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Old July 2, 2012, 10:32 PM   #1
JulieAB
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how old for snorkling?

First time to Hawaii and first time snorkling. DS is 7.5 and very tall. He's not a strong swimmer, no treading water for long and mostly swims short distances with his head under the water ( has a hard the with doggy paddle or coming up for a breath mid swim without stopping completely).

Will he be able to snorkle around Oahu? Can you usually touch the bottom and are the reefs shallow? Should we get him a life vest or something? He wouldn't go alone, always with an adult.
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Old July 2, 2012, 10:53 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JulieAB View Post
First time to Hawaii and first time snorkling. DS is 7.5 and very tall. He's not a strong swimmer, no treading water for long and mostly swims short distances with his head under the water ( has a hard the with doggy paddle or coming up for a breath mid swim without stopping completely).

Will he be able to snorkle around Oahu? Can you usually touch the bottom and are the reefs shallow? Should we get him a life vest or something? He wouldn't go alone, always with an adult.
Snorkeling is not for non swimmers. I was a boy scout leader for 10 years and took four different groups of scouts to Sea Base in the Fla keys.

Before a scout could take snorkeling instructions, he had to pass the basic swim test.

http://www.bsa333.org/Documents/Swim%20Test.pdf

If he can't pass this test he would not be allowed in water over his head if he was a loved one of mine or if I were responsible for him.

A life jacket would let him look into the water but not actually snorkel.

A couple of weeks of swim lessons would be invaluable to his enjoyment of this vaca.
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Old July 2, 2012, 10:57 PM   #3
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Thinking about Hanauma Bay, probably the easiest snorkeling area on Oahu: The water may get to be over his head if he strays too far from shore. There is some surge, so it may get a bit overwhelming if he's not confident in the water. The fish are around the coral reef area, but swimmers shouldn't walk on the reef - it can damage it. So he'd need to be in water maybe four feet or more deep to see much. A float vest would definitely help him out, because he'd need to be able to safely float to even think about snorkeling.

A few ideas:

Aulani Resort has a saltwater "swim with the fish" pool that is an enclosed reef tank, safe and shallow. I have no idea if they have "day use" options available for that if you aren't staying there.

Someone suggested this to me for my SIL who is not a strong swimmer: A boogie board with viewing portal to look down through and see fish. No mask required, and if he's also wearing a vest, he'd be doubly safe.

Skip the snorkeling, and go to the Waikiki Aquarium instead. It's a great place to see, very inexpensive admission, and has some awesome fish and exhibits. Everyone stays dry, and you can talk about what you're seeing. http://www.waquarium.org/

Have fun!

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Old July 2, 2012, 11:15 PM   #4
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Concur with all that BMWguy said. However, I would add that the snorkel might be too hard if just learning how to swim. Maybe just use a mask and look around until he gets the feel and not afraid of water in the mask. Once able to look under water and blow the water out of the mask, than consider a snorkel. Practice in a pool, or at the lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village or lagoon at the Marriott resort. Than go look at the fish. Just stay close. The nice thing about Hanamua Bay is that you can see the fish standing in the water and when you put your head under, it is a lot better.
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:00 AM   #5
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Gosh, I'm not an athletic swimmer, but I can dog paddle, and I'm wondering if -I- can snorkle from everyone's description!

For clarification. He can swim and has no issues with diving, going under water, etc. He just primarily bobs around the shallow end of our pool. He can swim side to side with one breath, but swimming the length, requiring a mid breath would take considerable effort. That's why I wondered if he'd be able to stand up with his head above the water for breaths between dunking down to see fish?
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:01 AM   #6
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We have taken our kids snorkeling since they were 3 years old, but we swim a lot.
We start by putting them on a boogie board, and buying them just a mask. I put them across the boogie board, and lash it to me and pull them around with me in the water. You may want to just buy him water sandals or shoes rather than fins. If he does stand up in the water, they will protect his feet.
Another option is to rent a boogie board that has a mask made into they board. Yes, they have these in Hawaii. It makes it easy from them to see into the water.
The Walmarts in Hawaii have lots of gear, and sometimes it is cheaper to buy stuff there than rent it.
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:22 AM   #7
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DVD to help learn to swim

