Snorkelling

Introduction

You must refer to the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity to understand your overall compliance responsibilities.

Snorkelling is described as the activity in which a person swims on the surface of the water or dives below the surface using a mask, snorkel and swimming aids such as fins.

Snorkelling includes both snorkel swimming and snorkel diving. In snorkel swimming, the swimmer stays on the surface of the water. In snorkel diving, the diver is neutrally buoyant and able to execute breath-hold diving and swimming below the surface.

Parents or caregivers must be informed of full details of the location, supervision to be provided, activities to be undertaken, degree of difficulty, the contact system, cost and intended departure and return times before their written permission is obtained. The permission note must contain a clause authorising medical aid if it is considered necessary by the supervising teacher. The note should also include a section where the parent advises the school of any illness or medical condition that the student suffers from, or any medication the student is currently taking (including asthma sprays, etc.). Preparation of the alert list and distribution of student medication is the responsibility of the teacher. The alert list must be collated from information on medical consent forms prior to departure.

If a student suffers from a medical condition which puts that student at risk in the water, that student is not to participate. If there is any doubt, the parents will need to provide a clear and prescriptive medical report.

Students are to be instructed to use adequate sun protection, e.g. an SPF50+, broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen reapplied regularly.

Teacher/Instructor Qualifications and Experience

For all snorkelling activities there must always be a minimum of two adults to provide supervision and instruction. A teacher must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity. The teacher must have recognised current training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and emergency care.

A teacher or instructor must have current appropriate accreditation with a nationally recognised snorkelling or SCUBA diving organisation. As a minimum, this would be a National Coaching Accreditation Scheme (NCAS) Level 1 or Assistant Instructor. Should a paid non-teacher instruct, that person must have appropriate public liability insurance.

NCAS Level 1 or 2 SCUBA accreditation is also recognised.

The instructor must have recent first hand experience and knowledge of the dive site.

Supervision

For snorkel swimming and diving instruction in a pool, a minimum of one qualified instructor to twelve students (1:12) is required.

For snorkel swimming in open, chest deep water in optimal weather and water conditions and where students can enter and leave the water easily, a minimum of one qualified instructor to ten students (1:10) is required.

For snorkel diving in open shallow or deep water, the instructor to student ratio must not exceed 1:8. At times, supervision may need to be increased. Principals and organising teachers should take into account such factors as age, experience and maturity of the students and prevailing weather and water conditions.

Where students have completed a recognised Ocean Snorkel Diver Course the instructor:student ratio is 1:8.

All students not directly involved in snorkelling activities must be supervised in an appropriate land-based program planned in advance with a minimum teacher to student ratio of 1:20.

Equipment

Exposure suits should be worn, unless in a heated pool. Wetsuits should be worn when it is appropriate. The suit acts as a buoyancy aid, reduces heat loss and helps protect the diver from scratches and cuts.

The mask must be a good fit made of soft rubber, silicon or silitex so that no water leaks into the air spaces and must have nose pockets. The plate should be made of tempered safety glass. The faceplate should fit snuggly (the more snug the fit the easier to use and clear if it should accidentally fill with water).

The length of the snorkel should not exceed 30 cm, longer snorkels are a distinct hazard. The snorkel should have a 2cm bore, be smooth on the inside and have a comfortable mouthpiece with a keeper.

Fins, appropriate for the size of the student, should fit comfortably and move easily. Weight belts, used for snorkel diving, must have a quick release buckle. Weight belts are not to be worn without a wetsuit. Snorkel swimmers must not wear a weight belt.

A dive flag is mandatory for open water venues and must be displayed at the site at all times.

For snorkel diving, a safety float should be towed by a staff member if more than fifty (50) metres from the shore, boat or platform.

Under no circumstances are spear guns, hand spears or slings to be used. Students must not carry knives.

Students with asthma must have any medication with them in the water. Pressurised nebulisers can be tucked up a wet suit sleeve. In case the nebuliser is lost in the water, it is essential that a spare is immediately available.

A well-equipped diver's medical kit must be readily available.

Venues

Snorkelling should be confined to swimming pools and sheltered swimming areas and recognised safe snorkelling venues. Until participants have completed an Ocean Snorkel Diving Course, the depth of the water should not exceed five (5) metres.

The snorkel diving point in open water should be within 200 metres of the shore or within 100 metres of the boat.

The teacher-in-charge or the instructor must have current knowledge of the area to be used and be certain of its suitability for the program and the group.

Open water diving must not be undertaken:

  • In conditions where visibility is less than three (3) metres.
  • Where the current is greater than 0.5 knots.
  • Where unbroken waves are greater than 0.5 metre in height.

An open water site must be marked with a diver’s flag displayed in a recognised fashion, which is the international letter ‘A’.

