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May 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Still Trouble with Full-Face Snorkeling Masks? A Retired Mares Dealer Makes His Reservations Clear

from the May, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Popular full-face snorkeling masks have had some bad press recently, especially in Hawaii, where there have been some tragic incidents. In Undercurrent last month, we reported Head/Mares and Ocean Reef's efforts to allay fears regarding CO2 build-up.

Mares dealer Terry Brady (Tavares, FL) wrote to say that the issue with these full-face snorkeling masks is not necessarily CO2. Rather, his take is that water will not drain from the mask using ordinary snorkel or mask clearing techniques.

He says "The only way to get water to drain from inside the mask is to make it drain from the bottom. This would require standing up for most people. Water will not drain using the puff/purge method. Water is trapped in the mask and you will drown. I discovered this when these masks were first introduced at DEMA, and I was in 4 feet of water, almost choking on the water pooling in the bottom of the mask. Water completely covers the mouth and nose, making breathing impossible. If you are in water over your head, you must fin up to move the bottom of the mask out of the water for it to drain. There are no instructions with the mask for how to do this."

Terry might have a point, so we asked Stefan Michel of Mares for his take.

He said that "We print numerous instructions and information in order to assure the user is safe while using our product. This even includes the advice to acquire training before using the product. In consequence, we offer via SSI a free online course for snorkelers. Our most recent packaging even directs to SSI snorkel training via QR code on the box.

As far as the specific quote by Terry is concerned, we are writing on our packaging in the 'User Instruction and Maintenance' section the following: "The water stop system prevents water from entering through the snorkel when submerging. If there is any water inside the mask, lift your head above the water, and the water will drain out from the bottom valve."

Ordinary people make assumptions about the safety of products and don't want to know the potential hazards. Many who buy these full face snorkeling mask will buy them because they don't want to get their faces wet. They just want to shove one on and float about looking at the fishes.

Of course, buyers of products often don't carefully read instruction manuals. And we can't imagine that someone who wants to snorkel will make the effort to study an online course. It is up to the seller to impress upon the buyers that they must be practice removing the mask swiftly in case they encounter any breathing problem. And, many unskilled snorkelers or weak swimmers may have to stand up to clear the mask.

The masks are quite popular and selling well. Scott Jones, the president of Scuba Adventures QCA in Bettendorf (IA), told us he has sold more than 100 full-face snorkel masks from Head and Ocean Reef Mfg. and "all the customers just love it."

We'll keep an eye out for future problems.

-- John Bantin

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