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July 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Mask-under-the-Chin Syndrome

from the July, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Encouraging beginner scuba divers (and any scuba divers) to drag their masks under their chins when they surface is patently dangerous. In that mode, surfaced divers cannot use their snorkels or their regulators very comfortably for their swim to shore or the boat. One need only try this to have the point proven.

I've been chartering around Cape Ann, MA on weekends and holidays for 32 years. We have to pull these misguided people with their masks around their necks to the side of the boat and "rescue" and "scold" them. They surface from a dive, drag the mask down to clutter under the chin, and snort and cough their way back. They say, "My instructor told me to." Invariably, that instructor is from PADI. Really bad business.

Surfacing divers must keep their masks on their faces while using either their snorkels or their second stages to maneuver to their destinations. My campaign, using our monthly newsletters to New England dive shops, may be bearing fruit. In March, at the Beneath the Sea show in New York, I had to travel nearly the entire sideshow of exhibitor booths before coming across one poster that depicted scuba divers with their masks wrapped at their necks. It was at the SSI booth, and the eager novitiates manning the space were chattering away and handing out information sheets. When I got the attention of one of the people working the booth, I advised her that the hapless divers portrayed on the back-drop couldn't make use of the snorkels attached to their masks - - and those people in the picture had to have removed their regulator second-stages from their mouths to have dragged their masks to lodge under their chins. What I got in return was the "thousand-yard stare" common among beginner divers who've been taught a wrong thing to do and have then been set upon the rest of us to evangelize the dangerous drivel.

Only one booth out of several hundred had scuba so poorly represented in its decorations. As I said, our campaign might be working.

Fred Calhoun has been a certified scuba instructor since 1958, and has taught more than 1,000 Navy scuba divers, owned a dive store, written nine dive books and currently runs a charter boat. He has produced the Boston Scuba Show since 1967.

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