When the thought of taking your mask off underwater just freaks you out

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

rsingler

Scuba Instructor, Tinkerer in Brass
Staff member
ScubaBoard Sponsor
Messages
6,875
Reaction score
9,341
Location
Napa, California
# of dives
500 - 999
There are a few universal "small hurdles" during the first pool classes when getting Open Water certified. There's that first time you inhale from your regulator when submerged...the first time you have to take your second stage out of your mouth...or getting water up your nose. Some folks seem to handle them easily, and others struggle. It's a mental challenge.

As an instructor, though, there is one issue that bedevils a few students that occasionally seemed to defy fixing: fear at the prospect of taking their mask off underwater and breathing from their regulator as they swam around the pool. The purpose, of course, is to be able to self-rescue if the strap of your mask breaks and you lose it. You and your buddy calmly ascend to the surface, with both breathing, but only one wearing a mask and guiding the pair.

When you are having a hard time doing this successfully, you get water up your nose. When that happens at the bottom of the pool, it can be panic-inducing. Over the years, I have had repeated students with this issue that just wanted to quit, and it became an obsession for me to figure out a way to train them to control that muscle in their soft palate, so they could breathe only through their mouth.
A side benefit is easier mask clearing and less mask fogging, because warm moist air coming out of your nose during a dive will condense on a cold mask.

If you have, or fear you might have that problem, here is my method for curing it. It's silly, but it just works.

I ask my students (in a quiet room, and usually by themselves so they don't get embarrassed), to slowly say "Tonka" (as in toy Tonka Truck) over and over and over, fifty times.
I ask them to feel in their bodies for that moment when their nose/palate shifts from N to K. I ask them to feel that muscle close off their nasal passage for the hard "K".
Next, I ask them to say the syllable "K" (sounds like "kuh") after Tonka, e.g., "Tonka...kuh". Yep...another fifty times, "Tonka, kuh!"
I explain that they have just taught themselves what it's like to close off that muscle.
NEXT, the exercise is to say "Kuh!" and then inhale through pursed lips, like sipping through a straw. Pursing the lips really seems to make a difference, btw.
You get it..."Kuh!...then suck in", fifty times, without breathing in through the nose.

Now the students are closing off the soft palate and immediately breathing in without inhaling through their nose!
Enough repetition, and this is usually enough to get them to pass their (previously failed) no mask breathing drill.
Obviously, it also works to solve this mask fog issue.

But if it's STILL a problem, the graduation exercise (now that they know they can close that muscle, at least on land) is to try to REVERSE the process:
You know that disgusting old man who clears a gob of snot in public? Well, that's sort of where we're heading...:facepalm:
At the moment the student starts to say "Kuh!", I ask them to stop before any air comes out their mouth. It's just a "K!"
At that moment (and this one usually takes a moment to figure out), I ask them instead to exhale a little puff through their nose, and NOT through their mouth, while they keep that muscle closed. It sort of sounds like getting ready to snort.

After all the practice closing that muscle to prevent exhaling through their nose ("Tonka...kuh!"), a deliberate action to snort through the nose and NOT the mouth suddenly makes the light bulb go on. They can control that muscle! They were closing it, and now they deliberately had to open it (even though that's the opposite of what they want to do with their mask on). They have control of the muscle!

Now we put a mask on, and they purse their lips and pant in and out, breathing through their mouth only (while thinking "Kuh!") and they have compete control of that muscle. No mask fogging. No problem passing no-mask swim. They can feel when that tiny flap of soft palate presses against the roof of their naso-pharynx.

That's my system. Being silly about it in class actually seems to make it easier.
 

rabe

Contributor
Messages
565
Reaction score
284
Location
Brisbane
# of dives
200 - 499
I've never had that problem, but interesting to read!
 

wetb4igetinthewater

Instructor
Scuba Instructor
Divemaster
Messages
7,515
Reaction score
6,108
Location
Seattle
# of dives
500 - 999

gr8jab

Contributor
Messages
629
Reaction score
380
Location
Oregon, USA
# of dives
100 - 199
I have conscious control over those muscles. I have no problems removing my mask for extended periods of time, and practice it with an instructor (solo skill refresher) once in a while.

Where I struggle is the unconscious state of those muscles. If I don't pay attention I end up nose-breathing a little out my mask. Although not a big problem, it does sometimes accelerate mask fogging. Also, as that air bubbles out of my mask, I think a little water comes in. It doesn't bother me and I clear most of it. However, when I invert (looking over my shoulder or above me for my buddy) it drains straight down my nose. Yuck.

Any tips to help me minimize my nose/mask exhale?
 

wetb4igetinthewater

Instructor
Scuba Instructor
Divemaster
Messages
7,515
Reaction score
6,108
Location
Seattle
# of dives
500 - 999

KatieMac

Contributor
Messages
2,163
Reaction score
2,376
Location
Small town Ontario, Canada
# of dives
100 - 199
My instructor just asked me if I was going to cry like a girl after I failed at the skill about 10 times. It worked. I did it perfectly the next time.

Now, in fairness to my instructor, he had known me for a while and knew exactly what to say to get me through the skill. And I doubt he's ever done this with any of his other students. :wink:
 

wetb4igetinthewater

Instructor
Scuba Instructor
Divemaster
Messages
7,515
Reaction score
6,108
Location
Seattle
# of dives
500 - 999
Meh... Those skills aren't really difficult. What I lack is the mindfulness to not nose-exhale (just a little) when I'm busy enjoying the diving.
It isn't just for people who have difficult. But sticking your face in water with a snorkel and practicing breathing in/out of your nose is the point.
 
OP
rsingler

rsingler

Scuba Instructor, Tinkerer in Brass
Staff member
ScubaBoard Sponsor
Messages
6,875
Reaction score
9,341
Location
Napa, California
# of dives
500 - 999
Meh... Those skills aren't really difficult. What I lack is the mindfulness to not nose-exhale (just a little) when I'm busy enjoying the diving.
Is the problem perhaps that you're in fact chanting, "Omm" during that blissful dive?

(Just teasing!) :D
 

MaxBottomtime

Contributor
Scuba Instructor
Divemaster
Messages
9,924
Reaction score
11,124
Location
Torrance, CA
# of dives
2500 - 4999
I used to tell students that there are skills that are required, such as mask removal and walking backward in your fins during a shore entry, but once you get certified you may never need those skills. I have nearly 2500 dives and have never taken my mask off in the water and walk into the surf holding my fins.
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/perdix-ai/

Top Bottom