By Mark Murphy, Oyster Diving's Founder/Director and Master Scuba Diver Trainer
This is the first of a 3 part series on scuba diving with full face masks: This first part is all about our initial experiences of using a full face mask and why we might just all be converts!
Following an enquiry to our dive shop from a customer wanting to buy a full face mask I did some research in to their benefits. Having been a diver for over 20 years I couldn’t see what was wrong with a normal well-fitting dive mask and regulator.
Having spent several days researching the various full face masks on the market, I came to the conclusion that the best one on the market for functionality, comfort and design was the Ocean Reef Integrated Full Face Dive Mask series.
So one Oyster Diving instructors and myself enrolled on the Ocean Reef Instructor Development Course. Our first breaths in the pool were completely unexpected. Having breathed in and out of my mouth while underwater for the past 2 decades it did feel strange at first, however I experienced the same exhilarating sensation that I had on the day I took my first breaths underwater all those years ago. Breathing through your nose once you’re used to it means your senses are heightened further as your sense of smell also comes in to play. You don’t realise when you breathe through your mouth how crisp and clean the air is from your cylinder actually is.
The field of vision is better than that of most dive masks I’ve tried. The lenses are made from a crystal clear plastic which unlike most types of glass allows for a higher penetration of light through, making everything look like it’s in HD (or even UHD these days). If you look in to the edge of most glass you will see that it is has a green tinge to it, this alters the colour slightly as well as acting as a filter for light.
You don’t need to spit in to the mask or add anti-fog as the clever air directional system means that it never fogs up, in fact every time you breath in it cleans and dries the inside of the mask.
For divers who like to dive in the UK throughout the year, the full face mask when used with a hood means that you don’t get that ‘ice cream headache’ when you first jump in the water as no water actually touches your face. And as there is no water on your face it means that you can stay warmer for longer.
Having completed my training in the pool we ordered 4 Ocean Reef Integrated Masks for our dive school. I took one of these to a trip to the Red Sea to try it out in open water. I dived the famous Elphinstone Reef which I have probably explored 20-30 times previously. We did a backward roll negative entry which I did find a little disorientating at first but I soon as we were underwater the visual benefits were immediate. You don’t realise with a normal mask how impaired your vision actually is, either with water droplets on the inside of the mask, a smaller field of vision or worst of all a bit of fog on the inside of the lenses. You don’t even get that bit of annoying water sloshing around the nose pocket.
The reef wall seemed even more vibrant and colourful then with a normal mask, there was more contrast so the mask really did prove to be a game changer. The only downside about the whole dive was that there were no sharks to look at!
I was interested to see what the reaction was like from my fellow divers on the boat as they were clearly experienced but I’d never met them before. Comments like ‘fighter pilot’ and ‘darth vader’ came my way but they were all really intrigued and thought it looked great. After the first dive I explained the benefits i.e. not just looking cool after which they all asked to have a go.
I took my GoPro with me on the dive and knocked up a quick ‘top gun’ style video so you can see the Ocean Reef mask in action:
Last Tuesday we ran our first ‘full face mask try dive’ in our London pool. We had about 15 people come down to have a go. They were of all levels from open water through to Divemaster. All were really impressed and most agreed that it was the future of diving.
PADI have recently introduced a change to the Advanced Open Water course that now means that we can teach the full face mask as one of the 5 adventure dives.
COMING SOON: This article only talks about some of the benefits. In part 2 we will talk about the underwater communication system that can be installed in to the mask. Part 3 talks about how a full face mask can make snorkelling appealing to divers!
Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Founder
Having worked as a Dive Instructor in the Virgin Islands, Thailand and Egypt, Mark returned to the UK in 2006 when he founded Oyster Diving. His principle aims for the new diving centre would be to appeal to the more discerning customer by offering the best facilities, having an integrated travel agency so customers can complete their dives abroad as well as in the UK. In 2010 Mark won Sport Diver magazines' 'Best Diving Instructor'.
Djibouti - On one dive I was surrounded by five Whale Sharks and ended up in the mouth of one of them. Thank goodness they only eat plankton!
Favourite Dive Site?
Shark Reef in Egypt - I was still fairly new to diving and it was the dive that changed my life forever. Being surrounded by a school of circling barracuda's, I was only feet away from about three feeding 6 foot long Black Tip sharks. One of the sharks swam right passed me with a Barracuda hanging out of it's mouth as if to show off it's prize. I didn't feel at all threatened and it made me appreciate the beauty and value of sharks in the wild.
Favourite marine life?
I'm a huge fan of sharks but I also love Turtles, Bat Fish and can spend hours playing with Clown Fish (Nemo).
Which countries have you dived in?
Australia, Portugal, UK, Egypt, Djibouti, Lanzarote, France, Maldives, Cayman Islands, Malta & Gozo, Tobago, Mexico, Virgin Islands, Aruba, Thailand and Barbados.
EquipmentAqua Lung Sphera mask, Aqua Lung Axiom BCD, Apeks Tungsten regulators, Mares Quattro fins, Suunto D6i computer, Ocean Reef full facemask, Aqua Lung Comfort wetsuit, Aqua Lung Fusion Sport with SLT dry suit