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2 Reasons why Snorkels can’t get longer (easy Explanations)

warum sind schnorchel so kurz

Beginners in snorkeling don’t have a hard time. Unlike other water sports, there is no need for days of training. Instead of going to school for the sport for weeks, the first snorkeling adventure can start (almost) immediately. Before you start, beginners should familiarize themselves with the equipment.

Only those who are familiar with the functioning of the snorkel, the diving goggles and the fins will be able to explore the fantastic underwater worlds without being disturbed. Problems such as fogging of the snorkel mask will usually no longer occur.

One question that often arises before or shortly after the first trip is why snorkels are so short.

There are two reasons why snorkels cannot get longer. A longer snorkel would increase the dead air space, which makes breathing more difficult and ensures that used breathing air is inhaled again. Here there is the danger of pendulum breathing. On the other hand, the water pressure makes breathing more difficult. Average people can no longer breathe deeper than two metres, because the muscles of the lungs are too weak for the water that is weighing on the body.

Who has had questions in their heads for days like “Why can’t a snorkel be any length?”, “Why aren’t snorkels any longer?” or “Why are long snorkels dangerous?”, should this answer have already helped. In the following, however, we will go into more detail in order not to leave any ambiguities open.

2 reasons why snorkels are so short

Have you ever wondered why your snorkel is so short? A little extra length would be really handy. You could dive a little deeper and then there is not always the danger that the tip of the snorkel sinks into the water and the sea water flows directly into your mouth.

With a dry snorkel the latter problem could be avoided, but a little extra length would still not be possible. In practice, there are two problems that limit the snorkel to its short tubes. The first problem is known as “dead air”.

Reason 1: “Dead air”

We were all involved with the breathing process in biology classes. With every breath air is inhaled into the lungs. Once the air has arrived, the oxygen is extracted from the breath and distributed through the bloodstream in the body.  Carbon dioxide is formed from the “consumed” oxygen, which is then exhaled.

The conversion of oxygen into carbon dioxide takes place completely in the lungs. However, there are other parts of the body where air is present. When inhaled, air also enters the trachea, the nasal passages, the paranasal sinuses and the mouth. The air that inhales into these areas cannot be used by the body and is therefore not converted into carbon dioxide. Therefore these air masses are called “dead air space”.

When inhaled, the “dead” air masses obstruct the fresh air. However, the human body is strong enough to draw the air past the “dead air spaces”. When exhaling, the carbon dioxide is also stopped by the unusable airspaces. When inhaling, the body always pulls a small part of the CO₂ back into the lungs. There is no reason for concern. The body can deal with a low carbon concentration.

If you use a snorkel, you are dealing with another dead airspace. The snorkel is a problem in two ways. First, the snorkel is another dead airspace. Secondly, carbon dioxide accumulates in the snorkel. The longer (and wider) the snorkel is, the more difficult it becomes to breathe. More space becomes “dead air” and more carbon dioxide accumulates. A further problem is that more CO₂ is inhaled with every breath.

A possible solution for the first reason for which snorkels cannot be arbitrarily long would be a construction method with two pipes. One pipe is used for inhaling and one for exhaling. With the help of valves the air flow is controlled, so that at least the problem with the inhaled CO₂ is solved. The problem is, however, that the dead air space remains and thus limits the size of the snorkel.

Reason 2: Air pressure

In practice, a maximum length for snorkel has been established. Experts have adapted to this. The goal was to make the snorkel as long as possible without compromising the safety of the snorkelers. The basis for these calculations is not only the phenomenon of the “dead air space”, but also the air pressure.

When diving down in the water, the pressure on the body increases with every meter. Even at a depth of 10 metres, the pressure on the body is twice as high as on the water surface. The pressure affects the entire body and thus also the lungs. It is therefore hardly possible for the lung muscles to inflate the lungs underwater.

It is estimated that the average person lacks the strength to breathe at a depth of more than two metres. For this reason, it would make no sense to construct a very long snorkel. So even without the problem of dead air, snorkelers with a longer snorkel would not be able to simply breathe underwater.

What about the diameter of the snorkel?

So far we have only dealt with the length of the snorkel. However, the diameter of the snorkel is also important. On average the snorkel measures two centimetres in diameter. The value proves to be the optimum of the amount of air sucked in and the force required to suck it in. Snorkeling with this combination of diameter and length provides snorkelers with enough air without creating too much dead space and without breathing too hard.

Slight changes in the diameter or length of the snorkel are possible. The measurements have been set so that most people have the strength to breathe with these snorkels. For example, it is possible to make the snorkel slightly wider. This would allow the wearer to breathe without additional resistance. However, the problems described above would still occur.

It is important to note that snorkels for children must be shorter and narrower. Children have smaller lungs which are weaker than those of adults. For this reason, snorkels designed for adults should not be worn by children. The children could be supplied with too little air.


Many people wonder why snorkels are so short. However, if you take a closer look at the subject, you will soon notice that there are problems with the construction of longer snorkels.

The phenomenon of dead air and water pressure limit the maximum length of the snorkel. A longer snorkel makes breathing more difficult and increases the carbon dioxide content. Furthermore, the water pressure would also make breathing underwater more difficult.

For these reasons one will hardly be able to find snorkels with a length of more than 35 cm in the specialized trade or in Onlineshops. Own constructions exceeding this length are strongly discouraged due to the above mentioned problems.

With children additional caution applies. Adult snorkels cannot easily be used by children. A child’s lungs are less developed and not as strong as the lungs of an average adult. Children should therefore only use children snorkeling.

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