Title:
Pivoting snorkels
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Methods are disclosed for providing a snorkel with a pivotal joint that is arranged to permit a pivoting lower portion of the snorkel to pivot around an axis that is at a significant angle to the longitudinal alignment of at least one portion of the upper portion of the snorkel between the joint and the upper opening of the snorkel. Methods are provided for providing a joint member having an axially twisting connection that is arranged to permit the lower portion of the snorkel to experience a predetermined amount of pivotal motion within a plane that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal alignment of the upper portion of the snorkel above the joint. Methods are provided for providing a drop away snorkel that has a greater freedom of movement in a lateral direction than in a longitudinal direction relative to the face of a swimmer. Methods are disclosed for providing reduced production costs, reduced material costs, reduced mold cycle time, improved ease of manufacturing, improved stability, improved comfort, reduced jaw fatigue and other benefits. Methods are also provided for arranging a snorkel to achieve a folded condition that is substantially compact for traveling and storage.



Inventors:
Mccarthy, Peter T. (Oxnard, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/894042
Publication Date:
03/27/2008
Filing Date:
08/15/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63C11/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHU, KAI-YEU K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Peter T. McCarthy (Oxnard, CA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method for providing a snorkel, comprising: (a) providing an elongated conduit having an internal passageway, an upper opening, a lower end and a mouthpiece near said lower end; (b) providing said conduit with a predetermined rotational joint member in an area between said mouthpiece and said upper opening so as to create a pivoting lower portion between said joint member and said lower end and to create an upper portion between said predetermined rotational joint member and said upper opening, said upper portion having a predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis, said lower portion having a predetermined lower portion longitudinal axis, said predetermined rotational joint member being arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot around a predetermined rotational axis that is at an angle to said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis, said predetermined rotational joint member being arranged to maintaining a substantially water tight seal for said internal passageway during said pivoting; and (c) arranging said predetermined rotational joint member so that said predetermined lower portion longitudinal axis along said lower portion near said predetermined rotational joint member is axially offset from said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis along said upper portion near said predetermined rotational joint member.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein said predetermined lower portion longitudinal axis is axially offset from said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis in a direction that is substantially parallel to the direction of intended swimming.

3. The method of claim 1 wherein said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to experience predetermined pivotal movement substantially within a predetermined plane that is substantially parallel to at least a portion of said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot to a substantially folded position in which said pivoting lower portion is substantially aligned with and substantially next to said upper portion.

5. The method of claim 1 wherein said snorkel has a predetermined extended length between said lower end and said upper opening said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot to a substantially folded position in which said snorkel is able to achieve a predetermined folded length that is at least 30% shorter than said predetermined extended length.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein said snorkel has a predetermined extended length between said lower end and said upper opening said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot to a substantially folded position having a predetermined folded length that is at least 40% shorter than said predetermined extended length.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein said snorkel has a predetermined extended length between said lower end and said upper opening said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot to a substantially folded position in which said snorkel is able to achieve a predetermined folded length that is approximately 50% shorter than said predetermined extended length.

8. The method of claim 1 wherein said snorkel has a predetermined extended length between said lower end and said upper opening said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot to a substantially folded position having a predetermined folded length that is at least 50% shorter than said predetermined extended length.

9. A method for providing a snorkel, comprising: (a) providing an elongated conduit having an internal passageway, an upper opening, a lower end and a mouthpiece near said lower end; (b) providing said conduit with a predetermined rotational joint member in an area between said mouthpiece and said upper opening so as to create a pivoting lower portion between said joint member and said lower end and to create an upper portion between said predetermined rotational joint member and said upper opening, said upper portion having a predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis, said lower portion having a predetermined lower portion longitudinal axis, said predetermined rotational joint member being arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to experience pivoting around a predetermined rotational axis that is at an angle to said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis while maintaining a substantially water tight seal for said internal passageway during said pivoting; and (c) arranging said predetermined rotational joint member so that said pivoting lower portion is able to pivot substantially within a predetermined plane of movement, said predetermined plane being axially spaced from said at least one portion of said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis near said predetermined rotational joint member.

10. A method for providing a snorkel, comprising: (a) providing an elongated conduit having an internal passageway, an upper opening, a lower end and a mouthpiece near said lower end; (b) providing said conduit with a predetermined rotational joint member in an area between said mouthpiece and said upper opening so as to create a pivoting lower portion between said joint member and said lower end and to create an upper portion between said predetermined rotational joint member and said upper opening, said upper portion having a predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis, said lower portion having a predetermined lower portion longitudinal axis, said predetermined rotational joint member being arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to experience pivoting around a predetermined rotational axis that is substantially perpendicular to at least one portion of said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis near said predetermined rotational joint member, said predetermined rotational joint member being arranged to maintaining a substantially water tight seal for said internal passageway during said pivoting; and (c) arranging said predetermined rotational joint member so that said pivoting lower portion is able to experience a predetermined range of pivotal motion substantially within a predetermined plane of movement that is substantially parallel to at least one portion of said predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis near said predetermined rotational joint member.

11. The method of claim 10 wherein said snorkel has a predetermined extended length between said lower end and said upper opening said predetermined rotational joint member is arranged to permit said pivoting lower portion to pivot to a substantially folded position having a predetermined folded length that is at least 50% shorter than said predetermined extended length.

