3 Reasons Your Mask Leaks

by Cris Merz:

sdi diver

photo by: Santiago Estrada

Mask leaks can certainly make a dive uncomfortable as well as frustrating. Did you know that having a leaky mask is also a contributor to poor air consumption? Aside from the harder breathing that is required due to increased stress, air is constantly blown into the mask in order to blow out the water to clear the mask. Three topics will be covered that may assist a diver with mask leakage issues: hair, mask size, and mask quality. Being aware of how these three factors can contribute to mask leakage may decrease the issues underwater caused by a mask leaking, making for a much more pleasant experience.

#1 Your hair can cause your mask to leak

Hair is a culprit that affects mask leakage that often goes ignored. For both men and women, it is important to ensure that hair is pulled back away from the forehead so it does not interfere with the seal created by the skirt of the mask and the skin. Additionally, men must also be aware that facial hair may prevent the seal from being tight between the upper lip and the bottom of the nose. If shaving is not an option, one may try applying a dab of petroleum jelly or similar lubricant to act as a sealant, though it is not a guarantee either.

#2 Your mask may be too big or small

The size of the mask is usually one of the biggest factors to cause a leaky mask. Some divers believe that a tight strap around the back of the head is the best “fix” for this situation. It is not. A mask that doesn’t fit is a mask that doesn’t fit. Pulling it tighter may just cause further discomfort as well as stress. A mask that does not properly fit may leak with the most minimal movement or even facial expression regardless of how tight the mask strap may be. It is important that when fitting for a mask, the diver finds a mask that is not only their size, but fits the shape of their face. The best way to test this before getting in the water is by putting the mask on the face and inhaling gently without pulling the strap on to the back of the head. The suction should hold the mask in place to the face indicating that the seal is intact.

#3 Don’t skimp on mask quality

Quality of a mask, as well as other gear and equipment, is what can potentially make a huge difference in the quality of our dives. A cheap mask is likely to have a cheap skirt around the frame. High quality silicone will be a lot more flexible and adjust to the curves of the face better than say, rubber. It will also be a lot softer preventing discomfort that may cause unwanted facial movements underwater. Divers unfortunately sometimes go for something cheaper failing to realize the importance of a good mask and what it brings to the table as far as diving comfort.

Removing hair from under the skirt, a proper fitting mask and a good quality product will go a long way to improve air consumption and assist in leaky masks issues. Although following all these tips will enhance the dives it is important to note that the job to ensure little mask leakage is not complete. Once the mask has been selected and hair removed, it is important to make the final adjustments once the diver enters the water. First, ensure the mask is centered on the face. It may also help to pull the mask a bit allowing some air to enter before pushing the mask against the face to push that excess air back out creating a tighter seal. Finally, check the back strap’s position to ensure it is not too high or not too low. Once we start our descent, equalize to your comfort level and you are good to go.

Effective Preparation for Every Dive

by Rob Bradish:
Divers preparing equipmentAhhh, the thought of buried treasure!! I would be willing to bet that if I were to interview a thousand divers, at least one or two became involved in diving because of some story they had once heard about finding buried treasure! I remember one such story being Peter Benchley’s, “The Deep,” in which they describe the famed “Three Lock Box.” Such a box was kept for only the most important items and required three separate keys, maintained by three separate individuals, to be opened. This insured that the property owner would receive the property to which he or she was entitled. In comparison, a “three lock box” can also be an effective metaphor for dive preparation.

So often when thinking of dive preparation, the diver may limit his or her self to pre-dive gear packing and the planning discussion that goes on during the ride to the dive site. However, if someone is to be truly prepared, there is much to do long before the day of the dive. In fact, when examining preparation, there seems to be three clear keys to Effective Preparation for Every Dive.

From a personal perspective, the first key has to be mental preparation. Preparation of this type extends far beyond using a computer to pre-plan your time at depth 50 minutes from now, and requires some steps to effectively get there. For example, the diver must recognize his or her own capabilities. Is the dive being considered within the realm of the diver’s training? Is the site a new site or one dove many times in the past? Does one have all of the appropriate skills, tools, and techniques to complete the dive safely? Participants in some activities are encouraged to visualize, a process of mentally walking through the event, attempting to identify possible challenges or areas where an incident may occur. The night before a dive, visualization can help one determine choices for gear while packing. On the ride to the site, visualization allows the diver to prepare more directly, while witnessing environmental issues that will likely affect the dive. Without this kind of mental preparation, a diver cannot just say they are ready to dive on any given day.