Such sites should also have:

  • Safe entry and exit points with minimal water movement.
  • No obvious dangers, such as boat traffic or people fishing.
  • Stable weather conditions with no obvious threat of a sudden change in the weather that could affect the safety of the activity.

Student Preparation

For snorkel swimming in chest deep water in optimal weather and water conditions and where students can enter and leave the water easily, students must be able to demonstrate basic water competence and confidence.

For snorkel swimming and snorkel diving in open water, students must be able to:

  • Swim continuously for 200 metres, any stroke, then.
  • Perform survival sculling, floating and treading water for ten minutes without the use of fins.

Students taking part in snorkel diving must be at least 12 years of age.

Snorkel diving knowledge and skills

Snorkel diving students must demonstrate competency in snorkel swimming and have preparation in the following:

  • An understanding of buoyancy concepts.
  • Knowledge of the dangers of separation from the group, hyperventilation, hypothermia, pressure/depth relationship of ears, sinuses, mask and lungs, and how to equalise pressure in ears and mask air space.
  • Practice ditching and replacing a weight belt (if worn) in the water.
  • Clearing a flooded snorkel and mask.
  • Surface diving techniques, including equalising ears when descending.
  • Entry and exit methods.
  • Rescue techniques.
  • Correct finning technique.
  • Hand signals (OK and not OK).
  • Appropriate safety practices such as the buddy system where one partner dives and one partner remains on the surface.

For all snorkelling activities pre and post-dive briefings must occur.

Pre-snorkelling briefings should include:

  • Potential hazards of the venue, including water and weather conditions.
  • Boundaries of the area (snorkel divers must remain within a fifty (50) metre radius of the diving flag).
  • Proximity to staff and a reminder of the importance of staying with the group.
  • Time limits applying to the dive activity.
  • Checking essential equipment and ensuring it is in working condition and fits correctly.
  • Reviewing essential techniques (clearing mask, equalising, finning, surface diving).
  • Review of emergency procedures and what to do if in trouble in the water.
  • Safety practices to be used such as the buddy system, hand signals etc.
  • Reminders re hyperventilation, hypothermia symptoms and how to avoid/relieve a cramp.
  • Safety reminders regarding marine animals, people fishing and boat hazards.
  • A check that students with asthma and potentially needing medication have it with them.

Post dive briefings should include checks for:

  • Ear discomfort.
  • Signs of hypothermia.
  • Difficulty with breathing.
  • Headaches.

An action plan should be developed should the briefing disclose any health or safety concerns.

Safety

Snorkelling activities need to be well planned. Students must be briefed in regard to safety issues. The teacher-in-charge should carry a card detailing procedures to follow in emergencies and contact numbers. All party members should know how to put these procedures into practice.

It is incumbent on the teacher-in-charge to check the weather forecast to determine that conditions are acceptable for the duration of the activity. The teacher must be prepared to cancel the activity if the conditions are not suitable.

A roll check is to be made every time students enter and leave the water. Students should be instructed to leave the venue following the final roll check.

Prior to any course, participants must be provided with an approved Statement of Medical Fitness form which is to be completed and signed by a parent or caregiver. Illnesses such as colds and influenza will affect the ability to equalise body air space in snorkel diving.

If in any doubt about a student's fitness for a specific dive, a certificate for diving fitness from a medical practitioner experienced in diving medicine should be obtained.

Some medical conditions would usually preclude a student from snorkel diving activities. However, as such conditions vary in severity and recency, it is possible that a student with one of these conditions may wish to participate in a snorkelling activity, and may do so with a medical certificate. These conditions may include:

  • Chronic ear infection.
  • Perforated ear drum.
  • Epilepsy, seizures or blackouts.
  • Chronic bronchitis.
  • Severe asthma.
  • Heart or lung conditions.

Special Features

Teachers planning snorkelling activities need to be familiar with the procedures detailed in the Excursions Policy and Animal Welfare Policy.

Students without previous snorkelling experience must participate in a basic snorkelling course. The AUF’s Introduction to Ocean/Pool Snorkelling would be appropriate. This course is designed specifically to meet the needs of school and youth groups as an extension to swimming classes. This course is an introduction only and graduates are not considered competent to snorkel dive without the guidance of a competent adult.

Students must be briefed beforehand on nature conservation issues. Divers are not to collect any natural objects or relics while on their dive unless a licence is obtained for marine study. If rocks are turned over, they must be replaced in their original position. Marine life must not be disturbed.

A mobile phone or a marine radio to be used in emergency situations, is necessary on all dives. Allowance should be made for the fact that mobile phones may not operate in all locales. In case selected communication devices are not operable, the teacher-in-charge must know the location of the nearest telephone.