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Scuba Q&A: How Can I Overcome My Fear of Mask Removal?

Firstly, you aren’t performing skills in your class simply to be gifted a plastic card. Those skills are trained to preserve your safety on any and every dive you subsequently do.

As such, you shouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than complete comfort and confidence when reliably and consistently performing skills.

The first step to overcoming “mask off” apprehension is simply to stand in the water and immerse your face while breathing from a snorkel.

If you have a problem with “nose breathing” (inhaling water through your nose, not air through your mouth) then you should practice swimming at the surface using a snorkel with swimming goggles (not a scuba mask). This helps condition you to mouth-breath.

Once you’re content with your face immersed at the surface, you can switch to scuba kit and submerge.

Practice this skill in a horizontal position, not kneeling. It makes a big difference if your body is vertical or horizontal, especially with mask clearing.

Partially flood your mask and practice clearing it. Don’t forcefully exhale through your nose when clearing the mask.. it’ll just blow air out of the bottom of the mask and fail to displace water. Blow air into the mask in a slooowww trickle.

Some instructors teach you to “look up” when clearing the mask. Don’t. Just don’t.

Instructors who do mask clearance like this really don’t understand what it is they’re supposed to be teaching. Sadly, it’s not an uncommon error by instructors.

If you look upwards, you’ll probably just get water down your nose.. and that’s stressful for anyone. It’s basically just how water-boarding works!

If you start the clearance by looking slightly downwards, then just move your head up to a horizontal position to get the last dregs lf remaining water out.

Again, don’t go beyond horizontal…or water may go up your nose.

Once content with partial mask clearance, process to fully flooding the mask. Flood and clear repeatedly… it gets easier the more you practice.

Sadly, too many scuba instructors are forcing the pace of their classes.. and this rushes students to process faster than they are comfortable.

Don’t be hesitant to demand more practice time if you need it. Agency standards dictate mastery of skills before progression. Mastery is the “fluid, comfortable and repeatable” performance of a given skill. Instructors are governed by those standards… so don’t let them short-change you.

When fully flooding the mask becomes easy-peasy.. make the step towards completely removing and replacing the mask. It should be easy by this point… if you’ve progressed slowly within your comfort zone.

Originally posted 2019-02-22 18:41:19.

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