Is Snorkeling an Extreme Sport? (+9 Types You’ve Never Heard Of)

Snorkeling is just floating along at the surface of crystal clear, tropical seas taking in the fantastic views of the underwater landscape, right?

Surely there’s nothing extreme about that?

Well, yes, we agree that recreational snorkeling isn’t an extreme sport

But as we’ll see, challenge-loving humans have invented many variations of snorkeling that without a doubt fall into the extreme sports category.

So if you’re looking for a challenge, take a deep breath, and we’ll have a look together at the most extreme variations of snorkeling that are out there.

2 Reasons Why Snorkeling Is Not Considered an Extreme Sport

If we’re talking about snorkeling in general, let’s agree that we’re talking about recreational snorkeling.

In this context, participants use a mask, snorkel, fins, and, if needed in cooler water temperatures, a wetsuit.

They’ll float at the surface, with their face in the water, breathing through the snorkel and watching the aquatic life and underwater environment unfold below them.

Recreational snorkeling is considered easy, involves relatively little effort under normal circumstances, and is especially popular in tropical vacation resorts.

Even non-swimmers can snorkel by following some general safety tips and wearing a floatation device.

So if it’s not apparent already, why isn’t this kind of snorkeling regarded as an extreme sport?

1 We Can’t Define Regular Snorkeling as a Sport

Before considering if snorkeling is “extreme,” can we even call it a sport?

We can define a sport as:

“an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature…”

We’ve already suggested that snorkeling is, in general, an easy activity that can even be enjoyed by those that aren’t strong swimmers.

So while snorkeling is a healthy activity and some gentle exertion is required, it’s not incredibly “athletic.”

There are some basic skills for using the mask, snorkel, and fins to be learned, and there are even snorkeling certifications available. 

However, we don’t consider these to push the activity into the realm of a competitive sport.

We have occasionally come across snorkelers that regard the whole event as a competitive race to cover as much distance as possible and do their best to lose their buddy, the group, and the snorkel guide.

Luckily, most participants prefer gently swimming along with their buddy, enjoying and sharing the interesting underwater life they’ve spotted.

So all said, we regard recreational snorkeling as a leisure activity rather than specifically as a sport.

2 Normal Snorkeling Isn’t Extreme

We don’t consider snorkeling a sport, and we don’t think it’s usually extreme either.

An extreme sport is defined as:

“involving a high degree of risk and often involving … a high level of physical exertion and highly specialized gear.”

“These sports will often include an element of lack of control due to taking place in natural environments that are unreliable and often unforgiving.”

“Such environments might include wind, snow, and water, which cannot be controlled fully and may contribute to a challenging outcome.”

Snorkeling is a widely enjoyed relaxing leisure activity that requires little exertion and just essential, inexpensive equipment to enjoy.

Recreational snorkeling should be carried out only in suitably calm conditions to be safe for the participant’s skill and comfort levels.

While, of course, the seas can’t be controlled, in the context of an hour of snorkeling, it’s reasonable to consider that conditions won’t change so dramatically as to make things “extreme.”

As an aside, unlike snorkeling, we do regard scuba diving as an extreme sport as even in its basic format, it fits the definitions more appropriately.

Which Types of Snorkeling Are More “Extreme”?

So having explained why regular snorkeling isn’t an extreme sport, are there variations that fall into the category?

Humans love to be challenged, and even the humble snorkel can be put to use to make some of the most challenging and extreme sports that you’ll come across.

1. Freediving

Freediving is a proper extreme sport with numerous different categories and international competitions.

With the proper training, practice, and special freediving equipment, it’s possible to stay underwater for many minutes and reach incredible depths.

2. Spearfishing

Spearfishing while snorkel freediving is an extreme, competitive sport where participants use elastic or compressed gas-powered spearguns to capture selected fish.

In many countries, spearfishing while scuba diving is illegal, and all international competitions are carried out with breath-hold snorkel diving only.

3. Finswimming

Finswimming is a competitive swimming sport where regular fins or monofins are used with a mask and a unique type of snorkel to race in pools or open water.

4. Underwater Football

Two teams compete underwater using regular snorkeling equipment to duck under the surface and try to score against each other with either a negatively weighted football or a toy rubber torpedo.

5. Underwater Rugby

Like underwater football, but originally started in Germany, underwater rugby is an energetic team game with two teams attempting to outdo the other in attack and defense underwater.

6. Underwater Hockey

Snorkel hockey players duck dive underwater and use hand paddles to try and pass a negatively weighted puck along the bottom of a swimming pool to their teammates.

The challenge is to get to the opposition’s goal and score before their breath runs out.

7. Underwater Target Shooting

Competitors hold their breath and take part in underwater target shooting challenges to see who can be the most accurate.

8. Underwater Ice Hockey

Almost the most extreme sport involving a snorkel, underwater ice hockey turns the game upside down and is played “standing” on the underside of a frozen lake’s ice during breath-holding snorkel diving.

Needless to say, there are plenty of strategically placed exit holes so competitors can get their next breath when needed.

9. Bog Snorkeling

The last of our extreme snorkeling sports, and one of the most challenging to reign supreme at, involves a race in mask, snorkel, and fins along a 60 yard / 55 meter peat bog channel to see who can be the fastest.

While competitors from around the world do take the event seriously, and there are records to beat, it is also often carried out for fun in costume.

Which Types of Snorkeling Are the Most Relaxed?

The most relaxed snorkeling you’ll do is when you’ve become confident with the equipment and are in your comfort zone in gorgeous, clear waters.

Take the time to start slowly, follow our snorkeling beginners tips, and soon you’ll be off enjoying this fantastic relaxing leisure activity.

Conditions When Snorkeling Can Become an Extreme Sport

Remember that while we consider snorkeling in general to be a relaxing leisure activity, we are dealing with the natural world.

Conditions can change unexpectedly, especially if our attention is caught up in observing the wildlife.

Take care to pay attention to what is going on around you, especially to changes in water conditions like currents and waves, and you won’t find yourself involved in an extreme snorkeling challenge.

Conclusion 

As we’ve seen, snorkeling is generally a relaxing leisure activity involving little exertion.

But if you want the challenge, there are plenty of options out there for you to enjoy an extreme sport with your mask and snorkel.

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