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September 2000 Vol. 26, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Mares ESA Mask

from the September, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

At $140 or so, the Mares ESA is about the most expensive mask around. Unfortunately, a high price doesn’t mean high reliability.

Billed as the first 6-lens mask, it features two front and two side windows, plus unique bottom windows to allow divers to see their BC straps and read instruments without raising them to eye level. Nonetheless, this puppy has a problem. Many divers have opened their gear bags to find stress cracks in the frames, severe enough to cause leaks or even complete mask failure.

Gordon Gunn (Austin, TX) told Undercurrent that he has returned three ESAs. The clear plastic frame on the first one cracked in a dozen places while packed in an Igloo cooler on a flight to Cozumel. His wife’s $100 TUSA mask came through undamaged. Having “paid a small ransom” for corrective lenses for the ESA, he was fortunate to find that the Mares distributor in Cozumel could fit the mask with a new clear plastic frame.

Several months later, Gordon found the frame had cracked again. This time his local dive shop replaced it with a blue frame. Off on another trip to Cozumel, Gordon packed his mask in his carry-on bag, snug in its own case and wrapped in a towel. Again it arrived cracked and the Cozumel distributor replaced it.

Gunn’s local shop owner, whom we’ll call Joe, believes that the problem lies in the many parts in the mask: six frames for six separate windows. He has stopped selling the ESA, he told Undercurrent, because of the problem, but still replaces cracked ESAs and changes the lenses if necessary (a difficult process that requires training). He returns the cracked mask to Mares and they send him a replacement. Joe says Mares has one of the best warranties in the industry. “If it weren’t for the replacement policy,” Joe says, “that mask would be a nightmare!” Another Austin shop owner, Gary Walshire of Aquatic Adventures, has returned four cracked ESAs to Mares before this year. This year he’s sold 1,000 ESAs with no problems.

Mares’ U.S. Marketing Services Manager Tony van Dusen confirmed to Undercurrent that they are aware of cracking ESA masks, but couldn’t say how many they have replaced under the manufacturer’s warranty. He was unaware of any planned changes to the ESA line.

If you're considering buying an ESA, Joe suggests avoiding the clear plastic frames, which he thinks have most of the problems. For utmost reliability, he recommends the tech black model at ten bucks more, which has incurred no problems to his knowledge. If you own an ESA, inspect the fine section of frame between the upper and lower lens as well as the upper and lower edges of the side windows. That’s where cracks usually start.

As for the long-suffering Gunn, he’s on his fourth ESA, but it constantly seeps bubbles around the lens seals. He complained to Mares, but no one there has had the courtesy to respond to his e-mail. Not surprising, since Mares’ website is primarily in Italian, and their U.S. ads carry no contact information, keeping them well under the radar for consumers. It seems as if the Mares approach is to keep producing the mask unchanged and replace Lemons under warranty. If you do have problems after the warranty and Mares won’t comp you, raise hell. They know what happens to that mask.

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