Few people look forward to loading and unloading heavy gear. Hauling tanks back and forth from a dive vessel, or climbing back on board a boat using a dive ladder can require a lot of effort, making physical preparation the second key. While much of that preparation should occur months and weeks before a dive, through exercise, skills practice, and healthy habits, it continues right up to the day of the dive. Frequently, a dive actually begins with a drive to the departure location, either the morning of or the night before. Eating a healthy meal, hydrating effectively, and arriving well-rested are all part of physical preparation. The fact is, staying up until 2 am the night before drinking beers with friends might seem like a great start to a weekend, but not to a weekend of diving. Knowing such activities lead to the increasing probability of DCS incidents, it just doesn’t make sense. Knowing there is another diver, who may depend on his or her buddy, makes it even more important to be able to perform at optimum levels.

Obviously, gear preparation is something that cannot be overlooked and it is our third key. Scuba diving is called a gear intensive sport for a reason. The fact is people do not have gills, and if we are to enjoy what the marine environment has to offer, then equipping ourselves to exist in that environment is important. Annual maintenance is vital to safe diving, if only to insure the life support equipment is performing to standard. Trying to verify gear functionality on the way to a dive site however, is not preparation. Many find it effective to “flat diver” the gear before packing. Essentially, one would lay everything out and make sure that everything needed for the day’s dive is ready. In contrast, the only way to verify regulator and buoyancy compensator functionality is to assemble and test each delivery and exhaust point. Batteries and bulbs need to be fresh in lights and computers. Surface marker buoys and lift bags should be clean and ready to deploy. Finally, is the “Save-a-Dive” kit adequate to actually save the dive? Will the spare mask and fin straps work properly with the gear being packed?

While “plan the dive, dive the plan” has been a part of the diver mantra since the early days, it is important to note that such planning begins long before the day of the dive. Effective mental preparation, through training, research, and visualization are all key components. Physical preparation with effective exercise and living habits are also key. Finally, equipment preparation, not only in maintenance of equipment but in its proper selection for its anticipated use, is the final key. Only with all three keys, can we effectively unlock the “three lock box” of dive planning. Only at this point can the diver effectively determine the goals, depth, and duration for the dive. Even the seemingly simple tasks of entry and exit need to be planned.

Finally, never forget the post dive plan! It would be a shame to go through all of that preparation and planning, failing to include a stop at the local tiki hut for a meal, libations, the telling of lies, and sharing of discoveries!!

Safe Diving!

Rob Bradish, who refers to himself as “a recreational diver with technical Interests”, has been diving since 1981, crossing over to “the Dark Side” as an instructor with SDI/TDI. He works as an independent contractor through Air Hogs Scuba, of Garner, North Carolina and Blackbeard Scuba of Southport, North Carolina.

Dive Computers – A Beginners Buying Guide

by Joe Stellini:
personal dive computerYou just finished your Open Water Scuba Diver Course and your head is spinning with all the knowledge and skills you have learned. At the top of your list is purchasing what your instructor may have said was the most important piece of dive gear you could own – a dive computer. Your question is, “Why? What is so important about a personal dive computer (PDC) that I should own one?” Most likely that question was answered for you, but here is a little reinforcement to what your instructor may have told you.

First, not everyone wants a fancy, all the bells and whistles PDC, and there are a lot of options out there. Sometimes simplicity means more enjoyment on your dive instead of trying to figure out exactly what you are supposed to be paying attention to on the screen. So getting down to the basics means that there are three things you absolutely need to know during your dive and how to access them on your PDC. They are: Where are you now? How long have you been there? How much longer can you safely stay? This translates into depth, elapsed dive time (EDT), and no decompression limit (NDL). All dive computers have these features, but it’s ease of use and readability that are most important. Everything else is just extra.

To break it down even further, here is why these things are important. Depth obviously comes first because when we plan a dive, depth is one of the first things we set a limit on. Diving within the agreed upon depth limit, whether it be with the Divemaster, your dive buddy, or with yourself on a solo dive, will keep things organized. Not sticking to your planned depth can be confusing and dangerous to all involved. The easiest way to monitor your depth is to learn how to process that information with a quick glance at your computer, often, throughout your dive. If the PDC happens to have an alarm to remind you, even better.

Second on the list, is elapsed dive time. You ask, “Won’t the Divemaster be leading us in and out of the water?” The answer is, “In a perfect world, yes. However in the slightly imperfect world we live in, that does not always work out.” What happens if the group doesn’t want to see what you and your buddy want to see? Or what if you get separated? Or even more common, what if you become too experienced to hang out with a bunch of newbies? You will have to monitor your own time during the dives. Again, an audible alarm for this feature helps. Most dive operations set a maximum dive time and part of being a good diver is following the dive plan whether you or the dive operation set it.

