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  Mask Clearing

While mask clearing is a skill everyone must learn to pass their open water course, many divers remain uncomfortable with this skill even after dozens of dives. Here are a few tips to help with gaining comfort and confidence with mask clearing. we'll start with the simplest of basics and move on from there - if you are comfortable with the early steps, just jump ahead!

1) Find water that is waist deep and with your snorkel in your mouth (no mask yet) place your face in the water. Get comfortable breathing thru your mouth without using your nose. If necessary start by holding your nose shut with your fingers, snorkel in your mouth and face in the water. If you can get comfortable opening your eyes all the better (with a little practice you can even get used to salt water in your eyes). Once you are breathing in a relaxed manner remove your hand from your nose. Most people will naturally learn to keep their nasal passage closed without pinching their nose closed at this point. However, if you have trouble with inhaling water up your nose try imagining you are sucking air into your mouth thru a very small straw.

2) If you find yourself having difficulty getting used to the sensation of water against your face you can also fill your mask with water and put it on your face while you take a shower, or do the dishes (No snorkel for this one). Once you are comfortable either go back to step 1 or move onto step 3 (up to you and your confidence, just don't move too fast or you'll just set yourself up for failure)

3) If you have no trouble with step one, it's time to go swimming. Put your fins on and go for a relaxing swim breathing thru the snorkel (no mask for now) until you are at ease breathing thru your mouth and NOT using your nose. Next put your mask on, but fill it with water and repeat swimming along the surface with a snorkel. By the time you're done with this, removing your mask at depth should be a piece of cake ;)

3) Time to get your regulator out. Donn your Scuba kit and head down to the beach with a buddy. Let them know what you are working on, so they don't get worried when you start removing your mask in the middle of the dive (you should signal them when you are about to do so as well.)

4) Allow a small amount of water into your mask by gently pulling the skirt at the top of the mask away from your face. This allows you to regulate how much water you let in.

5) DO NOT over extend your neck as you look up to clear your mask. You only need to make the nose pocket of your mask the lowest point. If you look up too high you will be allowing the water to drain down into your sinus passage (very uncomfortable) It's more of a "glance" upward as this moves your mask into just the right position moving the nose pocket to the bottom.

6) Hold the palm of your hand against the frame edge at the top of your mask and exhale to cause the water to drain out. Your mask should be nice and clear now.

7) Once you are comfortable with clearing a little water from your mask, get comfortable filling it completely and clearing it. Most people have enough air in a normal breath to clear their mask 3-5 times. So keep practicing till you don't have any trouble with this skill.

8) Now it's time to remove your mask. Gently pull the skirt away from your face at the top of the mask and allow your mask to completely fill. Once it is full of water simply lift the strap over your head and pull the mask away from your face. (just think, now you can smile and not worry about your mask leaking!)

9) While your mask is off, keep breathing at a steady pace, do not alter your breathing pattern (see bouyancy exercises for more info) This way, even if your eyes are closed your bouyancy will not change. If your breathing pattern changes you will lose control of your bouyancy.

10) Time to replace your mask by reversing step #8. Place your mask on your face, pull the strap over your head. Remember to keep your breathing pattern steady.

11) Look upward (remember you only need look up a little bit) place your hand on the top frame of your mask skirt and simply exhale. Do not over exhale, or change your breathing pattern to do this though. Just use your next exhalation cycle and watch the water drain from your mask.

12) Keep practicing, just don't progress so fast that you become overly stressed during any of the stages, especially once you are on scuba.

Resources:

I highly recommend any of the DVD's produced by 5thd-x especially their "Intro to Tech" or "Essentials" DVD's Their displays of key skills and finning techniques are second to none (much of what I have learned is from their videos and instructors)