Aloha,
We used this dvd to help Sara transition from non swimmer to swimmer
http://www.totalimmersion.net/store/...appy-laps.html
It takes repeated watching different skills and trips to pool to get the hang of all of it. Comfortable breathing is key. The technique does work.
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BTW - I have improved my swimming a lot by using the total immersion freestyle and breaststroke DVDs
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:33 AM   #8
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just to throw this out there. You should never stand on a reef. It kills the eco system. So if you are going to an area that is complete reef, they need to be able to swim without putting those feet down.
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:48 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fisch View Post
just to throw this out there. You should never stand on a reef. It kills the eco system. So if you are going to an area that is complete reef, they need to be able to swim without putting those feet down.
Good to know! I'm completely clueless! Never been past my hips in the ocean! I figured we'd go to that hanama bay one and the lagoons at ko olina, but I honestly have no clue what to expect when "snorkling!"
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:56 AM   #10
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Another option, though it's tough to dive when snorkeling with these on, they do provide some bouyancy and warmth in cooler waters. Plus there's a blow tube where you can blow in enough air to give you 'Mae Wests.' And you can paddle on the surface with your goggles on and get a decent snorkeling experience. Plus it's kind of a security blanket if you're not a strong swimmer.

Edited to add: It appears they don't offer these in child sizes, unfortunately, but may be just what you'd like to have yourself.

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Old July 3, 2012, 01:13 AM   #11
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Look for Snorkel Bob's or Boss Frogs viewport boogie boards!

If they are not confident swimmers, you should only let them out in
dead calm water. They also need to be somewhat maneuverable, to
avoid the coral formations.

Your best bet may be to rent the boogie boards from Boss Frogs or Snorkel
Bob's that have a center circular viewport in the front of the board. Our
daughter was 7, and panicked with the whole mask and snorkel breathing tube set up.

My wife and I love to snorkel, so we rented one of these boards for a week
as a last resort---My daughter loved it!
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Old July 3, 2012, 01:20 AM   #12
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Disclaimer: I am not recommending this.

If he knows how to breathe through the snorkel before he goes, there won't be an issue with him having to stop to breathe. He will breathe through the snorkel.

My son is a weak swimmer because of the difficulty in taking breaths. He snorkels fine because he can stroke and kick and the snorkel solves the breathing problem.

Have him practice in the pool with the mask and snorkel. The easiest way to learn is to stay in the shallow end, hold on to the edge of the pool, and just dip your face in far enough to "test" the mask. Then hold face in water while calmly breathing. The mask needs to fit well and be broken in so it won't fog up.

The best way to break in a mask is to soak it overnight in a fairly strong solution of Dawn === the whole mask should be submerged. The next morning rub a paste type tooth paste (gel does not work) over the inside and outside of the mask. Do this two or three times. Then soak again overnight in Dawn. The mask should no longer have the silicone film on it and should stay relatively clear.

A nice snorkel will have some method to prevent flooding.

I know that the good mask and snorkel are more expensive than the kiddie sets. In my opinion they are worth the extra money.

Happy snorkeling!

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Old July 3, 2012, 02:23 AM   #13
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Be CAREFUL in the water!

7 1/2 can be old enough. See if you can find a snorkeling class in a local SCUBA shop or you could take one there. Some of the resorts have classes.

Be CAREFUL in the water! There are about 50 or so drownings in Hawaii every year. This guy was lucky (http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/b...l?id=160640355) Click to read about Beach Safety. Water conditions can change in an instant!

If you are not a good swimmer and don't feel completely comfortable in the water a snorkeling vest would be a good idea. A wet suit not only provides environmental protection, but provides buoyancy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisch View Post
You should never stand on a reef. It kills the eco system. So if you are going to an area that is complete reef, they need to be able to swim without putting those feet down.
I was going to say that... Feet KILL coral \

Quote:
Originally Posted by glypnirsgirl View Post
I know that the good mask and snorkel are more expensive than the kiddie sets. In my opinion they are worth the extra money.elaine
Exactly. There isn't much that is more frustrating in the water that a mask that keeps leaking (except maybe getting low on air )...
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Originally Posted by Darlene View Post
... You may want to just buy him water sandals or shoes rather than fins.
Keep in mind that swimming in the ocean without fins is like driving on the freeway in first gear. You kick your feet ... but don't go anywhere...

