Breathing Tube - dumb idea?

Have any of you non-diving types ever tried to rig any kind of breathing tube for rolling practice? I think I’ve heard somewhere of running a tube down through the spray skirt into the cockpit for emergency breathing. I was thinking of taking a length of tubing and running it through a section of pool noodle for a float at one end. If it doesn’t float upright, the 10" piece of pool noodle is probably long enough for me to hold upright from below. Is this a dumb idea for rolling practice, because I could keep making attempts if I could stop upside down and just get a few breaths . . .

I tried it once
almost drowned trying to get a breath. It’s a great idea, but it’s extremely hard to breathe because of the water pressure and the fact that your breathing tube is about 6 inches in diameter.

My neck?
I don’t get your joke - do you mean my neck?

What diameter actual tube?
What was the diameter of the actual tube? And was it soft and compressible? Mine is about 5/8" in diameter and seems to let an adequate amount of air pass through.

Is there a diver in the house?

– Last Updated: May-21-06 1:10 AM EST –

I don't remember but I think the effective length a snorkel can be to allow you to draw air from the surface is surprisingly short due to the pressure of water on your lungs as you try to expand them... it does not seem like it should be but I think I diver could give you the facts.

Added note according to Wikpedia a maximun snorkel length is 20 inches because of the water pressure problem... I think that sounds about right. Unfortunately when you are upside down you mouth is about that deep or deeper.

There was no joke there.
My breathing tube was about 5/8" too. It was an actual tube with valves that is sold as a rescue device for ww boaters who are pinned upside down. They hold it above the surface and try to breathe that way.

I tucked it into the cockpit through my skirt. I couldn’t believe how much effort it took to try and breathe in.

Maybe if it was my only hope for survival, it would have worked. Trying to set up after a failed roll was impossible. I really couldn’t suck in hard enough to get a breath.

So I suppose leaning forward and to the side, as in a roll setup position, would get you closer, but you are then putting more pressure on your lungs . . . hmmm

I guess if you could scull up enough to get nearly horizontal you might make it work . . .

I’ll find out tomorrow! I wouldn’t expect to be able to breathe freely, but maybe to just get enough relief while awaiting assistance from my spotter . . .

Garden Hose
As a teenager I tried to use a garden hose to breath underwater. I could hardly breathe with my head no more than a foot below the surface. Of the pressure was on my lungs which were deeper.

I think that the risk outweighs the benefits. If your device fails and you end up sucking in somewater through the tube it could be a very bad situation while you are upside down sealed into your boat.

I would recommend practicing with a paddle float until you get comfortable and then go to just using the paddle. If you miss a roll you always can get a gulp of air on the way down and you always have enough time to wet exit if you absolutely have to.


This is an interesting thread
The idea is cockamamey (sp?), but it forces you to think about the physics involved. (The kid writing the physics paper should have written on this!)

Thinking outloud …

If I open my mouth on dry land and do nothing more, nothing happens; no air goes in or out. To take a breath, my rib cage has to expand. When it does, the increased volume creates a small vacuum (the air pressure is lower in my lungs than in the surrounding atmosphere), so air rushes in until an equilibrium is reached.

(When I breath out, it’s just the reverse: my ribs contract, the air pressure goes up, and air rushes out until an equilibrium is again reached.)

The facts that Seadart points out suggest that our breathing (diaphram & rib) muscles aren’t very strong. Not sufficiently strong to overcome the surrounding water pressure. (Although that can’t be exactly right either, because divers breathe at greater depths than that. Hmm … must be missing something here. Maybe we need that diver or physicist after all!)

In any event–good luck breathing through a tube that runs to your boat! Your sucking will create a vacuum in the boat, and the next thing you know, the boat will be sucking air out of you!

One Divers Response
Hi All,

I’m a diver (Certified Master Scuba Diver and past Divemaster, both are PADI certifications).