12. The method of claim 10 further including arranging said joint to provide said pivoting lower portion with a sufficient amount of resistance to moving in an out of plane direction that is substantially perpendicular to said predetermined plane of movement to permit said predetermined range of pivotal motion of said pivoting lower portion to be greater within said predetermined plane of lateral movement than in said out of plane direction that is substantially perpendicular to said predetermined plane of lateral movement.

13. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined range of pivotal motion is at least 10 degrees.

14. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined range of pivotal motion is at least 20 degrees.

15. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined range of pivotal motion is approximately 180 degrees.

16. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined range of pivotal motion is at least 180 degrees.

17. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined range of pivotal motion is approximately 360 degrees.

18. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined range of pivotal motion is sufficient to permit said snorkel to be substantially folded into a significantly smaller overall length.

19. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined rotational axis is substantially directed in the direction of intended swimming.

20. The method of claim 10 wherein said predetermined rotational axis is aligned in a substantially forward direction relative to the swimmer.

Description:

This application claims the benefit under 34 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional application No. 60/838,340 filed Aug. 15, 2006, titled Pivoting Snorkels. The entire contents of this provisional application is hereby incorporated by reference herein and made part of this specification.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of Invention

The present invention relates to snorkels, specifically to such devices used for breathing while underwater.

2. Description of Prior Art

Prior art attempts to permit the mouthpiece to be movable relative to the upper portion of the snorkel typically involves a soft tube section with thickened annular ribs. Such prior art flexible tubes can laterally collapse when bent which can reduce airflow capacity. Prior art flexible tubes that are intended to drop away from the user's mouth when not in use such as while switching to scuba equipment, can create bending tension that requires the user to bite down on the mouthpiece in order to prevent the mouthpiece from being pulled out of the mouth by elastic tension in the flexible tube. This can increase jaw fatigue during use. In addition, flexible tubing can reduce the stability of the upper portion of the snorkel which can buffet and wiggle during use due to turbulence. In addition, flexible tubing can require expensive materials, increased product weight and increased production time due to the thickened rib sections and these factors can significantly increase production cost.

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES

Accordingly, several objects and advantages of the present invention are:

(a) to provide increased flexibility for comfort;

(b) to provide reduced jaw fatigue;

(c) to provide reduced bending resistance;

(d) to provide improved structural integrity;

(e) to provide increased strength and durability;

(f) to provide increased breathing efficiency;

(g) to provide increased ease of manufacturing;

(h) to provide increased sales and marketing advantages;

(i) to provide methods for manufacture and assembly;

(k) to provide increased ease of assembly;

(l) to provide methods that can potentially be used to reduce product weight, manufacturing time and material costs;

(m) to provide methods of manufacturing and design methods that can greatly increase comfort and ease of use;

(n) to provide improved protection against deformation during storage and packing;

(o) to provide efficient airflow;

(p) to provide improved material combinations and assembly methods;

(q) to provide methods for allowing the snorkel to be folded to a compact size for efficient packing or storage;

(r) to provide improved material combinations for increased durability, protection against environmental conditions, and extended product life; and, or

(s) to provide additional methods and designs for improved performance and benefits.

Still further objects and objectives will become apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description and drawings.

DRAWING FIGURES

FIG. 1 shows a side perspective view of an improved snorkel being used by a swimmer for breathing.

FIG. 2 shows a side perspective view of the same snorkel shown in FIG. 1 except that the mouthpiece is not in the mouth of the user.

FIG. 3 shows a side perspective view of the snorkel shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, except that in FIG. 3, the snorkel is in a folded condition.

FIG. 4 shows a front perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 to 3 as the snorkel is being used by a swimmer for breathing.

FIG. 5 shows the same front perspective view as shown in FIG. 4, except that the mouthpiece is not in the swimmer's mouth.

FIG. 6 shows a front perspective view of an alternate embodiment snorkel being used by a swimmer for breathing.

FIG. 7 shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment shown in FIG. 6 except that in FIG. 7 the mouthpiece is out of the swimmer's mouth.

FIG. 8a shows a font perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 as the lower portion is pivoted to various positions.

FIG. 8b shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment of FIG. 8a in which the snorkel is shown in a folded condition.

FIG. 9a shows a font perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 as the lower portion is pivoted to various positions.

FIG. 9b shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment of FIG. 9a in which the snorkel is shown in a folded condition.

FIG. 10 shows an exploded perspective view of one embodiment of a pivotal joint prior to assembly.

FIG. 11 shows a perspective view of the pivotal joint shown in FIG. 10, except that in FIG. 11, the parts of the pivotal joint are assembled.

FIGS. 12a and 12b show alternate embodiment cross section views taken along the line 12-12 in FIG. 11.

DESCRIPTION AND OPERATION

FIG. 1 shows a side perspective view of a snorkel 20 being used by a swimmer for breathing. Snorkel 20 is seen to have a conduit 22, a lower portion 24 having a lower end 26 and a purge valve 28 (shown by dotted lines), a mouthpiece 30 (that is inside the swimmer's mouth) connected to conduit 22 with a breathing tube 32, and an upper portion 34 with an upper opening 36. In this view, opening 36 is facing into the page and away from the viewer. Conduit 22 is seen to have a lateral pivotal joint 38 and an axial pivotal joint 40.