Finally, we have our no decompression limit; last, but far from least. Some computers have audible alarms for this feature as well. When it comes down to it, not following a good dive plan with regard to our two previous features, depth and EDT, could result in decompression illness. Going too deep, coming up too fast, and staying too long, will eventually and most certainly catch up with you. Yes, DCS has been drilled into your head during your open water class and will be addressed even further during any advanced or continued education courses you may take.

So why is NDL important? Because it takes your depths and times during each dive or repetitive dives and calculates how much longer you can safely stay at your current depth. Breaking these rules could cause the loading of too much nitrogen resulting in a mandatory decompression stop. As a new diver, we want to avoid a deco stop at all costs. Your PDC can tell you when to move to a shallower depth, will recalculate your NDL for the new depth, and will do this every single time. Not only does this keep you safely within your nitrogen limit, but it will significantly extend your dive times allowing you to multi-level dive. You can’t get that with dive tables.

The personal dive computer you used in your SDI course was probably attached to the regulator system. If you are not interested in the whole package then consider a wrist-mounted computer. This makes traveling with a PDC lightweight and easy.

On a final note, always remember to monitor your air. Although some PDC’s may be air integrated, divers that do not use one will have to check their pressure gauge every few minutes.

For more answers on personal dive computers please consult with your local SDI Dive Center. They are there to help and provide you with the best customer service possible and should be able to answer all of your questions on personal dive computers.

Beginners Guide to Buying Your Mask, Fins, and Snorkel

These items are the basic tools that help a diver get started, but they are also critically important with regard to comfort and happiness.


The Secret Sauce for Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) Deployment

This article focuses on one specific aspect of deploying an SMB: methods for inflating the SMB.


Dive Computers vs. Dive Tables

Picture this – I’m riding to the dive site in my horse and buggy, and calculating my no decompression limits on my abacus. If you think that takes time, that’s nothing, it’s chiseling my dive plan into my stone tablet.


The Non-Certified Divers

by Dr. Thomas Powell:

historical divers

photo by:

The world of scuba diving is very unique. Divers and dive operations follow standards established by training agencies, global training councils, and educational boards. The objective of these standards is to set forth a minimum requirement to be met during dive training for a given course, as a result creating consistent scuba diver training on a global scale. Despite organized standards, many divers can tell you of times when they have swiped gear and tried breathing off a tank underwater, or of a time when a child experimented with a pony bottle under direct supervision.

The origins of the recreational scuba industry can be found among a group of forward thinking individuals who brought standardized scuba training to the public. This unique plan to develop an exciting new sport was derived from military experience and innovative experimentation. Over time, equipment improved, standards were refined, and the modern sport of scuba diving was developed.

Despite eventual success, the originators of recreational scuba were individuals following military protocols and theoretical concepts; no recreational scuba certification programs yet existed, so divers at that time were diving without formal training or a certification card to show proof of their diver level experience.

Later, similar scenarios took place as divers and agencies experimented with mixed gasses, cave exploration, and advanced dive profiles. Over time, training standards and formal qualifications were developed. Today, dive operators require certification cards to show proof of knowledge, capability, and understanding of training. What was once an adventurous and unsupervised sport has become one based on knowledge development and procedures designed to follow safe diving practices.

The modern scuba community is based on tiered training programs. New divers earn open water certifications and then gain diving experience as they work through advanced and rescue type programs. Side paths exist for various types of training and equipment use. Despite the requirement for formal training and providing proof of diver level experience, each year a unique crowd of divers walk through the doors of dive shops around the United States… This group is made up of uncertified divers who make a living in some fashion through the sport of scuba diving.

One example of uncertified active divers can be found in Southern Florida. The start of lobster season can be chaos for places like the Florida Keys. Every boat departs full and no lobster is safe. Regulators get rebuilt, parts get replaced, and each day individuals with one second stage bought for the cheapest price can be seen falling off the back of private boats in the hopes of getting some “bugs” (lobsters).

Following the short season, inexpensive alternate air sources are pawned and the scuba community shrinks just a bit. Essentially, for the lobster fishing season, individuals who may not be certified take to the water to get their hands on this beautiful and tasty catch.

The presence of uncertified divers does not diminish inland. How many pools exist in the United States? Each public pool has components that must be replaced on a periodic basis to follow OSHA regulations. Many pool management companies have discovered that the ability to change these components provides increased revenue.

