Can you Breathe Underwater with a Snorkel or Full Faces Mask?

It’s not unlikely to wonder if at all you can breathe underwater with a stand-alone snorkel or the type attached to full-face masks. Snorkels allow you to breathe when your nose and mouth are submerged below the surface of the water. While near the surface, an average snorkeler can breathe for up to 15 minutes or more with a snorkel, breathing when the tube is completely submerged deep will last for about 30 seconds for beginners. Skilled swimmers and divers can last over one minute underwater with a snorkel.

Breathing Underwater with a Snorkel

Snorkels are designed with a letter J shape. The lower end fits into your mouth while the upper part sticks above your head when your lying flat.
The traditional types(wet snorkels) are mere J tubing with open ends. The tube is long is enough to stick out of the water while one end is submerged. Owing to the fact that the tube is open, you can easily breathe through your mouth while the face is submerged as long as the water is calm.
However, if the water is not calm, with plenty of splashes and waves, it will be quite challenging to breathe because the water will get into the tube through the top open end.

Breathing underwater Wet Snorkel
Wet Snorkels

If you’re snorkeling in rough waters, the best option to get a dry snorkel. The working mechanism is the same but this type of snorkel does not allow water into the tube.
At the top, there is a splash guard that keeps water out. If some water gets in by accident, it has a purge valve at the bottom end that draws the water out when you exhale.

Dry Snorkel
Dry snorkels

Further Reading: How a Snorkel Works + the Best Snorkels

Breathing Underwater with a Full Face Snorkel Mask

The idea behind designing a full-face snorkel mask was to enable snorkelers to breath underwater comfortably.

Almost all of the FFSMs make it possible to breathe while near the surface of water. In fact, most designers openly tell you that the masks are meant for surface swimming/floating.

Some manufacturers however claim that their masks are well suited for breathing while deep in the waters. These claims are yet to be proven.

How do FFSMs Work Underwater?

The full face snorkel mask is designed very differently compared to the traditional mask. First off, the appearance, the full face mask will completely cover your face from the chin to your head leaving your hair out. Due to that design, it also means that there is no longer a j-tube to bite down on.

Instead, the tube is located on top of the mask rather than the mouth. This is beneficial indeed because it eliminates jaw fatigue from having to constantly hold on the tube.

The dry tube stops the water from getting in and aid with your breathing, but how? The tube has a ball or balls that sit right on top or rather on the far end of the tube, to act as a valve.

When your submerged in water, pressure from the water force the balls to shut the tube allowing no water in. Once the tube is not submerged, the valve will open to allow air in.

 The valve will work hand in hand with the drainage system to ensure the mask doesn’t retain water.

The masks are also created with different chamber which makes it easier to separate the exhale and inhaled air different chambers. The chambers also allow you to seamlessly and comfortably breath from either your mouth or nose.

It is because of these breathing features FFSMs have become an excellent choice for newbies and kids. When used correctly, chances of chocking in water are minimal.

So what else?

Besides the dry snorkel tube that’s beautifully designed to allow easy inhaling and exhaling, most full-face masks will have a valve at the bottom of the mask. This allows water to trickle down and exit the mask hence less likelihood of water accidents, checking, or water filling in your mask.

As long as you maintain the same pace in water and not deep diving or fast snorkeling, these excellent features will allow you to snorkel way easier than with the traditional snorkel masks.

How Long Can You Stay Underwater with a Full Face Snorkel Mask?

There isn’t a specified amount of time you can stay submerged in water with a full face mask. If you’re just floating near surface the water, you are guaranteed to stay for a while. However, you won’t stay for long if you choose to go a few inches deeper into the water.

 Based on expert divers who have tried an FFSM for diving, you won’t stay down there even for 30 minutes. Full face work perfect if you’re using them on the surface.

Following are more other factor underwater swimming with a full-face snorkel mask.

Pressure Equalization

There’s a difference between snorkeling with this full face snorkel mask and the traditional one. With the older version, you could swim/dive deeper because you had the ability to equalize your own pressure. By pinching your nose so your ear pressure can balance. But with the mask, the super-wide anti broken mask made of polycarbonate is not as easy to penetrate the water, leave alone the fact that you can’t pick your nose through the mask.

This then makes it hard for you to snorkel in deep waters. Alternatively, if you try to deep snorkel, you could have respiratory difficulties since the airway may also be under immense pressure; hence, unable to comfortably give way to inhaling and exhaling at a steady pace.

Mask Volume

Another factor is on the mass volume inside the mask as opposed to the outside. Snorkeling on the surface may not cause any excess air buildup in your mask but as you snorkel for longer or deeper, the enclosed space tends to hold on to air.

Where from?

Well, the dry snorkel tube doesn’t completely release the air you exhale. This is a mechanism to further avoid entry of water into the tube. But as you keep up with the swimming, the excess air not being release with start to build up inside the mask which is covered by an elastic textile strap.

The mass volume then makes your entire snorkeling experience uncomfortable from then on.

Surface area of the Mask

Full face snorkel mask, though not heavy, are quite huge. The huge surface area will create resistance while trying to dive deeper. This resistance will limit how far deep you can without getting tired.

Swimming and Diving Experience

Experienced swimmers and divers will of course stay longer underwater with whatever equipment you will give them. The have fully-developed water confidence.

However, for beginners with little or no confidence, the duration will be highly limited.


As we wind up, let’s have a look at some safety concerns and precautions you should carry along with you.

  • Snorkeling for extended periods of time using a full face snorkel mask. There have been reports that indeed the mask creates a buildup of carbon dioxide which has adverse effects on your body. In that case, avoid staying too long underwater to reduce the buildup and dead airspace in the mask.
  • Check to see the specifications by the manufacturers on the manual. Most will state the purpose of the mask as professional or recreational use. This is yo warn you that they may not hold up the oxygen levels for long.
  • Go snorkeling with company, especially if you want to seek deeper waters. This is because accidents can happen and to may need assistance when it does. It’s always better to have a helping hand with you at the time of need.
  • Reduce the levels of risk by doing your research on the best full face mask to avoid purchasing low quality or overrated products. They can cause you severe damage otherwise.
  • Purchase your own gear rather than hiring at the snorkeling site. This is because despite the tests undertaken by various industries reflect on successes and failures, having your personalized gear helps you relax and remain confident in the water.

Which snorkel Mask for Deep Underwater Snorkeling?

As of now Ninjashark mask is one the brands that boldly claims it is perfect for snorkeling deep underwater. One of the unique features it comes with is the ability to equalize. Following is a quick video review

If you’re looking to have the best time of your life with these full face snorkel masks, take the time to read through and understand how they work. Learn about their manufacturer and genuineness of the product. You don’t want to risk your life while trying to enjoy your underwater experience.

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