by Brianne Grant:
Sport divers commonly make the mistake of thinking that diving a full face mask is just for public safety divers, when in fact they can be fun and beneficial for the sport diver too!
- Communications Option – Full face masks have the option to be used in conjunction with underwater communication systems, which are available for sport divers. Divers can have the ability to communicate with each other, the surface, a boat, or all three. Being able to verbally communicate underwater can be an awesome experience for courses such as fish identification or underwater collector. Even for fun recreational dives, under water communications eliminate the guess work of hand signals, and allow divers to share their encounters on the spot!
- Wireless communications – Wireless comms are great for diver-to-diver communications. Consisting of a microphone for divers to speak into, and an ear piece or small transmitter with channel options. Typically these are small units that can easily be attached to almost any full face mask unless there is a manufacturer specific unit. Ocean Reef and Ocean Technology Systems (OTS) have reliable and user-friendly systems.
- Transducer communications – This is similar to the wireless system however it is typically used from one diver to a transducer or receiver that is in the water and relayed to the communication box. This type of system is commonly used for divers who work the dive boat circuit. The transducer system allows the diver to be on the bottom and report conditions back to the boat.
- Security – Some sport divers do not like the idea that a regulator could be knocked out of their mouth, or that their mask could potentially become dislodged from their face during an entry into the water.
- A full face mask provides a single unit housing both the breathing apparatus and the mask, and secures both to the face. This eliminates the potential of a regulator falling out or being knocked out and also makes it very difficult for a mask to come loose or off. Full face masks are great for the different water entries sport divers use depending on dive conditions (back rolls, giant strides, cannon balls, shore entries).
- Visibility – Just like scuba diving or snorkeling masks, full face masks have either a silicone or latex skirt that can be clear or black; the biggest distinguishing factor is going to be the surface area of the visual field in the full face mask.
- Skirts – Black or clear skirts on a regular mask can often give sport divers the feeling of claustrophobia because the skirt sits closer to our peripheral line of vision. Full face mask skirts sit further away from the eye; they sit closer to the hair and chin line giving the diver better peripheral vision, especially in a clear or lighter colored skirt.
- Visual field – The visual field on a full face mask is larger than that of a scuba or snorkeling mask.
- Comfort – Some sport divers prefer using a full face mask for several comfort reasons:
- Mouth Pieces – A typical regulator system can be cumbersome, oversized, and uncomfortable, or the bite tabs can be chewed off. Full face masks do not have bite tabs or a mouth piece that requires a lip seal around it, instead a diver’s mouth is free eliminating any of the discomfort felt with a regulator mouth piece.
- Jaw fatigue – Often sport divers will bite down on the mouth piece tabs very hard which can result in jaw fatigue or post dive soreness. This can be uncomfortable and of some concern to divers who have been medically cleared and dive with TMJ, as biting down on bite tabs can cause jaws to lock or seize up. Full face masks help to eliminate jaw fatigue because they do not require the diver to hold a regulator in their mouth.
- Protection – Full face masks can provide additional protection from various in-water elements:
- Jelly fish! They like to sneak up on us and sting our faces, necks, and heads when we’re diving which is never fun. Full face masks help protect our face, portions of our neck, and forehead from those sneaky buggers.
- Sunburn – Full face masks can help limit our sun exposure while diving and surfacing. Although most divers don’t realize it, we can get sunburned while diving, especially in tropical or shallow conditions. Ultra violet rays can penetrate through the water and can often be magnified, those rays can also reflect off the sandy ocean floor in turn providing us divers with sunburn. Sometimes sport divers forget about the sun exposure to our faces because we concentrate on the other exposure the rest of our body is susceptible to. Full face masks can help limit and filter the sunlight penetration and reflection providing us with some additional protection.
- Ice diving – This specialty can be made more enjoyable by diving a full face mask since it will encapsulate the entire face protecting it from the cold water. Our heads lose a lot of heat, and relatively quickly, but by using a hood and full face mask, ice diving can be enjoyed more comfortably.
- Specialty Course – SDI does offer Full Face Mask as a specialty rating which is great for the sport diver looking to expand their diver knowledge!
- The SDI Full Face Mask course only requires an Open Water Scuba Diver certification as a prerequisite. This course can be great for sport divers looking to attain the Advanced Diver rating, Master Diver rating, or those moving towards a professional rating.
These are just a few of the advantages for sport divers using full face masks. There are many manufacturers and styles of full face masks that are available for the sport diver. They come in a variety of colors and sizes to fit the needs of each individual diver. If you are interested in the SDI Full Face Mask course or want to learn more about a particular full face mask, check in with your local SDI dive shop here.