In this example, the swimmer is wearing a mask 42 having a mask strap 44. Snorkel 20 is preferably connected to mask strap 44 with a snorkel connection member 46. In this example, connection member 46 is a loop type device; however, any suitable connection method or device may be used to connect snorkel 20 to mask 42 in any suitable manner. Conduit 22 along upper portion 34 above joint 38 has a predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis 48 that is substantially parallel to the longitudinal alignment of conduit 22 near connection member 46 and, or in the area between connection member 46 and opening 36 and, or is a substantially vertical axis relative to the head of a swimmer. Lateral pivotal joint 38 is arranged to permit lower portion 24 to pivot around a predetermined lateral axis 50, which is preferably at an angle to longitudinal axis 48. In this example, lateral axis 50 is substantially traverse or transverse to longitudinal axis 48. Preferably, lateral axis 50 is at a significantly steep angle to longitudinal axis 48 or substantially perpendicular to axis 48.

Preferably, lateral axis 50 is at a sufficient angle to longitudinal axis 48 to permit lower portion 24 to be able to experience a pivotal movement 52 that is arranged to permit the position of mouthpiece 30 relative to be adjusted relative to upper portion 34 for optimized comfort and positioning within the user's mouth. Preferably, lateral axis 50 is at a sufficient angle to longitudinal axis 48 to permit lower portion 24 to be able to experience a pivotal movement 52 that can be arranged to permit lower portion 24 to pivot between a breathing position 54 and a drop away position 56 (shown by broken lines) that is laterally spaced from the user's mouth when snorkel 20 is not being used for breathing and mouthpiece 30 is not being held within the user's mouth.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, conduit 22 is seen to have an upper portion bend 58 between joint 38 and upper portion 34 and a lower portion bend 60 between joint 38 and lower portion 24. In alternate embodiments bends 58 and 60 can be made more pronounced, less pronounced or eliminated if desired. In this embodiment, snorkel 20 has an additional purge valve 28 (shown by dotted lines) disposed near or within upper bend 58 to permit the user to purge water from inside snorkel 20.

The side view in FIG. 1 permits one of the benefits of this embodiment to be seen. While joint 38 is arranged to provide pivotal motion 52 between breathing position 54 and extended position 56 preferably with substantial ease and significantly low resistance, pivotal joint member 38 is preferably arranged to be substantially rigid so as to resist movement in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the plane of movement between positions 54 and 56. In other words, while joint 38 preferably provides lateral flexibility and movement of lower portion 24 along the lateral direction of pivotal motion 52, joint 38 is preferably arranged to substantially reduce, restrict or limit movement in a forward or back ward direction relative to the intended direction of swimming. This means that joint 38 provides lateral flexibility and longitudinal rigidity and stability along the intended direction of swimming or relative to the orientation of the head of the swimmer. This can significantly increase the stability of snorkel 20. While prior art universal ball joints or flexible hose portions between snorkel connector 46 and mouthpiece 30 can allow upper portion 34 between such prior art joints and upper opening 36 to become unstable and experience wobbling and buffeting in the water and, or create twisting moments on the mouthpiece which can increase jaw fatigue and reduce comfort, the methods of the present invention can be used to permit comfortable adjustability of mouthpiece 30 in breathing position 54 during breathing (as well as drop away capability) while providing similar longitudinal stability to a non-flexible snorkel having a rigid and not pivoting lower portion 24 when mouthpiece 30 is in the user's mouth. However, alternate embodiments of the present invention can be arranged to also provide universal flexibility or additional dimensions of flexibility or longitudinal flexibility and pivotal movement of lower portion 24 when lower portion 24 is in breathing position 54 while still offering significant improvements over the prior art. The methods of the present invention can preferably be used to substantially encourage pivotal movement 52 within a predetermined plane that includes breathing position 54 and drop away position 56, while significantly restricting, limiting, reducing or preventing significant pivotal movement or bending outside of such plane. Alternatively, the methods of the present invention can also be used to permit any bending or pivoting that occurs out of such plane, at an angle to such plane or away from such plane to experience more resistance and, or have a reduced range of movement in comparison to pivotal motion 52 substantially that is arranged to occur with relatively greater ease within such plane.

One of the benefits provided by the methods of the present invention is the ability to permit lower portion 24 to drop away from the user's face to drop away position 56 while preferably using relatively stiff thermoplastic materials within joint 38 and, or lower portion 24 which are much less expensive than thermoplastic elastomers and thermoplastic silicone used in prior art flexible tube drop away snorkels. This can greatly reduce production costs of snorkel 20 both in material costs and production costs as such stiffer materials are many times less expensive and set up the mold with significantly reduced cycle times during molding. However, in alternate embodiments, the methods of the present invention can be used in combination with flexible tube sections along lower portion 24 and still provide significant benefits over the prior art.