Throughout the year, small business operators will bring dry suits, hookah systems, and even standard scuba gear into dive shops for repair. Upon further investigation, it is discovered these operators are running pool management companies. Often, the employees are not certified divers and the excuse is that a certification is “unneeded” in a nine foot deep pool. This may be true, but the larger problem is that the company owners often do not understand the difference between equipment types and basic functionality. Despite this fact, many of these companies have grown to be very successful and maintain a seemingly safe work history, however, proper training for the equipment their employees use on a daily basis could only help.

The world of uncertified divers is larger than most people would think. Uncertified divers not only built the scuba industry, but actually developed the standards and certification procedures followed by the larger modern scuba community. For this reason, people who are developing and exploring new methods of diving may use equipment, methods, or techniques for which no certifications have yet been developed.

The reality is that many people have fun and make a successful living scuba diving without certifications. The worry is that divers could get hurt and the industry could be damaged, or face repercussions. A lack of training and education on safe diving practices increases their risk of possible injury.

The best way to correct this situation is to encourage training for these divers. Dive shops could offer educational programs tailored specifically to confined water divers or seasonal fisherman. Either way, the world of uncertified divers has always existed in some fashion within the sport of scuba diving and in some ways can be viewed as the roots of the sport we have today.

– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, North Carolina

3 Mistakes Most New and Veteran Divers Make

This article will discuss 3 mistakes that are common for new divers, how to avoid them, and how an experienced diver could easily end up making the same mistake..

Pre-Check before the Pre-Dive Checklist

by Jordan Greene:

sdi divers pre dive checklistA good diver thoroughly prepares for any and all potential scuba diving ventures. Starting from reserving a spot on a dive boat, to running over the pre-dive check with a fellow diver just before entering the water. An objective should be determined, logistics mapped out, and a plan structured to successfully execute a fun and safe dive. Naturally, safety being the main priority of any dive; gas needs should be determined along with mixtures and all equipment maintenance should be up to date. So many aspects go into the planning of your next dive, and the simplest mistake could hinder your upcoming adventure. Getting into the habit of going through a PRE pre-dive checklist well before the dive should be common practice for all divers, regardless of their training or experience level.

Prior to the day of the dive, every diver should lay out all required dive gear and verify everything is intact and in proper working order. Get yourself into a routine of checking the following:

    • Appropriate thermal considerations – Ask yourself: is my wetsuit suitable thermal protection for the dive? Do I need to wear a drysuit? If so, are my seals in good condition? Remind yourself to bring an appropriate hood, gloves, boots, undergarments, etc. as determined by the dive conditions.


    • Well maintained and working gas delivery and monitoring systems – We’re talking pressure gauges, 1st and 2nd stage regulators, o-rings and hoses all checked and repaired if need be by trained or qualified individuals long before the dive.


    • Cylinder(s) – Ready to dive, ensure the visual inspections are up to date, and hydrostatic test are within the time frames dictated by local laws and regulations. Verify you have appropriate gas mixtures by personally analyzing the cylinders and label as appropriate.


    • Verify your Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD) is in working condition by inflating the BCD to make sure it will hold gas. Check over your inflator hose, and verify you have both weight pockets and a weight belt.


    • Weight – Make sure to bring the adequate weight needed or verify if the dive operation will have weight available for use.


    • Fins – Verify you have both fins, and if you are wearing boots or have new boots, make sure they fit in the fin pocket. Ensure the fins and fin straps are in working order and do not show signs of cracking.


    • Mask(s) – Make sure you have your mask and snorkel ready to go, check over the mask skirt and straps to ensure they do not show signs of cracking. Don’t forget to pack your defog and having a back up mask is never a bad idea.


    • Signaling and safety devices – Make sure to bring a dive flag if local regulations require. Along with a visual or audible alarm. Pack your knife, sheers, or cutting device.


    • Dive computer(s) – Make sure your computers are fully charged and appropriately programmed; once again, a back up computer is never a bad idea.


    • Compass – It’s better to have one and not need it, rather than need it and not have one!


  • Last, but certainly not least, your dive certification card! Whether it’s SDI Open Water, Advanced, Nitrox, etc., certifications should correspond to the upcoming dive profile. To be prepared to such an extent – only to realize you had lost proof of certification can truly ruin a dive trip. If this happens and the location has internet access, you can verify your SDI Certification online without missing the dive and order a replacement card here.

This checklist will help you get to the dive boat prepared, but you also will need to listen the Divemaster or supervisor’s instructions in your pre-dive briefing, and always preform a pre-dive check before entering the water.

5 Things You Can Practice on Every Dive

Here are five tips you should do on every dive whether you dive every day or once a year. – #AlwaysLearning