Most swimmers use center mount snorkels these days. It’s a great tool that helps you work on your technique and body position while allowing you not to worry about breathing to the side.
The first time I saw a center mount snorkel used by swimmers was about ten years ago. I didn’t know if it had been used before this, so I decided to do a little research about the history of the center mount snorkel. Here is what I found out.
The first official record of a center mount snorkel that I was able to find was a US patent from 1863 that was called ” Apparatus for teaching the art of swimming”.
I had thought that a center mount snorkel was a recent invention so I was very surprised to discover that somebody actually invented it in 1863. It was 16 years before Edison invented his first incandescent lamp! In other words, swimmers had center mount snorkels before electricity!
The above snorkel was invented by S. Scholfield. It doesn’t really look all that different from the snorkels we use today. The concept is the same. Looking at this invention in 2011 you will notice three things that might strike you as odd:
First, the “snorkel to head” attachment mechanism looks bulky and uncomfortable.
Second, the mouth piece had special “pipes” that went inside the swimmer’s nostrils. “This mouthpiece, when properly inserted, furnishes a communication with both the mouth and nostrils for the purpose of breathing, the air being received and expelled through the pipe.” This nose piece is invasive and looks uncomfortable.
Third, the snorkel was completely straight. It didn’t curve back like the modern snorkels. This is a very interesting point because what this straightness indicates is the swimming technique of that time. It appears that people swam looking forward not down as we do now.