FIG. 2 shows a side perspective view of the same snorkel 20 shown in FIG. 1 except that mouthpiece 30 is not in the mouth of the user and lower end 24 has pivoted to drop away position 56. It can be seen that drop away position 56 permits lower end 24 and mouthpiece 30 to be substantially out of the user's face and off to the side while not being used for breathing. This is a convenient position when snorkel 20 is not being used or when the swimmer switches to using scuba equipment or any alternative breathable gas source while swimming or diving.

From the view in FIG. 2, it can be seen that lower portion 24 has a predetermined lower portion longitudinal axis 61 that is axially spaced from predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis 48. In this example, longitudinal axis 61 is spaced apart from axis 48 in a front to rear direction relative to the swimmer, which is substantially parallel to the intended direction of swimming. Preferably, this method of positioning can permit joint 38 to have a relatively narrow and streamlined profile in the intended direction of swimming and, or can permit rotational motion 54 to occur over a significantly wide range, including folding snorkel 20 substantially in half if desired, or a lesser or greater amount than half. In this embodiment, axis 61 is forward of axis 48; however, in alternate embodiments axis 61 can be positioned behind axis 48, to either side of axis 48, substantially aligned with axis 48, or in any orientation or position relative to axis 48.

Preferably, the alignment of axis 61 is sufficiently offset from the alignment of axis 48 in a substantially axial manner to permit joint 38 to pivot around a plane that is substantially parallel, or substantially close to being parallel to axis 48 and, or axis 61.

Preferably, the alignment of axis 61 is sufficiently offset from the alignment of axis 48 in a substantially axial manner to permit lower portion 24 to pivot substantially around a predetermined plane created by joint 38 that is axially spaced from upper portion longitudinal axis 48.

FIG. 3 shows a side perspective view of the same snorkel 20 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, except that in FIG. 3, lower portion 24 has been pivoted to a substantially folded position 62. Preferably, axis 50 of joint 38, or any other alternate axis or axis on any other alternate joint or combination of alternate joints, is arranged to permit lower portion 24 to experience pivotal movement 52 between breathing position 54 and drop away position 56 and to also experience folding pivotal motion 64 between breathing position 54 and folded position 62 and, or between drop away position 56 and folded position 62.

When lower portion 24 is in drop away position 56 (shown by broken lines), snorkel 20 is seen to have a predetermined extended length 66 substantially between opening 36 (shown by dotted lines) and lower end 26. When lower portion 24 has experienced folding pivotal motion 62 to folded position 62, snorkel 20 is seen to have a predetermined folded length 68 between opening 36 (shown by dotted lines) and the lower end of joint 38. Preferably, folded length 66 is sufficiently shorter and more compact than extended length 66 to permit snorkel 20 to be stored, stowed or packed with significantly less space. This can make packing and traveling easier and more convenient and can also permit a scuba diver to fold snorkel 20 for storage in a pocket of their buoyancy compensator jacket. This can also reduce packaging volume for reduced production and shipping costs while also increasing the number of products that can be transported and stored in a warehouse palette or other enclosure. This can also permit travel packs having a mask and snorkel, or mask fins and snorkel, to be made smaller and more convenient for vacationers or beachgoers. Preferably, folded length 68 is at least 20% shorter, at least 30% shorter, at least 40% shorter, or at least 50% shorter than extended length 66.

In FIG. 3, axial joint 40 is seen to permit lower portion 24 and mouthpiece 30 to experience axial rotation 70 about a substantially longitudinal axis 72 that is substantially parallel to lower portion longitudinal axis 61 and, or the longitudinal alignment of conduit 22 along lower portion 24 near joint 40. As an example, axial rotation 70 of mouthpiece 30 can permit mouthpiece 30 to be in a predetermined position 74 and move to a predetermined rotated position 76 (shown with broken lines). Predetermined position 74 and predetermined rotated position 76 can be arranged to be a selection of a few positions with ratcheted methods of adjustment or can be continuously adjustable to any desired angle about axis 72. In predetermined position 74, mouthpiece 30 is seen to have an opening 78 that is in fluid communication with an internal passageway 80 within snorkel 20 that extends to upper opening 36 (shown with dotted lines due to being on the other side of conduit 22). Axial joint 40 may be made similar to joint 38 as shown further below, or may use any suitable method of permitting mouthpiece 30 to pivot relative to lower portion 24 about a substantially longitudinal axis relative to lower portion 24.

The view in FIG. 3 shows that in this embodiment, joint 38 is arranged to permit lower portion 24 to pivot substantially in a predetermined plane 81 that is illustrated by pivotal movements 52 and 64. Preferably, predetermined plane 81 is axially spaced from at least one portion of predetermined upper portion longitudinal axis 48. This method of offsetting and, or axially spacing plane 81 from axis 48 permits lower portion 24 to pivot to folded position 62 that is laterally spaced (or axially spaced) from at least one portion of upper portion 34 without lower portion 24 being stopped or excessively blocked by conduit 22 along upper portion 34. In alternate embodiments, plane 81 can be arranged to be aligned with axis 48 so that lower portion 24 contacts upper portion 34 in folded position 62 within the same plane 81. In such an example, axis 48 can be arranged to exist substantially close to or within plane 81. Such a method of arrangement can include arranging joint 38 to provide a substantially water tight seal while being positioned substantially within or close to plane 81 with any suitable arrangement. Any suitable form of pivotal joint may be used for such method of positioning.