The problem with breathing through a tube while underwater is caused by a difference in pressure between the surface (where the open end of the tube will be) and your lungs. As you have discovered, it doesn’t take much pressure difference to make breathing very difficult.

The air divers breath while diving is compressed, and goes through 2 regulator stages before reaching the divers mouth. The air in a diver’s tank is about 3000 psi at the start of the dive. The first regulator stage drops this down to about 135 psi (the pressure in the tube from the tank to the second stage, which is the part a divers puts in their mouth).

The second stage reduces the pressure to whatever the ambient pressure is at the depth the diver is at. So the diver is breathing air at the same pressure as the water around him. No difference in pressure means no effort to breathe. It’s actually easier to breathe through scuba equipment than through a snorkel.

The problems with breathing through a tube as mentioned above are two-fold. The depth you would be at is probably around 36 inches, and the diameter of the tube wouldn’t allow much air flow even if you were closer to the surface. Snorkels are at least an inch in diameter, most are closer to 1.5 inches.

So, if this is an idea you truly want to pursue, it might be worthwhile to get your scuba certification. Then you’ll be able to buy what’s known as a pony bottle and regulator. A pony bottle is just a small scuba tank. The regulator is what connects the tank to your mouth through the two stages I explained earlier.

I recommend the certification because there is risk of barotrauma when breathing compressed air while underwater, even as shallow as 3 feet. Taking the classes for certification will teach you about that risk, and how to avoid it. The basic rule of avoiding this risk is “never ever hold your breath while breathing compressed air underwater.”

I hope that was helpful. If not, please ask more questions and I’ll answer as best as I can.


Keep working on your roll
A breathing tube sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Keep working on your roll and use whatever equipment that will make learning how to roll easier. If you can paractice in an area about 3’ deep you can recover by using the paddle to push off the bottom. Once you have developed the technique and muscle memory through many many rolls you will be able roll almost any kayak that you get in.

Not a great idea
If your head is more than 2’ below the surface you will have a very hard time breathing. The water preasure builds up faster than you can believe. Your lungs simply don’t have the power. Even floating on the surface with a snorkel you have to pull the air in with your chest muscles. At a full 1’ to the top of the head you can still do it but it is a struggle.

Any deeper and you spend all of your energy just trying to inhale.

There is a product
I haven’t seen it advertised lately, but somewhere last season I saw an advertisement for a product for kayakers that consisted of a bladder on your bag, similar to a PFD-mounted water bladder, with a tube similar to same. Except that the bladder contained air. The intended use was to allow someone to grab the tube and suck in another lungfull of air if they were fairly calm but just needed more time to try and effect a roll - tiredness, current etc.

I never saw any reviews of it in use. At the time no one mentioned the pressure issue, and I don’t recall if the tube was in some way strengthened to not compress. There were no devices involved to particularly maintain pressure.

I looked pretty seriously at it for myself, because my single biggest issue in handling problems down there was and still is anxiety about being able to breathe. I stepped back from it because I figured that, by the time I could be calm enough to find the tube (I can’t open my eyes under water so everything has to be by feel) and suck air from it without swallowing a lungful of water, I was also likely to be calm enough to go for a balance brace, or come around the side of the boat to grab some air and regroup or do an orca breath. Since then I’ve managed to extend my hang time and mental state tremendously over last season by just being in the pool, and in the pool, doing combos of the above depending on my state of mind.

I still have the same question about the idea. It seems it’d take a tremendous presence of mind to use such a device, and by the time you have that it’s likely that you’ve gotten more than one way just to make it up to the surface and get a fresh round of air.

Spare Air
There are also devices sold for whitewater maniacs that have a short supply of compressed air. I would not bother. Just use the side of a pool or practice in shallow water where you can push off the bottom if needed.

even if you could figure out how to
get yout body to draw air into your lungs through said tube, the one thing that most overlook is that the length of the tube will not allow for all of the used air (CO2) that you exhale to clear the tube. so on the subsequent breaths you will get less and less new air (O2).

really a bad idea; the breathe off the air in the boat concept is the closest to reality. in all most all cases, I find that I can swing my body to get my face clear of the water even if I can’t manage a roll.

