Many new scuba diving students find clearing their mask of water somewhat of a challenge the first time they try. Often, student divers rush this skill. The reason for this is because it feels strange having water inside the mask space for the first time.
It’s quite common to have a little water leak into your mask from time to time. It is for this reason that mask clearing is one of the most useful skills you will learn during the Open water course.
In my time as a PADI Instructor – over 15 years now – I have seen many Open Water students struggle initially with mask clearing skills. Usually, after a few attempts, student divers overcome any perceived fears and become comfortable with mask skills.
If you are interested in becoming a scuba diver, or have had issues clearing your mask in the past, here are some helpful tips to bear in mind.
Follow these steps and we will have you performing like a professional in no time!
4 Small Steps
My first piece of advice is to relax. Remember, even with a mask full of water you are still able to breathe as you have the regulator in your mouth. Try not to rush and take each sub skills, step by step:
- Look down so you are looking at your toes.
- Place your fingers on the hard plastic rim of the mask.
- Take a big breath in through your mouth.
- Slowly and smoothly exhale through the nose while looking up. You should end by looking up to the sky.
All you are doing is adding air to the mask (remember your nose is enclosed within the mask). Normally this air would escape from the top of the mask but as you are putting pressure on the top of the mask with your fingers the air cannot escape.
Instead it travels down, escaping from the bottom seal of the mask and pushing any water out with it. If you don’t clear it all on your first try – no problem.
Relax; repeat the 4 steps slowly and the water will eventually clear from the bottom of the mask.
Having A Few Problems?
As I have already mentioned, mask clearing is not always so simple for everyone. Some students do tend to over think – or over complicate this skill – and become a little stressed with having water on their face. This is the time to remind yourself you have the regulator in your mouth so you are able to breathe normally.
Try not to become frustrated with yourself if you cannot clear it first time – or in one go. Your PADI Instructor may have made it look very easy but remember they have performed this skill thousands of time. As long as you are performing the steps correctly you will clear the water out of the mask.
Use Your Thumbs – lifting the bottom of the mask a little with your thumbs creates a bigger gap for the water to pass through. But with this it is important to remember to only lift a millimetre or 2. If the gap is too big it will let more water in than you are actually trying to blow out!
Be Comfortable With Water – becoming comfortable with water on your face and around your nose, whilst breathing through a regulator will help you become more confident with mask clearing. You can do this by removing your mask and placing your face into the water whilst standing in the shallow end of the swimming pool during the early stages of your first confined water training dives. Try to breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose.
Choose Carefully – When choosing a dive school to take your Open Water course make sure they have a swimming pool for the practice sessions. It is a much more controlled and relaxed environment for novice divers to take their first breathes on scuba. It will also put your mind at ease when performing your first skills.
You are able to see everything that your Instructor is demonstrating and, if you don’t understand, or don’t feel god you simply stand up. This isn’t the case if completing confined water sessions in the sea with sand being kicked up and reducing the visibility or waves crashing overhead making it impossible to stay in the same place.
Shave – Big one for the guys – having some hair growth on your upper lip can break the seal between the mask and your face. Being clean shaven or, if that’s not an option, applying some Vaseline over the your moustache will help create a better seal.
Buy Your Own Mask – It is highly recommended to buy your own mask once you commit to enrolling on an Open Water diver course. Spend some time with your instructor and find a mask that is perfect for you. Try different types – finding the right mask for you will help in reducing the amount of water that enters the mask. But do still expect to get a little water inside even the most perfect fitting mask from time to time.
The PADI Open water diver course includes a variety of mask skills that start form basic and add extras as students gain more confidence. Initially during the confined water training dives your Instructor will ask you to clear a partially flooded mask and by the end of the confined water training sessions you will be swimming around the pool with your mask off!
By the end of your confined session you will have mastered the art of mask clearing and be ready and confident to clear your mask in the open water.
If you are already an Open Water diver and remember being a little nervous with the mask skills then don’t let it put you off getting back in the water. Whether you haven’t dived for several months, or you are still a little nervous with certain skills (usually the mask skills!) then we can help.
We conduct the PADI Scuba Review on a daily basis at Crystal Dive. As well as refreshing your knowledge, we will also take you into the swimming pool and complete a full confined water training session – just like you remember during your initial scuba training course.
Then you can look at continuing your scuba diving education and enrol on the PADI Advanced Open water course. You will be happy to hear there are no specific mask skills in this 5 dive course and if you do find a little water getting into your mask – don’t worry – clearing your mask at 30 metres is just the same as it was clearing it in the shallow end of the swimming pool on the first day of the PADI Open Water course.
Author: Matt Bolton (PADI CD #463559)