Human beings ask themselves many questions. One often wonders what distinguishes a man from an animal, for example. But if the answer can no longer be something physically tangible, such as the presence of an opposable thumb, then we can look for it in a more philosophical approach to life and the search for its meaning. In short, what has driven us to where we are today?
The answer, sometimes, is very simple: curiosity. The saying goes, doesn’t it? Curiosity made the snorkeller! It is this desire for knowledge that triggered the evolutionary process that has led us to be what we are today, with some answers but still endless questions. We have explored the earth, travelled every continent until we discovered new ones, created new societies and new lifestyles. We have looked into space, gone beyond the earth’s atmosphere and set out to discover new planets with different forms of life. And yet.
We have precise maps of the world showing even the smallest inlet on the Norwegian fjords and unthinkable photographs of a black hole, which by their very definition cannot be ‘seen’. But there continue to be unsolved mysteries right before our eyes. Or, to be more precise, beneath the surface of the sea. For decades we have attempted marine exploration, both by snorkelling on the surface and by expeditions into the depths, also with satisfying results, but without ever being able to get a total picture of everything that is hidden in the darkest recesses of the oceans that cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface.
And since we are curious creatures, we cannot help but be attracted by it all, looking at the sea for what it is: an immense expanse of water full of secrets that attracts us. Inevitably.
The charm of the sea
There would be no life without water. And more specifically, without the sea. Man’s survival has always been linked to its presence, from primary sustenance to entertainment. Fishing, water sports, exploration and scientific research: somehow, we always return to an existence inextricably linked to this primordial element.
In the past, beach vacations, booked in both summer and winter, were a must for relaxation, amidst rows of beach umbrellas and deckchairs ready to welcome sunbathers. But in recent years there has been a reversal of direction, an adrenalin-fuelled ‘discovery’ of water sports that have become the stars of holidays and weekends away from home.
Between surfing, kayaking and so on and so forth, snorkelling has also come to the fore, an activity that has conquered even the less sporty because it can be practised by anyone, regardless of their level of fitness or time of year.
But what is snorkelling?
From the word ‘snorkel’, which is the element that this activity requires in itself, to be able to swim on the surface of the water or at shallow depths and, with the aid of a mask, observe the beauty that only the sea can offer us, including beautiful seabeds, fish of all kinds and, among the most popular, the intricate ecosystem of a coral reef. Practised mostly in calm waters teeming with life, it has enjoyed great success thanks to a perfect balance of adrenalin, curiosity and ease in finding equipment, with even low costs.
The aim of snorkelling is to be able to admire the wonders of a world that is still hidden and within everyone’s reach, so you don’t need to be an athlete or have professional, state-of-the-art equipment to be able to practice it. What is important is to have the ability to be moved by the unfolding of an underwater world that is generally closed to us, and to have the sensitivity to respect and care for it as exceptional guests.
Why snorkelling? The benefits of this water sport
When we talk about getting in touch with nature, the image that comes to mind most is of a forest or woodland. An endless expanse of trees stretching out in soothing silence until you lose your gaze. A somewhat limiting vision, if we think that there are other, more immersive possibilities such as literally letting oneself be enveloped by the water.
Indeed, snorkelling takes us into a world totally different from our own, to observe ecosystems that we could never find on land, such as the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast. An experience like this allows us to make profound connections with the environment we are in and reshape our view of the world. The first benefit is therefore mental. The chance to get away from the daily hustle and bustle and immerse oneself in something new.
But not only this. Obviously, being a sport, snorkelling brings many physical benefits amplified by the presence of water. Let us look at some of them together:
- Improves body mobility. The fluid movement of the water promotes stretching and toning of the muscles in the arms, legs and shoulders and flexibility in the joints. The movement, which involves the entire body, improves balance and increases strength.
- Improves cardiovascular health. Increasing the heart rate with motor activity strengthens the heart muscles, helping to fight high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Improves breathing. It is an activity that requires controlled, deep and slow breathing. Increasing the effort, therefore, trains the respiratory system.
- Reduces stress. Immersing oneself in a peaceful environment such as the sea can have a calming effect on the mind, which combined with breath control relieves anxiety and stress. It can also have beneficial effects on those suffering from depression and panic attacks.
