A leaky mask has got to be the most annoying thing a diver has to deal with when trying to enjoy a dive (with a fogged-up mask coming in a close second). So any extra effort you can invest in the dive store fitting a new mask to your face is definitely time well spent.
However, the standard dry-fit procedure of centering the mask on your face, making sure all skirt edges are in contact with your skin, then inhaling gently —without the strap attached — to see whether you can get an airtight seal, won’t necessarily guarantee that you’re going to have a leak-proof dive. While some lucky divers are able to put their masks on and hit the water and never touch their mask for the entire dive, for most of us, getting our mask fully sealed takes a little finesse. We've got some tips to avoid those annoying leaks:
• After giant-striding into the water and popping to the surface, take a moment to remove your mask, give your head a good double-dunking, and hand-squeegee your hair back and away from your face. Then, position the mask on your face before stretching the strap over your head. If you’re wearing a hood, you can forgo the hair step as long as no renegade strands are sticking out. But run a finger around the edge of the hood opening to make sure the mask skirt is against your skin and not overlapping the neoprene.
• Double-check to make sure the mask is properly centered on your face. If it’s not, you probably will break the seal once you start diving. Also, double-check the position of the strap on the back of your head. If it it's too high, it tends to lift the bottom of the skirt; if too low, it affects the top of the skirt. If it's too tight, it can distort the shape of the skirt — that can break the seal too.
• Just before descending, push the mask lens inward, forcing some air out and creating a good air pressure seal. Now you’re ready for your descent. Once under water, if the seal is sound, water pressure should take over and you should be good to go. At some point, you’ll probably want to nose-blow a little air back in to avoid getting mask squeeze as you go deeper.
By following these steps, hopefully you’ll be able to pull off a dive without having to contend with water constantly seeping — or gushing — into the mask. If not, you might want to consider investing in a purge mask.
Ready to buy a new mask? Read our Masks, Fins and Snorkels Gear Guide.