Problems clearing your mask? It’s easier than you think, all you need is a little bit of friendly advice.
My days at work are filled with constantly teaching PADI Discover Scuba Diving experiences. Out of 500+ students, most of them struggle with clearing a partially flooded mask.
As soon as most students hear you talk about this skill, they already doubt their ability to master it.
It offers much-needed confidence for beginners that achieve this skill before a dive and it’s also a requirement beforehand. Naturally, underwater is an alien environment for us, so it is quite normal for you to feel fear once we feel that water encroaching upon our eyes and nose.
Three things that I always tell my students with this skill; relax, take it step by step, and leave the thumbs out of the action (I’ll explain why shortly!).
Why Do I Need to Learn to Clear My Mask?
Divers often find a small amount of water collecting at the bottom of the nose pocket or lenses, and whilst this is not an immediate problem, it can be quite an annoyance.
Professional divers will have their own masks which fit their face suitably, however as a beginner completing your entry level course, you may find yourself using school masks that cannot always be guaranteed to fit your face perfectly, thus allowing the odd trickle of water inside.
If you are looking to purchase your own mask, then have a look at my blog on the top 10 Scuba diving masks here. However, no matter how careful you are and how well-fitted your mask is, the risk of your mask flooding will always be there.
Clearing your mask underwater lets you continue with the dive. Those who can’t will be faced with having to end the experience early. As a worst case scenario you could end up panicking. Aside from this, mastering the mask clearing skills allow for a few extra benefits;
- It prepares you for the mask removal & replacement skill and swim without mask skill
- It allows you to rid mask fog whilst diving
If you are not relaxed, then you will probably attempt to rush the skill or conduct the steps in the wrong order. Scuba diving is a mind over matter sport. By simply gaining control over your breathing and remembering to breathe slowly, deeply and continuously will help relax your mind. It is a little like the breathing practices in yoga; putting you into a state of calm.
Your instructor will play a big part in how relaxed you feel. I’ve seen so many instructors teaching skills in a rushed and confusing manner, and that simply does not help people learn new skills. If you do not feel at ease with your instructor, voice this to them and if things do not change then find another instructor that can put you at ease.
Once you are relaxed, think about the steps that are necessary to complete the skill. Focus on each step separately and it will make stress more manageable. In the next paragraph I go through the movements one at a time.
How to Clear Your Mask
- Make sure you are in a sturdy yet comfortable position – If you are in a swimming pool then you’ll be fine kneeling down, however if you are in a confined or open water environment in the ocean, be careful where you kneel and find a sandy area away from any coral or marine life.
- Start by letting only a small amount of water into the mask by breaking the seal at the top – The PADI Open Water Diver course has two separate mask clearing skills; partially flooded mask and fully flooded mask. Your instructor will ensure that you are comfortable with the partially flooded mask skill before you learn the fully flooded mask skill.
- Take a moment to relax – The sensation of water inside your mask is unnerving for many. So, spend a few moments getting yourself used to this feeling and breathing in and out through your mouth only.
- Push your fingers onto the top of the mask – Use only your index fingers and middle fingers placed on the top frame of either side of the mask. I see so many students attempt to use their thumbs as well, which then lifts the mask off their face an let more water in. So whatever you do, keep your thumbs away from the action!
- Look up, breath in through your mouth and exhale through your nose – whilst tilting your head back and looking up, take a breath in and exhale through your nose for at least 5 seconds. If there is still a little bit of water in the mask after that exhale, don’t worry. Keep yourself in that same position, take another inhale through your regulator and exhale again through your nose. If you are struggling with the nose exhale, imagine you are blowing your nose into a tissue!
Learning to clear your mask whilst Scuba diving does not need to be a horrendous ordeal! Remember to break it down to basics, gain control of your breathing and calmed mind and take it step by step!