Is it a trend? A habit? An unconscious act? What is it?
There appears to be increasing tendency for divers to remove their masks in the water. Stand on the shore or on a boat at any dive site and watch divers as they come to the surface, an increasing number immediately remove their masks, either leaving them on the top of their heads or pulling them down round their neck why? There is another category of mask remover recently noticed - these divers carefully fit their masks before getting in the water, and then immediately they are in, for no apparent reason, completely remove their mask have a chat with their buddy who has done the same and then both refit their masks. After water entry there may be the odd occasion when a mask steams up, however keeping the mask in place and letting a little water in to rinse out will usually do the trick, other necessary adjustments can also be done with the mask on the face.
Once fitted, keep your mask in place and a regulator or snorkel in your mouth until you are clear of the water at the end of the dive. To me this is the best option wherever I am in, sea, fresh water or the pool. This way I don’t get an unexpected eye full of water, at the start of the dive I am ready for the shot line descent etc, and at the end of a dive I can see if needed to look down through the water for kit removal. Above all I am fully kitted for diving and in the sea even with the slightest swell, this is comfortable and safe. By following the same routine at all times, it is natural and second nature to keep my mask in place - the ideal option when the conditions at the surface are less than perfect.
Marg Baldwin, NDC Snorkel Instructor Chief Examiner
Fad or safety factor? The questions Marg poses above may seem trivial to some and simple common sense to others but what difference does it really make. Putting a mask on the top of your head does not always mean distress but it does risk it pinging off with no ability of the owner spotting it on its drift downwards! Wearing it around your neck may prevent losing it but it doesn’t serve any useful purpose (especially if your mate decides to lose his mask).
See no Evil
We wear a mask so that we can see underwater. Marg rightly points out that once on the surface keeping a mask in place allows checks to be made underwater if the need arises. What very few masks do is to ‘prevent’ you from seeing once you are back on the surface, so if it lets you see in both water and air why not keep it on?
Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil
It often amuses me to watch people who are quite happy keeping their mask in place until someone talks to them. Only at that point do they suddenly seem to have this sudden need to remove their mask. As much as I have tried to test it out I still haven’t managed to identify any difference in my ability to hear when wearing a mask. Likewise a regulator or snorkel does impair my ability to talk coherently but the mask never does.
Should the need ever arise to give rescue breaths it is fairly important to remove the casualty’s mask but the rescuer does not and retaining your mask may help substantially when it comes to removing equipment.
Think SAFE – Dive SAFE
Jim Watson, BSAC Safety and Development manager