Removing Mask: A Challenging Dive Skill

Divers who share this will always see more fish in their dives

    Majority of student divers and unexperienced certified scuba divers find this basic skill difficult. They have the fear to perform mask removal.

    The reason behind this fear is that we are evolved/created (choose the one you like) to live on land, not underwater.

    We eat, drink, dance, walk and see on land. We do these for years and know nowhere else to do such kind of activities!

    However one day, a bald scuba instructor like me takes you into the ocean and wants you to breathe underwater! Isn’t this “a little bit weird already, even though it is fascinating” you are thinking…

    Like this ain’t enough, your instructor wants you to perform some diving skills! He/she is demonstrating these skills easily. But when your instructor gives you the “now your turn” signal, those skills start not to be that easy, huh?

    Or…

    You are a certified scuba diver but you completed your diving course a couple of weeks ago.

    You were removing your mask, feeling a little bit anxious, but handled it. But you still have a piece of fear against this skill.

    What if I need to replace my mask if it is removed from my face in my open water dives one day?!

    Do you match with one of these two profiles?

    Ooookay…

    First, you are not alone!

    Removing Your Mask UnderwaterAs I have mentioned above, majority of the student divers and unexperienced scuba divers find mask removal a really challenging scuba skill.

    Because when you remove your mask underwater, water surrounds your eyes, mouth and eyes. When performed in open water as a part of scuba diving training, salty water may disturb you. This is extremely normal.

    In addition to this, we are used to inhale through our nose. This is a reflex for us and it is difficult to control.

    However, we should inhale and exhale through our mouth underwater. That’s because we are using a regulator second stage for breathing there.

    And when we inhale through our nose when we remove our mask underwater, water comes in! This disturbs us naturally. We need to cough and take deep breaths to overcome this issue, right?

     

    Tips for an easier mask removal

    Here are a couple of tips that will help you perform mask removal skill easier than before.

    Practice these tips whenever you find time before/after your dives.

    Be patient.

    Remember that practice makes perfect.

    On the surface

    Stand in water. Water level should be on your shoulders.

    Your mask should be on your face but without the straps on.

    Hold your mask with one of your hands.

    Stand still, place your regulator’s second stage on your mouth and look down (your face should be covered with water). Relax and watch what is below.

    When you feel ready, remove your mask. Do it slowly. You were holding your mask with one hand. So removing it will be easy.

    When/if you get disturbed, take your head out of water and then repeat the exercise until you are comfortably breathing without your mask on the surface.

    Underwater

    When/if you get disturbed underwater due to the water you inhaled accidentally, don’t panic and try to reach the Mask Removal Scuba Skillsurface immediately.

    Think what you are planning to do on the surface. Coughing? Breathing? Swallowing? Remember that you can do anything you do on the surface (land) even when you are underwater.

    Breathing? You have a tank and a regulator, so you have air.

    Coughing? You can do it underwater. Just hold your regulator’s second stage with your hand not to blow it out of your mouth due to the strength of coughing.

    You can swallow when you have your second stage in your mouth, too. Guess what? You can even vomit into your regulator’s second stage underwater.

    When an issue occurs underwater, it can be resolved underwater (except some serious one that require first aid, for sure).

    Remember these when/if you start to panic and try to reach the surface ASAP. Stop, think and act.

    If I sum up, if you find mask removal scuba skill challenging, practice it on the surface while standing in water and always remember that you can do anything you like to do to relax underwater. Just like you do on land.

    Do you have a fear about removing your mask underwater?

    You will not, after you apply these tips regularly.

    Any questions about removing your mask underwater? Use the comment section below and let me answer!

    Have good dives.Mirrored Dive Mask

     

    Divers who share this will always see more fish in their dives

      Comments

      1. Thank you!… I did my first pool class last night, and this skill totally made me panic. I could not handle it… I am going to practice in the pool (with my snorkel since that is all I have access to between classes)… and hopefully, go into my next pool class with more confidence.

