Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the safety of full face snorkeling masks. Following a series of tragically fatal accidents in Maui many stories of ‘unsafe equipment’ came about. What is really the issue here?
A new trend
About three years ago Tribord came out with a new innovative full face snorkeling mask
Soon followed by other brands with similar products
Off course now there are also plenty of cheap copies available.
What’s it to us?
When working in a dive center you will probably get some customers with questions about these masks. Your dive center may even be selling them. What should you tell your customers? Maybe on your diving trips you allow family members that don’t dive to go snorkeling. What should you tell people that bring their own full face snorkel mask?
Snorkelstore.net came with a very explanatory article about the safety pro’s and cons of full face snorkeling masks. It’s a useful read. Also for diving Instructors and Divemasters!
What are the risks?
First of all snorkeling, like all other water activities has some apparent risks. The risks become higher if you are not a good swimmer or if you are not comfortable in the water. It’s exactly this group of people that is attracted to using full face snorkeling masks. There is no need to learn how to clear a snorkel and you can breath through your mouth and nose.
The face seal however is quite crucial to the safety and comfort of this mask. When the mask fills up with water you simply can not breathe. As dive center staff you surely know that every mask and every face is different. It is not easy to find a perfectly fitting diving mask and I imagine it is even more difficult to find a good fitting full face mask. In addition to that, some cheap imitation brands can have straps that are difficult to take off in a hurry. The straps should be easy to take off in a hurry.
Can you dive underwater?
Many masks allow you to dive underwater. When diving down a seal prevents water from entering the ‘snorkel’. On some of the cheap knock-off masks this seal can increase the breathing effort. As a kid I had a snorkel with a ping pong ball in the top. They stopped making those because it was simply dangerous! These systems look pretty similar.
The real controversy of full-face snorkel masks is the potential for build-up of carbon dioxide. Divers know what is meant by ‘dead airspace’ and you can imagine that the dead airspace in full face snorkeling masks is much bigger than in a conventional snorkel or scuba regulator. As said earlier, many people that are not completely comfortable in the water may prefer a full face mask over a conventional snorkel set. As Instructor you will know that nervous people often take very shallow breaths. When breathing through a device with a large dead airspace you will breathe the same air over and over again, increasing the risk of Carbon Dioxide poisoning. Just to remind you; early symptoms of Carbon Dioxide poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.
Luckily snorkelstore.net also has a few useful tips for snorkeling with a full face mask. The tendency of the article is that the cheap knock-off brands are not always the safest choice. Other useful tips are;
>Practice taking the mask on and off.
>Be aware of the signs of Carbon Dioxide build-up.
>Test diving under in easier snorkel spots first.
For us, well, now I know a bit better what to advice customers when they ask me about this mask. Maybe I can even convince somebody to do a PADI skin diver course with me. That will be my first! 😉
You can read the full article on snorkelstore.net