Many people find mask clearing very tricky at first. Often they rush through this skill during their entry level training, hoping to get it over with as soon as possible so that they won’t have to do it again. In reality, though this is the skill that you will probably use most often while diving. Here are a few tips on how to make this skill a bit easier.
- Blow out your nose and Look up
The objective that you are trying to achieve is this: you want to create a pressure change in your mask by blowing air into your mask; this air will then push the water out.
A good technique for you to use is to create a tight seal between the mask and your face at the top by placing the index and middle fingers of both hands on the top part of your mask’s frame, exerting a slight pressure. Now when you blow out of your nose the air will not simply bubble out at the top of your mask, but rather it will force its way out at the bottom, pushing any water that might be in your mask along with it.
To help this process even more you can tilt your head up as you blow out through your nose. By doing this the water collects at the bottom of your mask and can then be blown out easily.
Remember that it might take a number of attempts to remove the water completely, so keep going, breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose until you have cleared all the water.
2. Don’t break the seal at the bottom
When some water comes into a person’s mask while you are snorkelling his or her natural reaction is to take their face out of the water and lift the bottom away from their face to allow the water to run out. This makes perfect sense… above the surface. Underwater, however it is going to have the opposite effect. If you break the seal between your mask and your face at the bottom, all you are doing is blowing bubbles out your nose into the ocean and your mask will more than likely just fill up with water again. This could be a very uncomfortable experience (as you might get water up your nose) and could result in a diver feeling like they cannot clear their mask, and could possibly lead to a stressful and panicked situation.
Sometimes your mask could make a good seal against your cheeks, making it almost impossible to clear your mask without lifting it away from your face at the bottom. In this case use your thumbs to lift the bottom of your mask slightly; I usually say about a millimetre or hair’s breadth.
3. Shave your mustache
The first thing that your dive centre staff will tell you when you are purchasing or trying on a mask is that you have to look at how well it seals against your face. Masks are designed to fit differently shaped faces. The size of the skirt and the location of the seal will make a mask fit better on a certain size and shape face.
Some customers might find that they have water in their mask most of the time, no matter how many masks they try out. One of the main factors why masks don’t seal against your face is your man-hair. Whether you have a full moustache, or just a few days’ worth of holiday stubble, hair on your upper-lip is more than likely to break the seal of your mask and thus letting in water. If you are happy to dive with some water in your nose pocket, this is perfectly fine. If, however the thought of having to do a mask clear every few minutes does not sound like fun there are a few options.
Smearing a fair-sized glob of Vaseline onto your stubbly upper lip should help with making a better seal. Alternatively you can shave… I know this is the worst chore while you are on holiday, but take some inspiration from one of my Open Water students who shaved his moustache for the first time in 40 years! to avoid a leaky mask during his course. Now THAT is dedication!
Yes, when diving there might be some water that comes up your nose. That is ok. Use these techniques to become more comfortable when clearing your mask, and you will become a much more comfortable diver.
*A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com