        • Hello Melody,

          Thanks for visiting divewithseaman.com and your kind comment.

          I can understand you and you are not alone…

          Apply each of the tips I have listed in my article and follow them. If you have any difficulties, please write back to me, so we can solve the issue. No worries, just dive 😉

          You’ll love to become a scuba diver.

          Take care and dive safe.

      2. Hi, I am also having trouble with this skill. Anything skill having to do with my mask throws my breathing off and it makes me almost hyperventilate. After reading your article, I think I may be getting water up my nose which is making me panic. Only one more open water dive, I think I will practice breathing with my mouth only without my mask in my bathtub with my snorkel.

        Thanks,

        • Hello there Anne,

          Thank you for visiting. Whenever you try this in your bathtub, please try to convince yourself that the air you need is just a couple of inches above you and stay calm.

          Follow every suggestion I wrote in my post here and you’ll succeed.

          No worries, getting used to takes some time.

          Please keep on writing here. I want to learn how did it go.

          Dive safe.

      3. Hi there, Do you have any more tips for getting past this?
        I’ve always wanted to learn to dive and, after several years, finally saved up enough money for a dive holiday. I’m signed up for a 4-day course in Thailand and just finished Day 1. It was absolutely terrible and I feel like my dream of getting dive certified is unattainable because I can’t get this right.
        I can clear my mask when there’s only a little water inside, but I freaked out every time I tried to take my mask off (and didn’t get close to putting it back on again). My instructor seemed to get more and more impatient because I wasn’t getting it.
        Water comes in my nose and I start choking and I found it impossible to not let water in my nose when air bubbles from the regulator were being blown just below my nose with such force.
        I struggle with being underwater without blowing air out of my nose. Could this be the problem or shouldn’t this matter?
        More than anything I want to learn to dive…
        If you have any additional advice on this skill I’d really appreciate it.
        Anne

        • Hello there Anne,

          What you are experiencing is a well-known situation. Almost every certified scuba diver can understand your struggle. More than 3/4 of my scuba students are hesitating when it comes to mask removal skill. So first of all, you are not alone and this is NOT something that is happening for the first time and found you.

          Two thinks will help you overcome this:

          1- Practice
          2- Relaxation

          What I want from you is to grab a snorkel and mask. Then jump in the water when you are not in training. Water level should be on your chest, not deeper, not shallower.

          Then kneel. Water level must be somewhere on your eye-level. Start to breath through your snorkel until you feel comfortable.

          When you feel ready, take a deep breath and get your snorkel out of your mouth. Now, exhale from your mouth like whistling. When you have low amount of air in your lungs, take your snorkel back, clear it and take another deep breath. Cycle this until you feel pretty comfortable.

          Lastly, remove your mask and breath through your snorkel… Let the water hit your face, you may keep your eyes closed if you are not comfortable with that. Relax, just like you are meditating. Catch your breath. Focus on breathing through your snorkel when your mask is not on your face.

          If you exhale through your nose for the first couple of times and you feel comfortable like that, just go on… After you feel comfortable, switch to exhaling from your mouth.

          Follow these steps, but patience is the key. Never jump to the other step unless you feel comfortable with the current one.

          We, as divers are focusing on the problem, not the solution. What we don’t see clearly is that the mask removal skill forces us because we are not “that used to” with water when our mask is not on our face. When you get used to breath comfortably underwater, you’ll see that this skill will be easy.

          Don’t forget. Practice and relaxation are the key.

          If you follow my instructions, I am sure you’ll succeed.

          Please share your experience after you read these and apply what you learnt. Let’s keep in touch.

          Dive safe.