Preferably, pivotal motion 52 is arranged to occur within a range that is between 10 degrees to 60 degrees, between 20 degrees and 50 degrees, between 10 degrees and 90 degrees, at least 5 degrees, at least 10 degrees, at least 20 degrees, at least 30 degrees, at least 40 degrees, approximately 45 degrees, approximately 50 degrees, approximately 60 degrees, or approximately 70 degrees. Preferably, rotational movements 52 and 64, or 64 alone between extended position 56 and folded position 62 are arranged to be approximately 180 degrees, at least 100 degrees, at least 120 degrees, at least 140 degrees, or at least 160 degrees. Preferably, pivotal movements 52 and 64 permit rotation through a range of approximately 360 degrees; however, any suitable range may be used for pivotal movement 52 and, or 64.

FIG. 4 shows a front perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 to 3 as snorkel 20 is being used by a swimmer for breathing. In this front view, axis 50 is seen as a dot to show that in this example, axis 50 is aiming substantially toward the viewer and out of the page, and is substantially perpendicular to axis 48; however, in alternate embodiments, axis 50 can be oriented at any desired or suitable angle. In FIG. 4, mouthpiece 30 is in the mouth of the swimmer while lower portion 24 is in breathing position 54. Axis 50 and, or lateral pivotal joint 38 is arranged to permit lower portion 24 to experience pivotal motion 52 between breathing position 54 and drop away position 56 (shown by broken lines). Lower portion 24 in drop away position 56 is seen to be significantly to the side and out of the way of the user's face.

In FIG. 4, the underside of lower portion 24 is seen to have a substantially concave down curvature, bend or inclination when oriented in breathing position 54, and the upper region of lower portion 24 is seen to have a substantially convex up curvature, bend or inclination while in breathing position 54. In alternate embodiments, lower portion 24 between joint 38 and lower end 26 can have any desired curvatures, contours, bends, inclinations, orientations, shape, configuration or arrangement.

FIG. 5 shows the same front perspective view as shown in FIG. 4, except that mouthpiece 30 is not in the swimmer's mouth and lower portion 24 is in drop away position 56 that is significantly out of the way of the user's face to permit comfortable use of alternate underwater breathing supplies such as scuba equipment, and is also out of the way of the user's face when the user does not need or desire lower portion 24 to be in breathing position 54 (shown in FIG. 4).

FIG. 6 shows a front perspective view of an alternate embodiment being used by a swimmer for breathing. In FIG. 6, lower portion 24 between joint 38 and lower end 26 is seen to have a substantially S-shaped contour having a first bend 82 near joint 36 and a second bend 84 between first bend 82 and lower end 26. In this embodiment, first bend 82 is concave inward toward the user's face so that joint 38 can be positioned closer to upper end 34 (compared to FIG. 4) because such concave inward contour of first bend 82 can permit conduit 22 along first bend 82 to not press against mask 42 when lower portion 24 is in breathing position 54. Positioning joint 38 closer to upper portion 34 can permit snorkel 20 to be folded substantially in half, or at least close to or closer to an approximate 50% reduction in length if desired. Second bend 84 is seen to be concave downward relative to the user's face in this embodiment so that the region of lower end 24 between mouthpiece 30 and lower end 26 that forms a purge reservoir 86 can be oriented substantially downward or at least partially downward in order to hold an increased amount of water and, or saliva in an area that is vertically spaced from mouthpiece 30. In alternate embodiments, first bend 82, second bend 84 and or any portion of lower portion 24 can have any suitable contour, bend, degree of bend, type of bend, direction or directions of bend shape, angle, orientation, configuration, arrangement, inclination or any combination of such characteristics.

FIG. 7 shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment shown in FIG. 6 except that in FIG. 7 mouthpiece 30 is out of the swimmer's mouth and lower portion 24 is in drop away position 56, which is seen to be comfortably spaced away from the user's face when snorkel 20 is not needed or is not desired to be used for supplying breathable air to the swimmer.

FIG. 8a shows a font perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 as lower portion 24 is pivoted to various positions. In this view, lower portion 24 is seen to be in folded position 62. Lower portion 24 between joint 38 and lower end 26 is seen to have a predetermined lower portion contour 88 and upper portion 34 is seen to have a predetermined upper portion contour 90.

The methods of the present invention including providing lower portion 24 with a predetermined lower portion contour 88 substantially between joint 38 and lower end 26, providing upper portion 34 with a predetermined upper portion contour substantially between joint 38 and upper opening 36, and arranging predetermined lower portion contour 88 to substantially conform to, align with, match or be similar to predetermined upper portion contour 38 when lower portion 24 is at or near folded position 62.

In this example, predetermined contours 88 and 90 have one bend each; however, in alternate embodiments, any number of bends, combinations of bends, directions of bends or variations in contours can be used.

Folded position 62 is seen to cause folded length 68 to be approximately 60% of extended length 66. In alternate embodiments, the percentage of folded length 68 to extended length 66 can be approximately 80%, 75%, 70%, 65%, 60%, 65% or approximately 50%.

In alternate embodiments, the methods of the present invention includes using more than one pivotal joint 38 which can be arranged to permit snorkel 20 to be folded in thirds or quarters if desired so that the percentage of folded length 68 to extended length 66 is arranged to be less than 50%, less than 40%, less than 30%, less that 25% or less than 20%.

