Review: A snorkel that makes you feel like Aquaman

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The Powerbreather comes with different attachments depending on whether you'll be swimming in calm or choppy water(Credit: Michael Franco/Gizmag)

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A swimmer's snorkel can dramatically change the way you bang out laps in the pool. Unlike a regular snorkel, these devices typically have a single tube that extends from a special mask up the center of your head so that you can swim without the need to turn your head from side to side to breathe. Ameo announced that it was fundamentally changing the design of the swimmer's snorkel in 2012 with its Powerbreather model. The company has finally released it and I had a chance to try it out.

The Powerbreather's main differentiator among swimmer's snorkels is that it consists of two tubes that run on either side of the head, rather than just one in the middle. There's also a unique membrane built into the mouthpiece called the Ameo Fresh Air System. Both tubes bring fresh air to you and you can exhale through your nose or mouth. When you exhale through your mouth, the air exits into the water through the membrane rather than going back through the tubes, as is the case with other snorkels. This is supposed to decrease the amount on your own exhaled air you rebreathe and, consequently, the amount of carbon dioxide you take in.

While it was not possible for me to test out this specific claim, I can report that the snorkel worked beautifully and did, indeed, revolutionize my swimming routine.

Unlike Ameo's initial proposed Powerbreather model, which had the tubes connected behind the head in the circle, the production version has the two tubes separated, each with their own endcap, which can be swapped out based on need.

The snorkel is made from hard plastic and there is a plastic strap that dials tighter and looser behind the head. This keeps the silicone mouthpiece securely held in your mouth. Once the mouthpiece is in and the strap is tightened, you can pivot the tubes to where they best work for you.

While this system seems smart and secure, I did have an issue at one point during the testing. I executed a spin kick underwater and didn't blow out the water that had gotten in the snorkel as I was supposed to. When I next inhaled, I took in a lungful of water and started to choke a little. While this was entirely my fault and not the snorkel's, I wasn't able to simply spit the mouthpiece out because of the tight seal the plastic strap had formed. Instead, I had to reach back and turn the dial to get out of the contraption. It took seconds, but it's certainly something to be aware of if you're a skittish swimmer.

Other than that, the snorkel worked extremely well with no water entering the breathing tubes no matter how much I splashed.

I first tried it out in a pool and, although it is strange at first to understand that it's not necessary to turn your head to breathe while swimming laps, it quickly becomes quite a luxury. Freed from worrying about where my next breath was coming from, I could focus on my form better than ever before and relax more than I'm used to in the pool.

Something else that took a little getting used to was the fact that it's a bit harder to breathe through the snorkel than I anticipated. This is a deliberate part of the Powerbreather. By restricting airflow ever so slightly through a built-in membrane, you eventually build up your lung capacity, so in addition to improving your muscles you're bettering your lungs as well when you swim using the snorkel. I had to take breathing breaks the first few times I used it, but I eventually got comfortable enough to swim through my normal routine.

The Powerbreather is available with a longer set of tube toppers that are meant to be used when swimming in the ocean. So when I took to the waters off Naples, Florida which had a little chop, I had a chance to try them out. As in the pool, the snorkel behaved admirably, never allowing a drop of water in. In the past, when I've swum laps in the ocean, I tend to drink quite a bit of it, as getting your mouth high enough out of the water can be a challenge with waves rolling by. The Powerbreather eliminated this and, again, allowed me to focus on my form without the slightly panicky feeling that comes from swimming in surf. It was a bit like having a superpower a la Aquaman.

For those who can execute underwater flip turns better than me, the Powerbreather also comes with tips to go over the tubes to help with the maneuver. When done correctly, you simply breathe deep before spinning forward underwater, then you twist, kick and emerge back to the surface where you blow out through the snorkel, expelling any accumulated water. I did eventually get the hang of the move and the Powerbreather never let me down.

The Powerbreather is now available for sale on Ameo's site. It retails for between US$109 and $149 depending on the tube attachments you order. Shipping is available worldwide. In case my explanation of the gizmo isn't quite clear enough, this video should do the trick.

Product page: Ameo

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