We’ve all had that dive. A beautiful day, check. Predive safety check, check. Backwards roll entry, check. Descend, check. But as soon as your face gets underwater, the madness begins. A little bit of water starts to trickle in, and the clearing-fest begins.
Stinging eyes. CLEAR. More water in. CLEAR. Mask fogs up. Let a little water in to defog. CLEAR. More trickling water in. Are you asking me my air or saying you saw triggerfish? CLEAR. More fogging. Miss the pygmy sea horses. Let more water in. Too much water, my eyes! Dolphins swim by – glad I missed those. CLEAR. And repeat.
We’ve all had that dive because we’ve all had that mask. This rage-inducing scenario is why it is crucial to have your own properly fitted mask. No, your rental is not a one-size-fits-all! Everyone has differently shaped faces. It’s not a dive shop’s fault if they don’t happen to have the particular model made for your shockingly tiny face.
When you do decide to suck it up and take the plunge in buying a personal mask, here are Blue Marlin’s tips to making sure you are choosing the right one.
As we’ve mentioned before, your mask should be the first piece of diving equipment you buy. Even if you don’t feel like bringing much of your equipment on a trip due to weight limits or ease of travel (or you haven’t yet spent your life savings on an arsenal of dive gear), this imperative piece of equipment is small and easy to bring anywhere. Plus, in many places, you’ll be able to suss out some dive spots to decide whether or not you want to take the plunge there.
Because the thing I tell my baby, it don’t matter if you’re black or white.
So the first question when buying a mask is whether you want a black or clear skirt and whether you want PVC or silicone. It’s not just a matter of style! A general rule of thumb is black in bright waters and clear in darker waters. Why? A black silicone skirt blocks out unwanted light that tends to cause reflection on the lens. Also, in the tropical waters of the Gilis and Komodo, where the bright sun has been known to temporarily blind divers by bouncing off the shallow sand bottoms, the black skirt aids in shading your eyes and reducing glare. If you are a photographer – go black, don’t go back. However, if you are diving low visibility, you are going to want to hoard all the light there is! A clear silicone skirt produces a very open, airy feel (yes, we’re talking to you, you claustrophobic son of a gun) and can extend your field of vision. As far as material, silicone is more expensive but is suppler than PVC, which results in a better seal and more comfortable fit. Silicone also lasts longer than PVC.
Hey boy, put it on me.
When trying on a mask, you should first put it to your face, without putting the strap on, and breath in through your nose. If it creates a seal and stays on your face as you look down, then this mask may be your Prince Charming. It is also worth checking to see if the seal is not too close to the corners of your eyes as this can be your perfect relationship’s Achilles heel. Furthermore, make sure the mask is not pressing against the bridge of your nose to avoid an uncomfortable dive rivalling the time you looked over and saw Adele actually rolling in the deep. (YES. WE WENT THERE. THAT JOKE DOES NOT GET OLD.)
Just hold on loosely, And don’t let go!
When you finally have a mask to call your own, it is important to ensure that you don’t over-tighten your perfect mate! This common mistake, even for experienced divers, is sometimes the culprit when it comes to leaky masks. Remember, as you descend, water will exert pressure on the mask, pressing it towards your face. You don’t have to have that thing on as tight as one of Kim K’s fave dresses. Coming out of the water with a pressure mark for one or two hours after the dive; it’s never a good look (but that racoon next door will be giving you EYES)! Remember, with the mask in place you should be able to pull it away from your face by 1 to 2 centimetres.
Cuz every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man…
Let’s talk about the look of your mask. Of course, you always want to look as Marty McFly as possible when diving. Masks come in a wide range of models and styles. If you are looking for prescription lenses, make sure to get a split mask with two separate lenses. But otherwise, the world is yours. If you want to look like you’re still in love with the 80’s? Neon. Ninja? All black single lens. Stormtrooper? Full face mask. Hipsterific? An old school, single circle lens. Like a total pro? Just get that little GoPro attachment that keeps your camera on your head. 😳 Regardless, have fun with it!
If it don’t make dollas, then it don’t make cents.
And finally. That all important factor. Price. DO NOT LET THE PRICE INFLUENCE YOUR FINAL DECISION. If you find a mask that you like, regardless if it costs $20 or $100, as long as the seal is good, the lens is tempered glass and you like it – just BUY IT! It will make a massive difference to your diving experience. But this also means don’t jump straight onto a computer just to find the best price. Make sure that you go to a store and physically try it on.