In FIG. 8a, lower portion 24 is seen to be able to experience pivotal rotation 52 between extended position 56 (show with broken lines) and breathing position 54 (show with broken lines). In this example, lower portion 24 is also seen to be arranged to experience a predetermined pivotal adjustment range 92 between breathing position 54 (show with broken lines) and a different predetermined breathing position 54′ that is spaced from breathing position 54. Pivotal adjustment range 92 permits the user to adjust the position of mouthpiece 30 and lower portion 24 (show with broken lines) to best suit their individual preferences throughout predetermined pivotal adjustment range 92.

In alternate embodiments, the methods of the present invention can be used to arrange joint 38 to only permit lower portion 24 to pivot through predetermined adjustment range 92, with or without experiencing pivotal motion 52 to extended position 56 and, or folding pivotal motion 64 to folded position 62.

In other alternate embodiments, the methods of the present invention can include providing joint 38 with ratcheted portions or predetermined incremental adjustments in any suitable manner that lock in position or have stops that permit pivotal range 92 and, or pivotal motion 52 and, or pivotal motion 64 to occur with ease over a certain predetermined range, and restrict, slow, resist or stop pivotal movement outside of such predetermined ranges unless an increased force is applied. For example, the methods of the present invention can include providing stops or restrictions for movement beyond predetermined pivotal adjustment range 92 so that lower portion 24 can pivot along range 92 without significant resistance, but encounters resistance to pivoting outside of predetermined range 92. In such examples, an increase in pressure provided by the user can cause lower portion 24 to pivot beyond such region of increased resistance or stopping member so that lower portion 24 can then experience pivotal motion 52 to extended position 56 and, or experience pivotal motion 64 to folded position 62. In addition, the methods of the present invention can also include providing joint 38 with a suitable locking mechanism or ratcheted portion that can permit lower portion 24 to become substantially locked in extended position 56 so that it can substantially avoid or reduce swinging back and forth when not in use. In such situations, the suitable locking mechanism or ratcheted portion in joint 38 can be arranged to have a significantly low level of resistance to unlocking so that the user can apply a predetermined pressure, such as a significantly gentle pressure for example, to lower portion 24 capable of moving lower portion 24 to breathing positions 54 or 54′ (which can be any suitable position capable of being used for breathing) or to folded position 62.

FIG. 8b shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment of FIG. 8a in which snorkel 20 is shown in a horizontal orientation to view the compact condition of snorkel 20 in folded position 62.

FIG. 8c shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment of FIGS. 8a and 8b, except that in FIG. 8c, upper portion 34 has been arranged to experience folding pivotal motion 64 to a further folded position 93 having a bend 93′. The methods of the present invention can include providing an additional joint 38 along upper portion 34 to permit upper portion to folded to further folded position 38 and, or providing conduit 22 along upper portion 34 with sufficient flexibility to form bend 93′ around a substantially transverse axis relative to the longitudinal alignment of upper portion 34 and achieve further folded position 93 from such bending. When conduit 22 is made sufficiently flexible to bend around a transverse axis to achieve further folded position 93, it is preferred that conduit 22 be made with a substantially resilient material such as a suitable resilient thermoplastic elastomer that is capable of recovering from such folded position 93 without experiencing excessive deformation or kinking that could potentially restrict air flow when snorkel 20 is being used for breathing rather than being folded for storage. In alternate embodiments, an additional joint 38 can be used instead of or in addition to bend 93′.

FIG. 8c shows that folded position 93 can permit snorkel 20 to achieve a predetermined further folded length 68′. Preferably, further folded length 68′ can be arranged to be approximately 50%, 40%, 30% or less than 30% of extended length 66. In alternate embodiments, upper portion 34 and, or lower portion 24 can be arranged to be made with sufficiently flexible material to permit further compacting through additional folds and, or bending. In this example, internal passageway 80 and opening 36 are visible at upper portion 34 in this view of folded position 93.

FIG. 9a shows a font perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 that shows lower portion 24 being pivoted to various positions including folded position 62. In this embodiment, snorkel 20 is seen to have a folded length 68 that is approximately 50% of extended position 66.

FIG. 9b shows a front perspective view of the same embodiment of FIG. 9a in which snorkel 20 is shown in a horizontal orientation to view the compact condition of snorkel 20 in folded position 62.

FIG. 10 shows an exploded perspective view of one embodiment of pivotal joint 38 prior to assembly. Lower portion 24 is seen to have a lower portion joint opening 94 at joint 38 that is arranged to mate with an upper portion joint opening 96 of upper portion 34. In this embodiment, lower portion joint opening 94 has a predetermined lower portion connection member 98 and upper joint opening 96 has a predetermined upper portion connection member 100. In this example, upper portion connection member 100 is arranged to have male connection member 102 that is arranged to be inserted into lower connection member 100 having a female connection member 104; however, in alternate embodiments, any suitable method of pivotally connecting lower portion 24 to upper portion 38 around an axis that is at a significant angle to the longitudinal alignment of conduit 22 near upper portion 34 may be used. In the embodiment in FIG. 10, male connection member 102 is seen to have at least one predetermined locking member 106, which in this example includes a prong shaped member. Locking member 106 is preferred to laterally contract when inserted into lower joint opening 96 and female connection member 104 and then laterally expand within internal passageway after passing an inner recessed edge 108 and then hook against inner recessed edge 108. However, in alternate embodiments, an suitable method of locking joint 38 together may be used. In this embodiment, inner edge 108 is arranged to permit locking member 106 to rotate and slide along edge 108 so as to permit joint 38 to rotate to various desired positions.