      4. Jenna says:

        Hello 🙂
        I am so glad to hear I am not the only one who struggles with this. Having to do this skill gave me anxiety to which I had to get out of the water and reschedule my check out dive altogether. I now want to excessively practice this skill so that the next time I do my dive, I will succeed and get certified. For me, my issue is not only having to force myself to not breathe out of my nose once the mask is off (which is such a struggle) but also, I wear contact lenses, any contact that my contact lenses have with water completely destroys my vision. I was told to do the entire process with my eyes closed, however, having my eyes open is what makes me feel like I have more control. Also, even with my eyes closed, reopening them sometimes causes water to creep into my eye and mess up my contact lens. Losing my vision at 30-60 feet underwater isn’t my idea of a good time and definitely makes me anxious just thinking about it. Any time this has happened in the past, I have had to get out of the water to adjust my contact lens which takes 5-10 minutes. The thought of 5-10 minutes without vision underwater makes me anxious. Any advice at all from anyone who may struggle with the same thing would be greatly appreciated.

      5. Stephen Poole says:

        Hi,

        This topic is really interesting, I took my PADI Open Water back in 2014 and the mask removal for me was awful. Like many others I really struggled and always ended up chocking and bolting for the surface. During the course I almost quit as I convinced myself that I couldn’t complete the skill. However, I finally managed to scrap though and complete the course.

        Now, this is where things get interesting, I was effectively a certified diver but still terrified about the prospect of the mask coming off, this filled me with dread and up until a couple of months back I had only dived a few times since 2014.

        My wife completed her PADI last month and I decided to go along and get back in the pool. After reading some of the comments on the internet etc I was determined to overcome this fear. I was on the bottom of the pool and nervously pulled at the skirts of my mask to do a partial flood and practiced clearing, the was fairly straight forward. it was the thought of removing the whole mask that still terrified me. I told myself that all the time I have air to breathe I will NOT drown and I can cough, choke, and even vomit into the regulator, so there is nothing to fear. After a several minutes of internal fighting I was able to removal the mask and put back on albeit rather quickly. I then removed again and breathed slowly and delayed putting the mask back on. I repeated this at least a dozen times. I cannot tell you the feeling of confidence that I was getting, for the first time I actually felt totally at ease and was really looking forward to some proper diving which up until this point had made me hesitant. Since this pool session I have been back twice in recent weeks and have continued to practice this skill. I am now at the point where I am totally comfortable ripping the mask off a swimming around indefinitely without the mask, I breathe easily through my mouth and feel totally at ease. I am really looking forward to diving on the Great Barrier Reef this year with my wife.

        The point I am making is that it is very common for new divers and certified ones for that matter who struggle with this, a neighbor of mine is a Master Scuba Diver and he says he is not comfortable with the skill. The truth is, that with practice anyone can become totally at ease with having the mask off and I would encourage everyone who is remotely uncomfortable with it to practice, as one day it could be invaluable as I found out last week.

        I completed a dive last week in our local lake and my worst nightmare became reality; The visibility in the lake was about half a metre as students had kicked up much slit. I descended to the training platform at 10m but was unable to find my buddy or anyone else, I was going to look for a minute that surface. It was then I was unfortunately kicked in the face, I lost my mask and regulator at the same moment. I was initially panicked and though that my days may be numbered. However after retrieving my regulator and taking a few deep breathes I was able to calm down and think. I started to search the training platform and by good fortunate located my mask quickly. After clearing the mask I made contact with my buddy, signaled all was OK and continued the dive.

        Although slightly terrifying at the time it certainly reinforced my confidence in my diving and mask skills. However, I do wonder what might of happened if I had not practiced this valuable skill to such an extent in the preceding weeks, I can’t but think I would have almost certainly made a panicked swim to the surface.

        I would recommend all divers regularly practice skills especially the ones they are not comfortable with !

        Enjoy your diving and don’t give up, you can all overcome your fears.

        • Hello there Stephen,

          Thanks alot for your valuable comment, buddy. I am sure this will help a lot of divewithseaman.com readers..

          Kind regards.

