On your PADI Open Water Course, you’ll encounter and practice a bunch of skills that you’ll need out on your dives beneath the ocean. Clearing water that gets into your mask, and more so, the mask removal skill, often provide issues for newer divers who find these stills the trickiest to master.
But never avail, we have a great round-up of tips and advice to get your mask clearing skills nailed for when you hit the water!
How To Clear Your Mask When Underwater
Some of the most frequent queries that come from new divers are to do with mask clearing.
Clearing your scuba mask is the skill that invokes the most fear from new divers, but once mastered you can feel a great sense of pride and achievement in being able to perform (plus it’s actually a very useful skill that you need to master to be a safe diver)
Within the PADI Open Water Diver course, the skill actually features 5 times, with each level of the skill building on the previous. We’ve got a roundup of what each skill actually entails and top tips for how you can master this skill and feel confident during your open water course.
Mask Clearing Skills in the PADI Open Water Course
So, what are the 5 mask clearing skills?
- Clear a Partially Flooded Mask
Firstly, you’ll tweak the corner of the mask which allows a small amount of water to enter the frame around your cheeks. You’ll learn to clear the water out by breathing through your nose.
- Clear a Fully Flooded Mask
Just like the partially flooded mask skill, but this time, you’ll completely fill the mask with water – but you can keep your eyes closed! You use the same technique to clear out the water.
- Mask Removal & Replacement
This time you take the mask off your head completely, then put it back on your head. It’s important to keep breathing and find the nose pocket of your mask to replace it.
- Mask Removal & Replacement for 1 Minute
As in the third mask skill, you’ll take off your mask and continue to breathe without it on for one minute. Rest assured, you can do this with your eyes closed and your instructor will keep track of the time for you.
- No Mask Swim
The final level is being able to remove the mask and swim for 15 meters before replacing it again. This can also be done with your eyes closed and your instructor will guide you as you swim. Once you’ve reached the 15-meter distance, you will replace the mask and clear it as with the other skills.
Why is it Important to Learn Mask Clearing Skills?
Being able to clear your mask is a vital diver skill. No matter how well your dive mask fits your face, you’ll be on dives where water still ends up creeping inside. Whether it be from a small leak, a gap made from smiling so widely, it changes the way your face fits in the mask, or even from your own tears of joy from seeing nature’s true underwater beauty!
You may also be in a situation where another diver accidentally knocks your mask off during a dive and you need to be able to replace it. You could have your mask strap break during a dive and need to replace it with a spare mask too.
It also could be that your mask gets foggy on a dive (no matter how much you’ve burnt it or added defog!) and you need to clear it underwater to be able to see!
How Do I Clear my Mask?
To clear your mask, you need to displace the water that has entered, and instead fill the mask with air. You’ll do this by breathing out through your nose.
With your flooded mask, gently hold the top of the frame of the mask with the index and middle fingers from each hand. Look up towards the surface.
Take a deep breath and exhale through the nose. Exhale through the nose, holding the mask frame against the forehead.
It may be that only a small amount of water is displaced, and you may have to do this a few times to completely clear all of the water.
Top Tips to Master Mask Clearing
Tip 1 – Stay Calm!
Being as calm as possible will help you to master any skills. When you are in a state of stress and panic, skills are harder to learn and perform. Relax, and tell yourself ‘I can do this!’ You have lots of time to practice and get it right!
Tip 2 – Choose an Instructor You Trust
When you are learning to dive, you build up a huge connection with your instructor. They should be somebody you can trust with your worries and fears. So, if the mask removal and mask clearing skills are bothering you, share this with your instructor. If they know that this is your fear, they can help you to break the skill down and give you the extra support you need to get it right!
Tip 3 – Don’t Rush!
The skills on the PADI Open Water Course don’t have a time limit. It isn’t a race to get it completed. In fact, slow and steady is the best approach to all of the skills, with calm breathing and deliberate slow movements proving to be better in the long run.
Tip 4 – Train in a Small Group
Often during PADI Open Water Courses, you have a high Instructor to Student Ratio. If you find that managing the skills is difficult for you, consider joining a smaller group where you will benefit from having more instructor attention.
At DivePoint Mexico, all of our courses are completed in extremely small groups, with additional assistant instructors and Divemasters added for safety and guidance if there are friends who wish to learn together.
Tip 5 – Practice
It may seem tricky to be able to practice the mask removal skill without having your own pool but try it on dry land to master how to peel the mask from your face gently, and how to replace the mask comfortably. There are also YouTube videos that can show you how to do the skills perfectly too.
You can practice breathing in through your nose and out through the mouth too. Do it in front of a mirror until it becomes second nature.
If you do have a pool – try it beneath the water too. You’ll get more confident each time you practice your mask clearing skills!
Tip 6 – Have a Mask Strap Cover
When replacing your mask, you may find that the strap can get caught, especially if you have a lot of hair. A mask strap cover allows you to pull it over your head easily, without ripping strands of hair from your scalp as you do so.
Tip 7 – Breathe!
Breathwork is important to being a good diver. For some diving is almost like meditation, with breathing becoming deep and slow.
Remember to keep breathing through your mouth as you do all of the skills and focus on long, deliberate breaths.
Tip 8 – Don’t Overthink It
The last thing you want to do is overthink the mask-clearing skills. If you do, you’ll build a level of stress that will be unmanageable in comparison with the actual skill itself.
Take it slow, step by step. You’ll get there!