In this example, a predetermined ratchet member 110 is provided along female connection member 104 as well as along male connection member 102. Ratchet member 110 can be provided in any suitable form including at least one protrusion and, or recess, or mating protrusions and recesses. In alternate embodiments, any number, size, positioning on or near any portion of joint 38, configuration, shape, contour, arrangement or form of any suitable ratchet type device, pivot range limiting device or position locking device may be used at or near any portion of joint 38 in order to provide predetermined resistance to pivoting beyond a predetermined rotational range, to provide predetermined stopping points or locking points, or to provide predetermined rotational range limits for joint 38.

In FIG. 10, a sealing member 112 is seen to be positioned within joint 38 for providing or improving a water tight seal. In this example, sealing member 112 is an O-ring made with a relative soft resilient material such as a silicone rubber, thermoplastic elastomer or thermoplastic rubber; however, in alternate embodiments, any suitable form of sealing member 112 may be used within joint 38. In other embodiments, connection members 98 and 100 can be arranged to create a substantially water tight seal without using a separate sealing member 112.

In the embodiment of FIG. 10, locking members 106 extend forward of an end 114; however, any suitable method of locking on a temporary, removably attached, or permanent basis may be used to connect any parts or members of any suitable form of joint 38. For example, while FIG. 10 shows locking members 106 having relatively sharp corners for hooking around inner recessed edge 108, locking members can alternatively have rounded shapes that can permit a predetermined holding strength that can permit disconnection of joint 38 after assembly if desired with a predetermined amount of force or effort. In alternate embodiments, joint 38 can be easily disconnected for enabling compact storage and if desired, a tether can be used to connect upper portion 34 to lower portion 24 so that one of the two separated parts are less likely to be lost.

FIG. 11 shows a perspective view of the same pivotal joint 38 shown in FIG. 10, except that in FIG. 11, the parts of pivotal joint 38 are show as having been assembled. The dotted lines show the locking members 106 and connection member 102 within lower portion joint opening 94 and bend 60 of lower portion 24.

FIGS. 12a and 12b show alternate embodiment cross section views taken along the line 12-12 in FIG. 11.

In FIG. 12a, sealing member 112 is preferably compressed between joint openings 94 and 96 as locking member 106 locks around inner recessed edge 108. The methods of the present invention include preferably providing a predetermined amount compression to sealing member 112 by joint 38 that is arranged to provide a substantially water tight seal during at least some phases of use. In addition, the methods of the present invention may include arranging such predetermined compression to sealing member 112 to be sufficiently low enough to permit rotation of joint 38 to occur with substantially unrestricted, substantially unrestrained and, or substantially low levels of friction so that pivoting about joint 38 can occur with substantially low levels of effort by the user. In some embodiments, it is preferable that joint 38 is arranged to have sufficiently low levels of rotational friction or resistance to rotation to permit lower portion 24 to automatically pivot away from the user's face (not shown) to drop away position 56 (not shown) when the user removes mouthpiece 30 (not shown) from the mouth. In other embodiments, rotational friction or predetermined restraints can be arranged to be sufficiently high enough to substantially maintain a predetermined position of rotation until the user applies a predetermined amount of pressure to lower portion 24 and, or joint 38 and or any suitable portion of snorkel 20 that can cause joint 38 to rotate to a new predetermined rotated position as desired by the user. Any suitable method may be used to provide any degree of rotational friction, restraint, limits of rotation, ranges of rotation, freedom of rotation, or ease of rotation within or near joint 38.

In FIG. 12a, broken lines show the orientation of lower portion 24 in folded position 62 after lower portion experiences folding pivotal motion 64. In folded position 62, a gap 115 is seen to exist between upper portion 34 and lower portion 24 which is substantially created by bends 58 and 60. Bends 58 and 60 can be arranged in any suitable manner to create any desired size of gap 11. Preferably, gap 15 is made sufficiently small enough to improved or maximize the overall compact size of snorkel 20 in folded position; however, any size of gap 115 may be used.

In the embodiment of FIG. 12a, purge valve 28 is seen to be positioned along the lower region of bend 58 on upper portion 34. This can permit improved clearing of water within internal passageway 80 of snorkel 20. Purge valve 28 includes vents 116 in upper portion 34. The outer surface of vents 116 are covered by a membrane 118 that is attached to snorkel 20 with a knob 120. Membrane 120 is preferably made with a resilient material such as a silicone rubber and is arranged to be able to flex between a closed position 122 that seals vents 116 during normal use and an open position 124 (shown by broken lines) that opens vents 116 as the user exhales with a predetermined force into snorkel 20 to drive water out of internal passageway 80 through purge valve 28. The placement of purge valve 28 along bend 58 can preferably permit water or spray dripping down internal passageway 80 of upper portion 34 to collect and be purged out of snorkel 20 with a reduced amount of water reaching lower portion 24. In addition, purge 28 near joint 38 can preferably permit water to be cleared from snorkel 20 with increased efficiency and ease, especially in preferred embodiments in which another purge valve 28 (not shown) is positioned near lower end 26 (not shown) of snorkel 20 so that water may be purged out both purge valves 28 simultaneously if desired.