Beware of Fishes: what to watch out for when snorkelling
The sea possesses a unique beauty that fills the eyes and the soul, but to balance the two sides of the coin, it can also be very dangerous for those unfamiliar with it. A simple excursion to the sea can turn into a nightmare. Here, then, are some tips on how to tackle a snorkelling session safely.
- Have an instructor or experienced guide accompany you, especially if you do not know the area you would like to explore;
- Choose the right sunscreen, which is water-resistant and has a high protection factor. Even if you are in the depths, never underestimate UV radiation;
- Do not push yourself beyond your limits and rest when necessary. Swimming for long periods is very tiring even for those who are trained, so take breaks so you don’t risk over-exerting yourself;
- Breathe slowly and evenly through your snorkel, especially if you are a beginner, to avoid panic and anxiety attacks;
- Find out about the sea currents that may flow through your viewing area. Some can be strong and unpredictable and cause serious accidents, so never explore an area without making sure of the underwater movement of the waters;
- Also be aware of marine fauna as you may come into contact with dangerous animals such as stinging jellyfish and poisonous fish. Beware also of coral, which may have sharp, pointed edges;
- Use appropriate equipment that is in good condition. Do not skimp and check that your mask and fins fit you perfectly to avoid any problems once you are underwater.
Snorkelling equipment: what you need to have with you
As we mentioned in the last paragraph, in order not to find oneself the victim of fatal twists of fate in the midst of an expanse of water that is never clement, it is necessary to carefully choose the right equipment to be able to snorkel safely. It is important to check that each piece of equipment works properly, is the right size for your body type, and is appropriate for the temperatures and time of year you plan to hike. Let’s take a look at the different must-haves and how to choose them.
- Snorkelling mask: it serves to protect your eyes and nose, keeping them away from salt water, so that you can observe every detail of marine life even in the depths. Always choose one that fits perfectly to the shape of your face, allowing neither water nor air to pass through;
- Snorkel or snorkelling tube: to be chosen depending on the depth you intend to explore. You need this to be able to breathe underwater and continue observing for longer without having to return to the surface. Make sure they have a vent valve to expel any water and that they are the correct size in relation to your face and mouth;
- Fins: to move more easily in the water. As with a pair of shoes, choose the correct size. Prefer them made of semi-rigid material that can give an effective push without tiring you with every movement;
- Wetsuit: not necessary if you are staying on the surface during the warm season, but necessary if you want to snorkel during the colder months or in waters with low temperatures. The wetsuit serves to limit the loss of body heat and protect the skin from abrasions. To choose the right one, you need to have your measurements well in mind, to find one that fits like the best tailor-made suit. Neither too tight nor too snug: it must be the right size to fit the body without impeding movement and breathing;
These are only the most important ones, which may not be provided by guides and instructors, as opposed to safety beacons (buoys and flags that mark one’s position during a dive) and life jackets.
Of course, it is also possible to carry other items, such as underwater cameras conceived and designed for optimal performance even several metres below the sea surface where there is less light, and reef shoes.
Rock shoes, an essential accessory for beach holidays
Flip-flops were all the rage a few years ago, then Crocs came along, and now beach flip-flops are all the rage. But the real must-have at the seaside, especially if you choose to vacation at beach resorts with rocky seabeds or cliff-edged coastlines, are rock shoes.
Comfortable, practical and lightweight, they are useful both on land and in the water. The soles and uppers are designed to avoid punctures, contact and possible excoriations against rocks, stones or stinging animals passing through bathing waters and to guarantee grip even on wet surfaces, such as uneven seabeds, to allow freer movement in the water.
Some people think that simple rubber sandals can guarantee the same safety, but by definition alone a technical accessory is more reliable because it is designed for a specific function. And this is precisely the case with the reef shoes that Arena has developed for snorkelling.
Bow Water is the name of the model we are presenting today to ensure that you can have a safe outing even at sea and on the roughest rocks.
With a solid rubber sole, these shoes are the perfect combination of comfort and protection: they feature a soft neoprene upper with design details that make it more attractive. The model also features an elastic drawstring and a pull tab at the top of the heel that enhance the fit.
From the pool to the shoreline, the sole ensures excellent grip and resistance to the wear and tear of time and rubbing.
Comfortable and lightweight, they also take up little space in your suitcase, so you’ll have no excuse not to have a pair with you at all times, whether for long walks on the beach or your next exploration near the coast.
Now that you have all the basics, all that’s left to do is to dive headfirst into a new adventure!
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