Probably the most common complaint I hear as an instructor is: “My mask is leaking!”
There are four possible reasons for a leaky mask.
- Overly Tight Mask Strap
- Exhaling Through the Nose
If your mask is leaking, chances are that it’s either too narrow for your face or too wide. In both cases, the mask isn’t sealing on your face, allowing water to enter.
Take a look at my post about how to find a properly fitted mask. Or, you could just come and see us at the store.
Overly Tight Mask
A common mistake is over-tightening the mask strap. It seems intuitive: make sure that mask is good and tight on your face, and it shouldn’t flood. In fact, what’s holding the mask tight against your face is the seal created by water pressure. The strap is just there to keep the mask on your face when you’re not yet underwater. By pulling the strap too tightly on your face, you’re actually distorting the mask skirt. A distorted mask skirt doesn’t seal on your face. No seal = leak.
Once you’ve got the mask and strap on, tighten it as you normally would. Next, hold the mask with one hand and with the other hand, release the tension on one of the strap buckles. Don’t pull on the strap; just release the tension on the buckle. That should be just enough to relieve any excess tension on the strap without loosening the strap so much that your mask falls off your face.
Getting a good seal means having nothing under the mask skirt: no hair, hood, or even a folded mask skirt caused by an over-tightened strap.
An easy way to check for a good seal: put the mask on and inhale. If you hear hissing noises, you don’t have a seal.
Hair: take the mask off, pull any hair off your face, put the mask on first, then pull the strap over.
Hood: run your fingers under the hood, starting from the area around your cheeks. Continue running your fingers up and around the mask, lifting the hood out from under the mask skirt. To be sure, get your buddy to do an inspection of your mask skirt as part of your pre-dive check (remember BWRAF?)
Exhaling Through the Nose
You’ve done everything right, and the dang mask is still leaking and flooding. Now what?
Make sure you’re not exhaling through the nose. To check, after you’ve cleared your mask (for like the 20th time in one dive), pinch your nose. If the leaking stops, you know the cause of the leak: exhaling through the nose.
Consciously practice not exhaling through your nose. You can help your body learn how that feels by pinching your nose, then inhaling and exhaling 3 to 4 breaths only through your regulator. Then release your fingers from your nose and continuing to inhale and exhale through your regulator. This may take a few dives to take, but if you’re doing it consciously, your brain and your body will eventually learn to sync up. It took me nearly 20 dives to get the leaking to stop!
There you have it. The four most common reasons for a leaky mask and how to stop the leak.