FIG. 12b, shows an alternate embodiment cross section view of joint 38 taken along the lines 12-12 in FIG. 11. In FIG. 12b, gap 115 is seen to be much smaller than shown in FIG. 12a, between upper portion 34 and lower portion 24 in folded position 62 (shown by broken lines). In the embodiment of FIG. 12b, the inner portion of bend 58 along upper portion 34 and the inner portion of bend 60 on lower portion 24 along joint 38 are seen to be relatively sharp so that gap 115 is significantly reduced. This can further improve the compact size of snorkel 20 in folded position 62. Gap 115 may have any desired size or may even be eliminated entirely in folded position 62.

FIG. 12b also shows sealing member 112 being disposed within joint 38. In this example, sealing member 112 is positioned between connection members 102 and 104; however, any form of sealing member 112 may be used along any position or region of any suitable configuration of joint 38. In this example, sealing member 112 is seen to be relatively planar in cross sectional shape; however, any shape may be used. Sealing member 112 may be a resilient band disposed within joint 38 or may be a thermoplastic material connected to connection member 102, connection member 104, or any other portion of any suitable configuration of joint 38 with any suitable chemical and, or mechanical bond.

In the embodiment of FIG. 12b, end 114 of male connection member 102 is substantially flush with locking members 106. In such an embodiment, locking member 106 can be a substantially circular rim with a predetermined mechanical bond or locking mechanism such as an extended hook-like or rib-like feature that can lock against inner recessed edge 108.

FIGS. 12a and 12b show that one of the advantages of joint 38 is its substantially large internal volume which provides excellent flow capacity and volume with a rotational joint having preferably at least two separate parts. Preferably, joint 38 will be arranged to have a predetermined cross sectional size that is significantly similar the cross sectional size of conduit 22 on at least one side of joint 38 or on both sides of joint 38 in an area that is spaced from joint 38. This can provide a significant improvement over prior art mechanical joints having at least two mechanically joint parts such as ball joints, which cause the internal cross sectional area of the ball joint passageway to be much smaller than the cross sectional area of the conduit spaced from such ball joint. Such restricted cross sectional area within a ball joint internal passageway can significantly limit, restrict, impede or reduce flow capacity through the snorkel and increase the work of breathing as well as the ventilation capacity of the snorkel for the user, especially during high levels of exertion while swimming. However, in alternate embodiments the methods of the present invention can be used to create joint 38 with a significantly reduced internal cross sectional area, volume, flow capacity or any other source of resistance or reduction to flow capacity because the methods of the present invention can provide other benefits and improvements over the prior art as shown and described in this description.

SUMMARY, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE

Accordingly, the reader will see that the designs and methods of the present invention offer advantages in that they can:

(a) provide increased flexibility and, or adjustability for comfort;

(b) provide reduced jaw fatigue;

(c) provide reduced bending resistance;

(d) provide improved structural integrity;

(e) provide improved range of movement;

(f) provide increased breathing efficiency;

(g) provide increased ease of manufacturing;

(h) provide increased sales and marketing advantages;

(i) provide new methods for manufacture and assembly;

(k) provide new methods for achieving a full drop away snorkel that can pivot out of the way of the user's face when not being used for breathing;

(l) provide methods that can potentially be used to reduce product weight, manufacturing time and material costs;

(m) provide methods of manufacturing and design methods that can greatly increase comfort and ease of use;

(n) provide improved protection against deformation during storage and packing;

(o) provide improved internal cross sectional area for efficient airflow;

(p) provide improved material combinations and assembly methods;

(q) provide methods for allowing the snorkel to be folded to a more compact size for efficient packing or storage;

(r) provide improved stability;

(s) provide controlled lateral flexibility; and, or

(s) provide additional methods and designs for improved performance and benefits.

Still further benefits are apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description and drawings.

Any combination of features in one or more embodiments can be combined in any order with other embodiments, features or variations and all such embodiments are incorporated by reference to each other embodiment, feature and embodiment described.

In alternate embodiments, any number of joints 38 may be used that pivot around any desired pivotal axis or multiple different axis. In other embodiments, any number of joints 38 may be used in combination with any other type or method of pivot connection or flexible connection.

In other embodiments, lower portion 24 may also be made with a flexible material that permits at least one portion of lower portion 24 to flex or bend relative to upper portion 34 with or without any pivotal motion occurring within joint 38. This method can be used to further improve the flexibility, adjustability and comfort of snorkel 20 for the user if desired. In some embodiments, the methods of the present invention can include providing at least one portion or all portions of conduit below joint 38, including bend 60 and, or predetermined connection member 98 if desired, in which portion or portions are made with a significantly flexible material capable of bending under moderate or light loading conditions during use.

Although the description above contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should not be determined not by the embodiments illustrated and described, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.