Water leaking into your mask causes a huge amount of stress for divers of all levels. It can even keep some students from completing their Open Water Course.
There are several different reasons that your mask can leak, here are some of the most common I see as a Dive Guide
1. It simply doesn’t fit.
If the mask is too wide or narrow for your face it will leak. To test out a new mask check my blog post on fitting scuba masks HERE
2. You added a heavy snorkel.
A lot of snorkels add a top heavy water blocker to keep the waves from splashing into the breathing tube. When it comes to a snorkel for diving go with something light and simple. There are several options that fold or role and you can clip to your gear this way its there in an emergency but it doesn’t weigh down the strap during your dive.
3. The mask strap isn’t holding.
If your strap is old or if you have switched over to a silicone strap with cloth sides these never hold. Switch back.
4. Something is breaking the seal around the mask itself.
Normally this is either from strands of hair getting in between the skirt and your face or from a diving hood.
5. You move your mouth!
This is a big one. If you are doing skills where you take your regulator out of your mouth you open and close your mouth. This causes wrinkles in the skirt around your face. If you smile for a photo you also change the shape of your mouth. Anything along these lines causes a small leak. Take a minute to re-set the skirt near your mouth and then clear the water out.
6. The mask strap needs to be adjusted.
Normally this is due to the the placement rather than the tightness of the strap. The strap of a mask should sit on the crown of your head. Always just above your ears rather than over the top of them! It should be adjusted to sit comfortable on your face and be loose enough that you can pull it away quite easily. Over-tightening causes the skirt to wrinkle and lets water in. If you want your mask to feel tight to make yourself more secure you can gently push on the frame of the mask before you descend so there is a little suction. This normally makes nervous divers feel more secure.
7. Facial Hair 🙂
I mention in my post about choosing a mask that those of you that refuse to give up the mustache for the dive will have to deal with some leakage during dives. Try using a mask that has a short skirt near the lip to begin with. From there you have several options to ‘slow the leak’.
Use a gel to help create a seal something like Vaseline or Chapstick
Trim the upper part of the ‘stache closest to your lip so the area the mask touches is bare (remember if you are on a long dive trip you will have to do this multiple times stubble causes leaks too)
I have had some guys say that if they just wet their mustache right before they descend the pressure of the water keeps the leak at bay during the dive, though it should be said that they had very small mustaches.
The Bad News Is…
Even if you do everything right you may still get a leak in your mask. It’s a fact of ‘diver-life’ so the most important advice I can give you is to be comfortable with all the skills in your Open Water ESPECIALLY mask clearing! Like I have said several times throughout this blog mask clearing is one of the skills that a lot of new (and experienced) divers struggle with. So it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Take your time and read my ‘Tips on Clearing a Dive Mask’ post for some more info. Ask for some one-on-one time with a patient Open Water Instructor or Dive Master. Practice on your own. Most importantly don’t get frustrated with yourself. The number one reason students give up on learning the skill is that they are being too hard on themselves. Once you are comfortable clearing your mask a leaking mask will never ruin another dive for you.
If all else fails and you still really hate it- Think about getting Full-Face Mask Certified. These masks don’t leak, don’t fog, and are perfect for those with jaw pain from holding a regulator in their mouths. During the course you will have to switch from a Full-Face Mask to a normal one to show that you can do it so you aren’t totally free from mask clearing until your certified. But once your complete the course your can dive leak free!