose. You’ll notice your breath becoming shallow and labored in a short time.
Now, imagine doing that for a half-hour while swimming in the ocean!
A Long Snorkel Hose is Dangerous
There are a few reasons that using a longer hose than is recommended, as beyond the maximum length can be dangerous.
Harder to Clear
When you dive below the snorkel hose length, the hose fills with water. If you stay down long enough, whatever residual air is in the hose when you descend will escape the hose and move to the surface in the form of bubbles. When you come back up for air, you have the length of the snorkel hose filled with water to clear before you take a breath.
If you start snorkeling, that can require much effort with a shorter hose and more effort with a longer one. Even an experienced snorkeler can run into problems clearing the pipe. It takes more force to clear a longer pipe.
What happens if you cannot clear it?
When you can’t clear your snorkel, you take in a mouth full of water during the inhale. This unwelcome mouthful of water can lead to aspiration and coughing, making breathing more difficult. Panic becomes a risk when you can’t clear your snorkel. Even if you do not panic, clearing that extra length of hose requires a lot more physical exertion that you may not have when you’re out of oxygen.
As mentioned, aspirating is a potential danger with any length of hose. It can lead to panic and bad decisions, which can quickly escalate to drowning. In the best-case scenario, you end up coughing uncontrollably and must contend with that while treading water. At that point, drowning becomes possible.
During normal breathing, you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. You can run into problems during snorkeling if you cannot breathe pure air and recycle carbon dioxide. Unless you resurface and clear your hose, the carbon dioxide you exhale remains in the hose, creating a cycle where you breathe more carbon dioxide increasingly with each breath.
The higher the level of carbon dioxide in your blood, the more you have to breathe to bring in oxygen, which is why you breathe harder during physical exertion. The dangers of too much carbon dioxide in your blood include, but are not limited to:
Carbon dioxide is a poison to our bodies, chest, and lungs. Too much in our blood can lead to tissue and lung damage.
Carbon dioxide saturated blood develops into a condition called hypercapnia. The more carbon dioxide in your blood, the more acidic your blood becomes, leading to acidemia, cellular harm, and even chest issues. If prolonged, it can lead to a drop in blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia.
High acidity can also cause nerve damage that can be temporary or permanent. Either way, nerve damage can bring on delirium, hallucinations, seizures, respiratory failure, and even unconsciousness.
There’s no room for oxygen when too much carbon dioxide is in your blood, leading to poor gas exchange. Poor gas exchange develops into an exponential cycle where you take in oxygen, and your body converts it to carbon dioxide, so it stays in your blood. Eventually, you suffocate.
Although you may think a longer hose would benefit a snorkeler, it is quite the opposite. A longer hose doesn’t give you extra air during inhalation and doesn’t get you closer to marine life. Instead of improving your snorkel experience, a longer hose comes with many potential risks.
Clearing your snorkel can be fatiguing, especially when running out of air. This can lead to panic, aspiration, or even death. Carbon dioxide poisoning can cause many health complications such as cardiovascular problems, nerve damage, and asphyxiation. It may be tempting to use a longer hose, but the risk is not worth the reward. It’s better to be safe than sorry and stick with the recommended snorkel length of 12 to 15 inches.