      6. Dorene Strand says:

        Hello, this is awesome advice. I didn’t have any experience scuba diving and thought how hard can this be, so I decided to get my scuba cert, thinking this would be a great deal of fun. Well after just completing a two day crash course of extensive emergency training and thinking i actually drowned about three times trying to get my mask back on, I’m so glad I did not give up. After hearing about others who just learned quick lessons while on vacation, I realized that this was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had such a hard time with the mask remove and swallowing or breathing in a ton of water thru my nose, that I seriously almost called it quits. However, my stuborness didn’t allow it. The instructors took me aside and made me feel so comfortable and helped me practice until I completed the drill. I was so proud of myself!

        After thinking about this, I realized one of the issues I was having with this. I do Bikram Yoga every day, I’ve been doing this for years and when we are in flight or fight mode, we take big deep breaths thru our nose, and when my instructor was giving me the “relax, take a deep breath sign” with his hands, it was the same sign we use in yoga to relax and i would breath in thru my nose. Now that I figured it out, I am trying to be more aware of the mouth breathing and not getting them mixed up, which I have to admit is a bit tricky.
        Another thing I realized was that I was having issues getting the mask back on and then the last attempt, I didn’t try to put the entire mask on at once, I just pushed it against my face and cleared it, then I pulled the straps over, this way it felt so easy, once I established clearing the mask.

        Thank you so much for your article, especially for us beginners. It’s a great way to help us not feel so alone that we are having such a hard time with this.

        • Hi Dorene,

          I am proud of you, too. This is really good news for me!

          Let me tell you that your instructor has also done a great job.

          Thanks for visiting DiveWithSeaman.com and your lovely comment that would help other readers as well.

          Take care and dive safe.

      7. I just finished my pool certification session and the instructor said I did great, but the mask skill was truly a challenge and has caused me sleepless nights knowing that next week I am going to Cancun and am supposed to do the open water portion there. If I get water around my nose, it causes me such anxiety. I purchased another mask with a purge valve and I am going to go to a pool and PRACTICE!!!!!
        I am also having trouble with my ears since the pool session. It has been a week and I still feel like one ear is stopped up at times. I was told I possibly bruised the muscle that helps with equalization or didn’t equalize properly. please explain to me what I am suppose to be feeling when equalizing my ears.

        • Hello Karen,

          Thanks for visiting. I am sure you’ll master mask clearing skill after you practice. Your new mask with a purge valve will definitely help you with this.

          About ear equalization, please read my post about it here.

          What you are supposed to be feeling when equalizing your ears is “relaxation in your ears.” Sometimes scuba divers may not “feel” they are equalizing, but if you are comfortable during your descent and after your dive, you are ok with your ears.

          You may have have bruised your ear muscle, yes. But that muscle (depending on the damage) will be ok after 2-6 months. So don’t worry about it. However, if it goes on disturbing you, see your doctor.

          If you feel “discomfort” from your ears during your descent, ascend a little bit (till this discomfort disappears) and equalize again.

          What I advise is to start equalization if when you are on the surface, just before you start to descent. Then, go on holding your nose with your fingers and blowing during your descent. In fact, equalizing every two meters is ok, but if you have such an issue, never stop equalizing until you reach max depth of your dive.

          Please inform us about this.

          Hope this helps.

      8. Hey. I am currently out in Mozambique learning how to dive as I have always wanted to and I want a career in shark research and biology. However I have currently been stuck with this one skill. On one occasion I was able to take the mask off and I felt fine but for some reason I panic again. I went on a dive this morning and felt confident to do it. But as I took my mask off I felt as though I was having a panic attack, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I feel so disheartened as I really want this in my life but I just feel as though I can’t do it. I have another dive tomorrow as this is my last day and it’s the only skill I have left to do. I just don’t know what to do. I am constantly breathing through my nose.

        • Hi Kate,

          Hope you are doing fine.

          This is completely normal, ok? Please relax and go to Anne’s similar question in comments (scroll up a little bit) and read my answer, read it one-by-one.

          I am sure this will help you.

          Don’t hesitate to write to me if you have further questions.

