First of all CONGRATULATIONS on starting (passing?) your Open Water! Welcome to the best club in the world! You're struggling to clear your mask right? Donnnn't worry! We've all been there - so much so, that we wanted to share our experiences with you to make that mask clearing skill a hell of a lot easier. We're a pretty cool lot over here at Girls that Scuba and there's no problem too small (or big) so if you have any questions you can't find here, just leave us a comment or join the group and I can guarantee you will be welcomed by thousands of helpful girls ready to cheer you on!
First up: Why do we need the mask clearing skill, anyway?
The mask clearing skill is dreadful, but super important. Why? Because dive guides, instructors and dive buddies love doing stupid things underwater that make us laugh. And once you start laughing, water is trickling into your mask.
And because maybe one day you may realize underwater that your mask doesn’t fit and you need to fix it, or maybe someone knocked it.
Or maybe because you just saw your first whale shark and you’re crying fat tears of happiness inside your mask. (Happened to me...)
Then you might start feeling uncomfortable, because you have a little bit of water in your mask; well, now is definitely not the time to bolt to the surface.
So mastering that mask clearing skill helps you become more confident underwater, more relaxed, and helps you savor your dive and save air.
Why do we fear it? (yes, it's normal)
Water isn’t our natural environment. As soon as water comes into our masks and collects around the nose department, we have the feeling that we can’t breathe anymore and fear sets in. It takes a strong mindset to overcome this natural fear, but as it is with most things: you can learn it, promise. We’ll show you how. And soon you’ll be showing other people how to do it the right way.
Here’s exactly how to clear your mask
- Go back right to the beginning. Yes, I’m talking about the shallow area in the pool. It’s a safe environment for you and you can always stand up if you feel uncomfortable. Have someone assist you if it helps you. Forget about the diving gear and spend some quality with you, the pool, your mask, and your snorkel. And your friend if you have one.
- Have your feet on the pool ground, forget about the mask, put your snorkel in your mouth, and put your head into the water. Close your eyes if your wear contacts or if you feel more relaxed with this. Inhale through your mouth and exhale through your nose. You will realize there is no water coming into your nose. Try it a few times until you feel comfortable with it. You can even try to swim around on the surface with just your snorkel (but make sure you don’t bump into the pool wall or have your friend help you with this).
- Once you can do this, you can start approaching the mask clear. Stay in the shallow area, keep your feet on the ground and hold on to the pool wall if it helps. Fill your mask with water a little at a time and clear it by exhaling through your nose. Keep letting water in until you can fill the whole mask and clear it.
- Now you can put on all your scuba gear and try it in the shallow and deeper end of the pool together with your instructor.
What helped me was this: When you have the water in your mask, look down before you start clearing it. That way no water is coming into your nose. Press against the top of the mask. Look down, exhale slowly through your nose and start looking up. Keep exhaling and looking up until you see the surface (well, sometimes you don’t, but you get the idea). Your mask should be empty. If not, do it again by looking down first.
Top Tips from Girls that Scuba
Here are a few tips from our Facebook group that helped Allyson rock that skill.
- Remember you don't have to open your eyes. You can pinch your nose.
I find if you do this while singing your favourite song it normally helps. I always sing under the sea.
- What worked for me was practicing in the pool and focusing on my breathing. I found when breathing out my regulator, the bubbles went up my nose and made me choke every time. What worked for me was breathing out through my nose... worked like a charm.
- The key is mindfulness. Focus on each step slowly. i.e., first fill the mask, then hand on top, lift face, etc. Focus on each step alone and then the stress gets manageable.
- May sound silly but try practicing in the shower! Fill the mask up and just concentrate on breathing through your mouth, with a mask full of water- and you can easily whip it off if you panic!
- What worked for me was tilting my head forward, to help keep that air space in the right space in your nose.
- There are several ways of letting the water enter your mask. If you do it by pulling on the bottom, the water will enter your nose straight away, which is what you will want to avoid. Try pinching the top of your mask with one hand and letting the water seep in easily. If you do this, it will not force up your nose.
- One trick that worked for me to overcome the fear of water up the nose and clear my mask successfully was... as silly as it sounds... I pressed the tip of my tongue to the roof of my mouth as I exhaled. Somehow, that little trick helped me to exhale through my nose and clear my mask successfully.
- Get in the pool or super shallow water, and practice where you know you can stand up if you get freaked out. Before you do the skill, practice a little visualization. Close your eyes, get some nice cleansing breaths going, and picture yourself going through the steps slowly and calmly. If you can do it in your head, you can do it in the water. Also keep in mind that your regulator is in your mouth. As long as that is there you are cool. Go slow, take your time.
- Don't forget that if you have a regulator in your mouth, you will have air!
We can help you out!
The other day we had a member of our amazing community on Facebook overcome her fears and be able to rock that mask clearing skill within two days (Congratulations, Allyson!).
All it took her was a strong determination and the help from lots of fellow Girls that Scuba like you.
So, if Allyson (who had a bad childhood trauma) can master it, you can, too!
One last word
We instructors want you to master the mask clearing just as much as you do. If you’re comfortable with your instructor, but need help with the mask clearing, let him or her know! It is their job to help you and they will.
Sometimes the chemistry between the instructor and the student simply doesn’t work (as it is in life in general with some people). This will make you feel uncomfortable. And scuba diving is about trust. After all, when things go south (knock on wood, or in our case – on driftwood), you’re dependent on your instructor or buddy.
So if you’re not happy with your instructor, be confident enough to talk about this. Talk to your instructor or the dive base and ask for another instructor you feel comfortable with it. Remember you’re paying for the course and the dive base wants you to pass.
Share with someone that is struggling with mask clearing
Kerstin is a dive instructor from Germany, previously an IT consultant and accountant she recently travelled the world for 3 years! Now back home in Germany working on her copywriting and virtual assistant business, (kerstinluehe.com) she also hopes to start a scuba-related blog. Feel free to contact Kerstin through her website!