All of that said... Some or our kids most memorable and exciting experiences in Hawaii have been in the ocean. But we got them snorkeling training and both were certified SCUBA divers at 12 in Monterey.

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Old July 3, 2012, 04:00 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daventrina View Post

I was going to say that... Feet KILL coral \
and just to extend that thought ...

Coral is a live creature and scrapes and cuts from coral very easily fester. Living material is deposited in the cut, often prolonging the wound healing process and, not uncommonly, creating infections requiring treatment with anti-biotic.
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Old July 3, 2012, 09:16 AM   #15
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Okay, so I'll be calling the swim schools here today for a crash course.

But can anyone recommend any "beginner" snorkle places on oahu? My husband seems to remember wading out as a teenager and just seeing fish down around his legs, as if it's not far from the shore. Is this not the case anymore? Do you have to swim far from the beach? Open water gives me the creeps.
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Old July 3, 2012, 09:53 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JulieAB View Post
Gosh, I'm not an athletic swimmer, but I can dog paddle, and I'm wondering if -I- can snorkle from everyone's description!

For clarification. He can swim and has no issues with diving, going under water, etc. He just primarily bobs around the shallow end of our pool. He can swim side to side with one breath, but swimming the length, requiring a mid breath would take considerable effort. That's why I wondered if he'd be able to stand up with his head above the water for breaths between dunking down to see fish?
Sounds like me. I am not much of a swimmer; never have been. When I'm in deeper water I mostly just lay on my back and kick or do an elementary backstroke. So I swim mostly with my legs. In fresh water I sink.

I snorkel regularly in Hawaii and enjoy it immensely. I'm one of those people that has my own mask and fins (ordered from Snorkel Bob).

I find it quite easy to just lay on my stomach and kick. That's all you have to do. With the fins it's quite easy to tread water and take care of chores such as clearing the mask. I make sure that I don't get far enough out that I can't get back to shallower water. I also make sure I know where there might be rip currents. I don't snorkel where there aren't other people snorkeling.

My point being that you don't need to be a strong swimmer to enjoy snorkeling as long you don't do stupid things and you know enough to know what things are stupid. Practice first in a pool, or in the sandy area at a beach in several feet of water until you get the hang of it. If you feel really uncertain use a noodle for extra flotation. I don't like the noodles, but a lot of people seem to like them.

Same things go for your dad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisch View Post
just to throw this out there. You should never stand on a reef. It kills the eco system. So if you are going to an area that is complete reef, they need to be able to swim without putting those feet down.
Yep. Just like the area around Captain Cook's Monument, where the kayakers have completely killed the reef around the landing areas.

When I put in at a beach I look for areas where there deep water on the shore side of the reef. If I want to explore the ocean side of the reef I look for an opening in the reef that is deep enough to get through and that doesn't have a strong rip current. (Those two conditions often mutually exclusive, as that low spot in the reef will be the main outlet for water that comes of the reef to return back to the ocean.

That's also a matter of safety. Snorkeling over a shallow reef is quite dangerous - one of the stupid things - as a crashing wave can cast you into the reef formation with serious consequences to your health and well-being.
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Old July 3, 2012, 11:01 AM   #17
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It may be too late for getting them ready for this trip. But there's always the next trip!

I agree with the others that strong swimming skills is the first priority. Beyond that, they need to be able to use the snorkel (practicing in a pool), not be afraid of fish and other animals, have a respect for the coral, and much more. There's a lot involved, and unless kids have a lot of exposure, they're not going to have all the needed skills.

Quote:
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But can anyone recommend any "beginner" snorkle places on oahu?
I've never snorkelled there (just swam), but I hear excellent things about Ko'olina being perfect for beginners.

The best snorkelling (IMHO) is at Hanauma Bay, but there's so much shallow coral that you have to swim over that I'm not sure I would recommend it to beginners. But the fish there are absolutely incredible.
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Old July 3, 2012, 11:06 AM   #18
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A good first snorkeling experience is from a boat on a snorkeling outing. The boat takes you to a safe snorkeling location. They have experienced people on board who are accustomed to dealing with first time snorkelers. For a newbie it's much easier to put on the gear and dive in from a boat then it is to do a shore entry. They have noodles and all of the gear. You can always stay close to the boat.

