Although snorkels come in many forms, they are primarily classified by their dimensions and secondarily by their orientation and shape. The length and the inner diameter (or inner volume) of the tube are paramount health and safety considerations when matching a snorkel to the morphology of its end-user. The orientation and shape of the tube must also be taken into account when matching a snorkel to its end use while seeking to optimise ergonomic factors such as streamlining, airflow and water retention.
1938: First front-mounted swimmer's breathing tube patent filed. In December 1938, French spearfisherman Maxime Forjot and his business partner Albert Méjean file a patent application in France for a breathing tube worn on the front of the head over a single-lens diving mask enclosing the eyes and the nose and it is granted French patent 847848 on 10 July 1939. In July 1939, Popular Science magazine publishes an article containing illustrations of a spearfisherman using a curved length of hosepipe as a front-mounted breathing tube and wearing a set of swimming goggles over his eyes and a pair of swimming fins on his feet. In the first French monograph on spearfishing La Chasse aux Poissons (1940), medical researcher and amateur spearfisherman Dr Raymond Pulvénis illustrates his "Tuba", a breathing tube he designed to be worn on the front of the head over a single-lens diving mask enclosing the eyes and the nose. Francophone swimmers and divers have called their breathing tube "un tuba" ever since. In 1943, Raymond Pulvénis and his brother Roger obtain a Spanish patent for their improved breathing tube mouthpiece design. In 1956, the UK diving equipment manufacturer E. T. Skinner (Typhoon) markets a "frontal" breathing tube with a bracket attachable to the screw at the top of an oval diving mask. Although it falls out of favour with underwater swimmers eventually, the front-mounted snorkel becomes the breathing tube of choice in competitive swimming and finswimming (see Figure 4) because it contributes to the swimmer's hydrodynamic profile.
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