As divers, we may remember with absolute clarity the first time we took a breath underwater. For some of us, the memory is one of wonder and amazement, but for many, mastering breathing underwater is one of the biggest challenges of learning to dive. For many people, breathing underwater feels unnatural and can cause feelings of panic or claustrophobia. These feelings are often exacerbated by ill-fitting masks that allow water to seep under the seal, thereby heightening awareness of the water all around us, and our dependence upon our regulator for survival. Those feelings are not the sole remit of scuba divers, however, but commonly afflict snorkelers as well. Although snorkeling may seem easy because it takes place at the surface and the risk of drowning is therefore greatly reduced, panic and anxiety as a result of breathing difficulties are regular side effects of an activity that should be peaceful and serene.
A Full-Face Mask
To combat mask leakage, mask fogging and claustrophobia, French aquatic sports company Tribord has created the Easybreath Snorkeling Mask. This full-face mask enables snorkelers to breathe freely through both the mouth and the nose, and according to its manufacturer, makes breathing underwater as easy and as natural as it is on land.
The full-face mask does away with the conventional snorkeling set-up of a separate mask and snorkel, instead combining the two in a futuristic design that covers the entire face. This allows the wearer to breathe freely, while the snorkel part of the mask comes with a valve that automatically closes upon submersion, preventing water from entering through the breathing tube. The snorkel tip is brightly colored, making it easy to locate the wearer in choppy waters, while the mask’s unique design ensures clear vision underwater. In a mechanism similar to the extraction fans used in domestic kitchens, the mask has a dual airflow system that removes moisture-laden air upon exhalation, thereby ensuring that the mask remains fog free. Although the mask may seem cumbersome at first, its increased size in comparison with conventional masks is actually beneficial, resulting in better peripheral vision across a full 180 degrees. Additionally, the Easybreath Snorkeling Mask does not require users to breathe through a mouthpiece. For those who worry about the hygiene of a traditional snorkel mouthpiece, or for those who find them uncomfortable and awkward, Tribord’s revolutionary concept makes perfect sense. Sporting goods critics agree: the Easybreath Snorkeling Mask won this year’s Oxylane Innovation Awards, an international competition that recognizes ground-breaking recreational sporting products.
Although the product is relatively new and consumer reviews are therefore limited, public reactions to the idea of Tribord’s new full-face mask range from excitement to skepticism. On one hand, those who suffer from the claustrophobia that this mask was designed to overcome are delighted that an answer to their problems might have been found. On the other, critics have voiced concerns about the mask’s effectiveness for use in more technical snorkeling situations including the fact that the full-face nature of the mask precludes the user from equalizing effectively, therefore limiting its use for skin-diving and restricting the wearer to a maximum depth of just a few feet below the surface. At the moment, the mask is only available in a one size, which begs the question of how well the seal will adhere to a variety of facial shapes. If leakage does occur, how will the user expel water from the mask?
Considerations like these suggest that the Easybreath Snorkeling Mask is by no means a replacement for the conventional mask-and-snorkel set up, and is not appropriate for divers, competent freedivers or spear fishermen. But it is a worthy alternative to a normal mask and snorkel, specifically for those who struggle with traditional snorkeling techniques. For those who suffer from claustrophobia, for recreational or first-time snorkelers, or for those looking to overcome a fear of the ocean, Tribord’s invention acts as window to a world that may otherwise have remained inaccessible. It enables users to snorkel simply and comfortably, without the moments of panic and difficulty that for some people taint what should be an amazing experience. Therefore, while it may not revolutionize snorkeling for everyone, Tribord’s full-face snorkeling mask may just make all the difference for those it was designed for.
Currently only available in Europe, the Easybreath Snorkeling Mask is made from silicone and polypropylene, weighs a little over 1 pound, and retails for €39.95 (around $54). It is available in a variety of colors.