How to choose a freediving mask?

[gravatar size=18 align=absmiddle email=sanne.buurma@gmail.com] This is a post by [the_author_posts_link].

20090515-cressi-superocchio
Cressi Superocchio

Freediving material is all about the right equipment for the best experience. As for freediving masks, there is a wide variety of masks available. What do you want to look out for and how did we come to our choice of freediving mask.

I think that if you narrow it down, a freediver will choose a mask and go by this mask for a long time. A good example of this is that I met Jorg in the end of 2003 and cressi superocchio was his choice, today he’s still using that same type of freediving mask (he actually bought this mask in 1998 and is using it as his primary mask since 11 years, the same one!). Although you might have different masks for different applications, your experience is improved by choosing a freediving mask of your liking. In the process of making a choice, every freediver has different reasons to choose a mask over another. Our choices were based on and influenced by the parameters; comfort, volume, material & durability. Ultimately these parameters also lead to a good freediving experience, which is the base for our choice.

Comfort
The comfort of a mask will impact a great deal of the way you experience your freediving with it. In our experience you should execute the following tests with a mask, if you want to see if a mask is for you.

img_42191. Testing on land
So the silicon/rubber that is used for the mask should have a good fit to your face profile. A good way to test if a freediving mask fits you is to stand on dry land and press the mask against your face, suck a small amount of air out by your nose. See if the mask will stay on your face while you let gravity try and pull the mask off your face by tilting your head down and look at the ground. Be sure to catch the mask if it doesn’t fit your face profile and before it plummets to the ground ๐Ÿ˜‰

2. Spot pressure points
If the silicon/rubber has a good fit, also check if your nose doesn’t get any pressure points from the frame of the mask. If this is the case, it will lead to an unpleasant felling and it will not benefit your freediving experience.

3. Testing submerged
Now take the mask testing into the water, put it on and submerge your head. Do a small static and see if the fit you checked on land, also proves right when you’re submerged. If there is no water is leaking into your mask, the silicon/rubber is doing it’s job. It might be when you put a smirk/smile/grin on your face that some water leaks in at the nose area, but I think no silicon/rubber can withstand every face motion, so don’t let that influence the overall test.

4. Testing the mask strap
Every mask has a strap that is adjustable to ensure a comfortable fit. Keep in mind that when you’re using a mask for dynamic ways of freediving, speed will prove you need to adjust the strap configuration. You can test this by putting on the mask, adjust the strap to a comfortable level, put on your fins and submerge for a flat out dynamic with fins. Some mask have a low profile and proof to be comfortable even under high speeds, others leak in water and you’ll have to tighten the strap. Be sure to check if you’re still comfortable with the tighter fit of a mask.

Volume
Freedivers from all around are usually looking for a mask with a low internal volume, that way you don’t loose too much air to equalizing the mask. If you’re really keen on checking out what internal volume a mask has in combination with your face profile, you should:

  1. Put on the mask
  2. Submerge your head into water
  3. Let the mask fill with water
  4. Reemerge from the water
  5. Let excess water drip from your face, or dry your face with a towel
  6. Release the water from your filled mask into a bowl
  7. Measure the volume
  8. Compare it to other masks

If you do not wish to take it to the extreme, just find yourself a low profile mask. Low profile means it’s a mask with the lenses close to your eyes. Lens size is smaller than the regular scuba masks. Also the frame size of a low profile mask is smaller than a regular scuba diving mask. Be sure to know what your application for the mask is, because low volume only really counts when you’re freediving into depth’s. Low profile (thus low volume) could be helpful while doing dynamic freedives as discussed before.

Material
The choice of material, especially the see through materials for lenses, is important in making the right choice. Some lens applications are directed at flexibility of the mask, where-as other designs focus on no distortion. The material choice for the frame is subject to the design purpose; flexibility or rigidity. So you might want to choose a design where rigidity is a focus, to ensure there is no distortion in your view. On the other hand you might want to go with the more flexible design, as you’re into deep freediving where the frame will follow your face profile more under the high pressure.

Besides the purpose of the material, the color of the lens can be an issue as well. However these are personal opinions and as far as I know, there are no rules or tricks to find a proper lens color until you’ve tested a mask in your application area. To the readers who do have a tip or trick about this issue, I would like you to comment about it.

It’s quite hard to really determine the material used for the silicone/rubber for the interface with your face and the strap. When you’re testing a mask, you can not test the longterm effect UV and water have on the material. However the things you can check is the flexibility and stretch of the material.

Durability

The material discussed in the paragraph above greatly influences the durability of a mask, but how long you’re able to use one mask depends on the way you use it. The way you treat your mask greatly influences the durability of your mask. Pay attention to the following:

  • Be careful with it and your lenses will stay clear of scratches or cracks.
  • Don’t leave it in the box while it’s still wet
  • Don’t leave the silicon to dry in the sun for hours.

Freediving Experience
All of the parameters will ultimately lead to a mask which will improve your freediving experience instead of ruining the moment. What are the things that can ruin your experience:

  • Negative feeling from the pressure points hurting your face.
  • A high profile mask, which slips down because of the speed in dynamic ยป thus loosing it during your performance.
  • Water leaking in, while you’re on the verge of breaking your personal best in static
  • An imploding mask at depth

Our choice
Because we can’t deny that we own more than one mask, but only use a few types. We will list our favorite masks and why we like them.

Sanne’s favorite masks

Aqualung Sphera
Aqualung Sphera

Aqualung Sphera
+ Flexible frame, good for deformation when diving deep.
+ Flexible lenses, good for deformation when diving deep.
+ Low Volume
+ Silicon fits good, because of flexi frame
+ Low profile, great for dynamic runs without ever slipping off.
– Lens material (scratches easily)
– Lens assembly design, could lead to lens coming out of frame after extensive usage.
– Low durability

Sporasub Samurai
Sporasub Samurai

Sporasub Samurai
+ Rigid frame
+ Low volume
+ High durability
+ Lens material glass
+/- Silicon sometimes doesn’t totally fit, because of the rigid frame
– Medium profile, would slip if I swim fast during dynamic
– Has some pressure points to my face, but minimal.

Jorg’s favorites

20090515-cressi-superocchio
Cressi Superocchio

Cressi superocchio

In short, this is the same mask as the Sporasub Samurai. Here are Jorg his points why he favors it, written down by him:
+ Lowest volume for my face
+ Best fit for my face
+ Great durability of mask strap: already used it for at least 2000 freediving sessions
+ View is good enough, allows you to concentrate with not flashing lights from the sun
– Profile is not ideal, but then again, nor am I

7 thoughts on “How to choose a freediving mask?”

  1. Dear Sanne,

    It seems to me, that you would be a great teacher!
    Never thought that you would have so much patience
    to explain things. So you have unexpected qualities,
    and your bubbles are super! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Elly

  2. @Sanne, Have you had a change to try out the Flow mask? I’m using it on all of my outdoor dives now and even though my vision is even more distorted than with the Sphera mask I really like the flow mask. It compresses great and doesn’t push against my nose at depth. Because I keep my eyes closed as much as possible during line-dives, this mask is my current favorite.

  3. Looks like a good mask indeed. As we’re not living nearby your place, I think I’ll just order one to check it out ๐Ÿ˜‰

    PS. This is also a test to see if the comment reply notification works…

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