In reality, mask clearing is the skill that you’ll probably use most often while diving. Here are a few tips to help make this essential skill a snap.
Blow out of your nose and look up
When mask clearing, you want to create a pressure change by blowing air into it; the air you push in will push the water out of the mask. First, create a tight seal between the mask and your face at the top. Place the index and middle fingers of both hands on the top part of your mask’s frame, exerting a slight pressure. Doing so ensures that the air you blow out of your nose will not simply bubble out at the top of your mask. Rather, it will come out at the bottom, pushing out any water that might be in your mask along with it.
To help this process even more, tilt your head up as you blow out through your nose. The water will collect at the bottom of your mask for easy clearing.
Remember that it may take a few tries to remove the water completely, so keep going, breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose, until you have cleared all the water.
Don’t break the seal at the bottom
If water gets in your mask while snorkeling, your natural reaction may be to lift your face out of the water and move the bottom of the mask away from your face to allow the water to run out. This makes perfect sense…above the surface. This will have the opposite effect underwater. If you break the lower seal between your mask and your face, all you’re doing is blowing bubbles out your nose into the ocean. Your mask will probably just fill up with water again. This could be a very uncomfortable experience (as you might get water up your nose). It could also result in a feeling that you cannot clear your mask, which could in turn lead to a stressful and panicked situation.
Sometimes the mask’s seal against your cheeks makes it almost impossible to clear it without lifting the mask away from your face at the bottom. In this case use your thumbs to lift the bottom of your mask slightly; I usually aim for about a millimeter or hair’s breadth.
Shave your mustache
The first thing the dive center staff will explain when you’re purchasing or trying on a mask is that you must check how well it seals against your face. Masks are designed to fit differently shaped faces. The size of the skirt and the location of the seal will make a mask fit better on certain sized and shaped faces.
Some customers might find that they have water in their mask most of the time, no matter how many masks they try out. One of the main culprits for this is facial hair. Whether you have a full mustache, or just a few days’ worth of holiday stubble, hair on your upper lip is more than likely to break the seal of your mask and thus let in water. If you are happy to dive with some water in your nose pocket, this is perfectly fine. If, however, the thought of clearing your mask every few minutes doesn’t sound like fun, there are a few options.
Smearing a fair-sized glob of Vaseline onto your stubbly upper lip should help create a better seal. Or you can shave, although I know this is the worst chore while you’re on vacation. Take some inspiration from one of my Open Water students. He shaved his mustache for the first time in 40 years to avoid a leaky mask during his course. Now THAT is dedication!
Just remember that when diving, some water may come up your nose. This is okay. Use these techniques to become more comfortable when mask clearing, and you’ll become a much more comfortable diver. And maybe that water will disappear.