In its basic format, snorkeling is quite a simple affair. With a mask, snorkel, and fins all you need is some water and you are ready to go.
It’s one of the main factors that attract people to the sport. The reward for the ease of skill acquisition tilt heavily in snorkeling’s favor.
That said, getting a few things correct from the start can often make a huge difference to how you interact with the sport. One of those potential little niggles, is that of the mask.
Newcomers to the activity may be susceptible to getting ill fitting masks, and not enjoying the sport as well as they might. So, how do you put on a snorkeling mask?
A snorkeling mask is put on correctly by firstly ensuring the mask will have a correctly sealed fit around the face. The mask must be comfortable, have the inner and outer seals precisely seated so that it lightly seals against the skin without pressure. Moving your face and head should not break the seal.
The goal of finding a mask is to find a mask that barely feels like you’re wearing it. High grade silicon lasts longer than rubber, or plastic. This stops the use of overtightening and cutting off blood flow around the face that can cause headaches if nothing else.
A bad mask is the most frequent cause of not enjoying a snorkeling experience as well as you might. A mask that leaks, or fogs all the time will frustrate a new snorkeler so it’s worth spending some time on getting the mask right.
It’s often said that if you’re going to buy snorkeling equipment, spend as much as you can on a mask that fits, as it’s the biggest reason for not enjoying snorkeling. A beginner will spend as much time getting annoyed at the mask, than enjoying their surroundings if not.
An improperly fitting mask also makes you less alert to other dangers while in the water.
If you are handed a generic mask while on holiday, or a whole bunch of them where you have to pick one yourself, then just grabbing and going with the nearest one might bring a few problems.
So, before you rush to the water, it’s worth taking the time to select the right one. You can obviously purchase one you know will work, but that requires forethought, and many snorkeling adventures start more spontaneously.
So, things to check with a new mask, whether you are purchasing or selecting one for temporary use are;
Comfortable fit – Firstly, ignore the strap for the time being as you will initially be interested in the seal around your face. If it seals correctly then air will stay inside and water will not ingress into the mask.
Testing the seal – Place the mask against your face, and breath in slightly. This creates a partial vacuum in the mask. If it stays adhered to your face without holding it with your hands then you have a mask that will seal correctly.
Don’t breath in too much as just about any mask will then stick to your face. If it sticks to your face without any vacuum then you have an extremely well fitting mask.
If at all possible see if you can get someone to look through the lens and see the inner seal complete around your face.
Move your face a little naturally, try a frown or move your face naturally and see if the seals still remain intact.
Adjusting the strap – Place the strap behind your head and the mask around your face. It should be loose.
Now tighten the straps carefully until the mask fits snuggly. Don’t overtighten, as you will distort the mask which breaks the seal that happens under slight pressure.
Tighten just enough so that the mask doesn’t shift position when you look to each side.
In the water, the water pressure will slightly hold it against your face. Just make sure it’s comfortable and any hair is not under the mask skirts that will break the seal.
Check face seal with snorkel attached – Take the mask off your face and attach the snorkel.
The final test is one where the snorkel mouthpiece is in your mouth, and the mask is on your face, without straps. Make sure you can breath in through your nose and then breath out through your mouth, and thus the snorkel.
The mask now has a partial vacuum.
Now do a few breaths in and out through your mouth. When you breath your jaw position may move and thus break the seal, so make sure you can breathe without the seal breaking.
If you can, you now have a mask and snorkel fit for use.
Putting On The Mask
As you have done the preparation, and got a comfortable mask that will seal correctly and the straps are adjusted to the correct ratchet position to your face, you can now use the mask.
In the real world, you now need to prepare the mask so it doesn’t fog in the water.
Fogging is the term used by snorkelers to describe the process of exhaled air into the mask condensating on the inside of the mask lens. Much like any condensation, it happens as a result of the temperature differences on the different sides of the lens.
While you can buy fog resistant lens’, you can also solve the problem by applying a fog resistant spray to the lens. This produces a hydrophobic effect whereby condensation isn’t so prolific.
With a properly prepared mask, putting on the mask is simplicity itself.
If the strap is elasticated it’s more common to see the strap placed in position and the mask pulled slightly forward of the face and then gently placed on the face to seal the skirts against the skin.
With less flexible straps, like the textile ones, the mask is placed first against the face, adjusted, and the strap is more slid back into position.
While making it sound complicated, once you’ve done it once it’s something you probably might not think too hard about again.
As long as you get a well fitting mask from the start, especially if you are buying one for your own use, then that’s 99% of the battle already completed.
One that seals correctly is the most important thing that you can do.
Masks that don’t fit very well, tend to leak, and to compensate the straps are overtightened.
That produces a more uncomfortable experience, causing skin indentation, and possibly headaches.
Getting it right from the start ensures a smoother snorkeling experience.