If a person can lay in the water and kick, they can probably snorkel successfully and safely. Oh - and you have to be able to not panic if a bit of salt water gets in the snorkel.
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Old July 3, 2012, 11:37 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JulieAB View Post
But can anyone recommend any "beginner" snorkle places on oahu? My husband seems to remember wading out as a teenager and just seeing fish down around his legs, as if it's not far from the shore. Is this not the case anymore? Do you have to swim far from the beach? Open water gives me the creeps.
As I said in my first post, Hanauma Bay is probably the easiest snorkeling on Oahu. It is a very wide beach, with coral heads not all that far from shore. It is a State Underwater Park, and is a very nice area for a family beach day. It's about the best you can do.

Be aware that there is limited parking, and you have to get there early to get in the gate. Once the parking lot spaces are filled, they won't let anyone else in until someone leaves.

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Old July 3, 2012, 12:15 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisch View Post
just to throw this out there. You should never stand on a reef. It kills the eco system. So if you are going to an area that is complete reef, they need to be able to swim without putting those feet down.
I agree. Never stand on a reef.

There are life vests that can be worn to keep on the surface, but these can give over-confidence to a weak swimmer. When we snorkled we wore light snorkle vests that made it less effort to just drift around over the fish.

Snorkles can leak and are actually kind of dangerous. If a weak swimmer inhaled and got a tube full of water, it would cause total panic and he'd never remember to use residual air to blow it clear.

I was reading this past week about dry drowning and snorkles. Here's a video about dry drowning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da7RFuWCLrg
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Old July 3, 2012, 12:34 PM   #21
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<<SNIPPED>> Can you usually touch the bottom and are the reefs shallow?
Reefs are living and should never be stood on. Yes often the water over them is shallow (less than 3 feet) but again, standing on them will damage/kill them.

If he cannot swim confidently, I would not take him snorkeling unless on a sandy, shallow beach.
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Old July 3, 2012, 03:37 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by BMWguynw View Post
As I said in my first post, Hanauma Bay is probably the easiest snorkeling on Oahu. It is a very wide beach, with coral heads not all that far from shore. It is a State Underwater Park, and is a very nice area for a family beach day. It's about the best you can do.
I have to disagree. There is a lot of shallow coral and trenches between the coral, and an inexperienced swimmer/snorkeler would have a hard time avoiding the coral -- either walking on it, getting washed into it, etc.

A more sandy, open area (like suggested by Yvonne, and I think Ko'olina is supposed to be a lot like that) or snorkeling from a boat (like Steve suggested) would probably be a much better first experience.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:07 PM   #23
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I have to disagree. There is a lot of shallow coral and trenches between the coral, and an inexperienced swimmer/snorkeler would have a hard time avoiding the coral -- either walking on it, getting washed into it, etc.

A more sandy, open area (like suggested by Yvonne, and I think Ko'olina is supposed to be a lot like that) or snorkeling from a boat (like Steve suggested) would probably be a much better first experience.
Ko'olina was what I was thinking when I suggested it. We've snorkeled in two of the (I think it is) four tidal pool areas. They were all sandy; one had clear water while the other was pretty churned up and cloudy. That said, we did see some interesting fish in both.
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Old July 3, 2012, 10:07 PM   #24
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I have to disagree. There is a lot of shallow coral and trenches between the coral, and an inexperienced swimmer/snorkeler would have a hard time avoiding the coral -- either walking on it, getting washed into it, etc.

A more sandy, open area (like suggested by Yvonne, and I think Ko'olina is supposed to be a lot like that) or snorkeling from a boat (like Steve suggested) would probably be a much better first experience.

I meant the beach area outside of the water was wide, not the area in the water. The reef is definitely close to the shoreline, but for an inexperienced child, it would mean the chance to see fish closer to shore.

Once the novelty of snorkeling wore off, the beach is a great place for a family day.

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Old July 3, 2012, 10:33 PM   #25
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. So he'd need to be in water maybe four feet or more deep to see much. e
Somehow I missed this part of your post before. Close to shore and 4ft is our cup of tea! He's 54 in on his flat feet so this gives me hope!

The pool noodle idea is good too. Exactly how early in the morning should we try to be there for a spot?
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