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The Scuba Diving Mask Removal Skill – A Beginners Guide

Diver blowing bubbles

Video tutorial of the mask removal skill:

My personal experience with the PADI mask removal skill:

During my Open Water course, the skill I could not master was removing and replacing my scuba diving mask. The more I practiced the skill the more frustrated I became and the more I began to panic. Even thinking about completing the skill would fill me with dread. This happened until I took a step back and started from the basics, which I will share with you today.

Why is the mask removal skill important?

It is a required skill in the PADI Scuba diver and Open water course and is a skill that you will need throughout your diving career. 

Perhaps your mask doesn’t fit your face, a common occurrence for people with facial hair or rental masks. Perhaps your buddy accidentally knocks your mask off while diving. If water does enter the mask, you will need to learn how to clear the mask in order to enjoy the dive, feel relaxed and to prevent any panic underwater.

But do not worry, with some practice, patience and our top tips you will be clearing your mask in no time!

Steps to take if you are struggling to master the mask removal skill:

Step 1. Use a snorkel while holding your nose

  • Stand in the shallow area of the swimming pool or in confined water (water where you can stand.)
  • Have your feet on the ground and don’t put your mask on your face.
  • Using a snorkel place your face into the water.
  • Pinch your nose to prevent any water from entering your nose and practice breathing from your mouth. 
  • This will get you used to the sensation of breathing underwater without a scuba mask.

Step 2. Use a snorkel without holding your nose

  • Continue using the snorkel but this time don’t pinch your nose.
  • By doing this it will get you used to the uncomfortable feeling of water entering the nose.
  • Practice this a few times and once you feel comfortable you can even go for a swim only using the snorkel.

Step 3. Use your regulator while holding your nose:

  • Now put your regulator in your mouth, and place your face into the water.
  • Pinch your nose to prevent any bubbles from entering your nose.
  • Once your face is in the water focus on breathing in and out of your mouth.
  • Practice this technique a few times until you feel comfortable with not wearing a mask while breathing from a regulator.

Step 4. Use your regulator without holding your nose:

  • Now put your face back into the water and breathe from the regulator without holding your nose. This will get you used to the sensation of the bubbles from the regulator entering your nose.
  • Remember to breathe deeply and concentrate on breathing from your mouth.
  • We recommend practicing these techniques for two minutes each time.

Step 5. Clear a partially flooded mask.

  • Using your thumbs and index fingers gently lift the bottom seal of the mask off your face and allow a small bit of water to enter.
  • Once water is in the mask place the seal back on your face.
  • Remember to keep breathing in and out of your mouth to relax yourself and allow water to enter the mask.
  • Inhale deeply through your mouth and fill your lungs with air.
  • Use your hands to apply pressure to the top ridge of your mask.
  • Tilt your head back and look up to the surface. 
  • Exhale through your nose and blow the water out of the mask

Step 6. Clear a fully flooded mask

  • Allow water into your mask by partially flooding the mask as described in the previous section.
  • Now fully flood the mask by opening the top seal of the mask. 
  • Clear the mask by undertaking the steps described in the previous section. 

Step 7. Remove and replace the mask

  • Using the same principles as above fully flood your mask.
  • Once you are relaxed remove the mask from your face and make sure you hold your mask firmly in your hand.
  • With the mask in your hand, concentrate on breathing and make sure the mask is the correct way around to be put back on your face.
  • Make sure your hair is out of the way and place your mask back on your face.
  • Clear the mask as described in step 5. 
  • Make sure that you are happy with the positioning of your mask. If you wear a snorkel make sure the snorkel is in the appropriate position and not tangled.
  •  

Some top tips:

Close your eyes:

Remember that you don’t have to open your eyes during the skill. If you wear contact lenses or your eyes are sensitive to salt water you can keep your eyes closed. This will stop the uncomfortable sensation of salt water in the eyes.

Breathe:

Breathe deeply and slowly, a great technique is to count each time you take a breath. This helps you focus on the task of removing the water. 

Be negatively buoyant:

Make sure you are negatively buoyant when practicing the mask skill. Once you are conformable you can then practice this skill while maintaining neutral buoyancy. 

Practice in the bathroom:

Now don’t laugh, this technique works and really helps you master clearing the mask. If you are having a shower fill your mask with water and just concentrate on breathing through your mouth. This gets you used to the feeling of a fully flooded mask in a safe and relaxing environment.

Common problems students encounter:

A problem with breathing through the nose:

When filling the mask remember not to exhale from your nose as this will prevent any water from entering the mask.

Also remember to not inhale through your nose. If you inhale through your nose you will end up inhaling saltwater.

A problem with pulling the mask too far from the face when clearing:

Only open your mask a fraction of the way off your face, one or two millimeters. If you open the bottom seal of the mask too much, you will allow more water to enter the mask than you are clearing.

Conclusion:

Now go and practice! Ultimately, water in the mask when scuba diving is a common occurrence and dealing with is part of being a confident and capable diver. Remember to take your time, the only pressure in diving should be in the tank! Breathe, relax and follow our top tips and it will become your favorite part of diving.

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