Friend in Need, Friend Indeed.

– Last Updated: May-21-06 6:29 PM EST –

I too hate wet exit, and the hassle of pumping and getting back in and all that.

When I learn to roll this summer, I intend for have a fellow paddler right next to me standing in the water. I will thrash and hip flick and do the best I can do. When I stay still--likely limp from all the unsuccessful effort--my partner will flip my boat back upright and probbaly say, "Dude, you almost had it".

Bucket Heads Unite

Ever take a bucket–the five gallon ones work best–and get underwater with it over your head, upside down. We had a place on the lake in Mass. when I was growing up and did that over and over.

Now that I have a swimming pool, last summer we took the bucketing to a new level: drop into the deep end with bucket on head, completely underwater. The person in the bucket has no water at all around their face, they are in an air pocket in the bucket, so to speak. Do not let the bucket go off to the side or there will be a huge influx of water that can be very challenging and uncomfortable for the participant. There is a great amount of upward force as tye bucket tries to launch out of the water. But use a fellow swimmer to keep the five gallon bucket underwater and straight upright (basically that person is holding with all theri weight or sitting on the upside-down bucket), the participant can stay under there for an inordinate amount of time… much longer than the average person can hold their breath. Maybe five minutes or so. It is really a matter of when the CO2 outpercentages the O2 in that bucket that they begin to struggle slightly more to breath, rapid respirations and more shallow, become a little woozy, and then bang on the bucket so their trusted partner holding the bucket can let go so that the bucket can break/float to the surface. They then spring up for fresh air. After a couple times of this, though, there can be a fairly stinging headache. Likely neurons dying off in the cerebral cortex or something, and then the fun should stop and get out and grab a bacon cheeseburger or something.

Anyhow, this is serious science here. But not for the squeamish. I really would suggest that you NOT try this at home. I am not advocating it for your fourth of July BBQs; just know that it is out there.

It has, even after doing it, no practicality for learning to roll a kayak though, thistleback. None whatsoever.

Distraction, at best
Thats all someone needs while learning to roll is the distraction of figuring out and relying on this breathing tube. A good idea perhaps, but in reality just might not be practical and applicable.

Try a buddy to spot you and turn roll failure into successful bow rescue practice. My 2 cents.


practice alternative
Consensus here seems to nix the breathing tube idea.

Here’s my suggestion for being able to practice without wet exit if you don’t have a spotter:

Use your paddlefloat but NOT on the front blade (the “active” blade in your roll - the one in the water). Instead, put it on the back blade, which is the blade that is out of the water (whether you’re learning a sweep or a c to c, one blade will be out of the water above the bottom of your boat). With the paddlefloat on the back blade, it will not interfere at all in doing your roll, but if after a couple attempts (or more depending on your comfort holding your breath) you haven’t rolled up, you can then easily turn the paddle around while you are hanging upside down. With the paddlefloat now on your active blade, you should be able to roll yourself back up rather than wet exit.

I used this method a bit as “training wheels” when my roll was still iffy, and that way I didn’t need a spotter and could avoid wet exits to maximize my practice time.

The only thing is you’ll probably need to tip over on the same side as your set up, as it’s rather cumbersome to get that paddlefloat all the way under the boat if you tip on the side opposite your set up.

Using the paddlefloat on your “active” blade can lead to bad form because you end up using that floatation and your arms instead of a good hip flick, but I think if you just use it as a last resort rescue device, it’ll help you stay in your boat practicing more, as opposed to losing time and energy going through wet exits.

PS - if you have an inflatable paddlefloat, you really don’t need all that much air to assist yourself up, and having less air will help you still to use your hip flick even when you have to use the paddlefloat to roll up. Start with more, but then experiment to find a minimum amount that will still help you up.

Good luck!