          Kind regards.

      9. Reading all this is very helpful. During my OWD certification, my instructor was quite firm with me and didn’t want to put up with my inability to remove and clear my mask. To get through the panic I knew was coming, I bit down hard on the regulator just to remind myself that it’s there, and the air is there. I also “purged” it while it was in my mouth to push that air into my body. That helped a lot. After that I hurriedly put the mask back on, cleared it and signaled OK.
        I’m still going to take my mask and snorkel to the pool to keep practising this skill as I’m sure I’ll get kicked in the face some day.

      10. Valeria Tucker says:

        My 15 year old son is currently getting his certification. When practicing the mask removal in the pool, his instructor allowed him to keep his eyes closed and pinch his nose. Is this acceptable to pass this skill in the final OW certification dive?
        I was certified over 20 years ago, but from what I remember, pinching your nose and keeping your eyes closed was not allowed.
        Whats your thought?
        Thanks,
        Val

      11. Hi Valeria,

        Thank you for your comment.

        Well, PADI says “eyes can be closed but pinching nose is not allowed. Actually, this applies majority of the dive systems on the world.

        However, this must be done even in the pool session. Candidate may start the skill by pinching the nose (what I prefer to do in my training dives for my students), but soon the candidate must stop pinching.

        This is something about the instructor, you know. I don’t know what is in his/her mind. He/She might want this skill allowing to pinch in open water, or not.

        My personal thought is that if your lovely son’s instructor let your son to try this skill allowing to pinch, he/she will apply the same in open water.

        Yes, this might be against the standards, but this is the right of initiative of the instructor.

        Best way is to ask your son’s instructor about this.

        I am sure your son will handle this by practicing more.

        Take care and say hi to your son.

        Bye.

      12. I recently started my confined water courses and I also ran into the panic mode setting in when removing my mask. After feeling this unnatural sensation the first time anxiety would build when i knew my turn was coming up to prove my skills in class. It was so overwhelming it would over power my will to stay under water.

        I found this forum so helpful and encouraging. Last night i grabbed my snorkel and goggles and headed to my local pool to practice. I failed over and over and then i realized what was going wrong for me. When i breath normally a little bit of air was coming our from my nose, this seemed to break a seal in my nose and right after i would feel the in my nasal cavity. I spent another 30 minutes in the pool, with just a snorkel and pinching my nose. When i was comfortable i would release the pinch on my nose and really focus on forcing all air through my mouth. I am so happy to say it worked!!!! I was able to have my face under water and breath for several minutes with out water entering my nose. I still need more practice, but i feel so much better knowing that this is well within my grasp.

        I really felt that this skill was unreachable for me, I was so wrong. What i learned is staying relaxed and focused is key, at-least for me. I am now looking forward to my next confined dives and cant wait to step up to the challenge. Big thanks for all that posted their experiences, you helped me more than you know!! Happy Diving!!!

        • Heellloo Evan,

          Welcome to DiveWithSeaman.com and thank you for your golden comment.

          I am very glad to see you here.

          You have done a great job with the skill, congratulations!!

          Take care and dive safe.

      13. Carrie Stone says:

        Thank you all so much for your tips! I have always wanted to learn to dive. I passed the course but failed the mask challenge so cannot be certified until I complete it! Very frustrated with myself for flipping out as soon as the water goes up my nose after removing the mask. I am soooo disheartened! I will carefully read all of your trips and suggestions and continue to practice! Thanks to you all for sharing your stories, it is truly appreciated! I am trying it again near the end of the month so here’s hoping….I’m so glad I am not alone with this problem….

        • Hello there Carrie,

          Welcome to divewithseaman family.

          Yeah, buddy. You are not alone.

          What you are experiencing has been experienced by thousands of scuba diver candidates around the globe.

          Read the post above and all the other divewithseaman readers’ comments here very carefuly and you’ll succeed.

          I am waiting for your story here asap.

          Take care and keep us posted.

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