The Snorkel Mask Debate: Traditional Tube or Full-Face?

World Oceans Day, June 8th, is a “global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future,” according to The Oceans Project. Although it’s not known exactly who started World Oceans Day, it has been promoted and supported around the globe, led by The Oceans Project since 2002.

As an avid new diver, passionate snorkeler since age four, and lover of turquoise seas, every day is a great day to celebrate the bliss of blue and bubbles. Living in coastal Colombia, with its bounties of beautiful sea creatures and variable gardens of corals, there’s always an opportunity waiting to explore.

Diving among amazing barrel sponges in Isla del Rosarios photo ©

Whether you visit the vast reefs of Isla del Rosarios, the shallow waters surrounding Playa Blanca, or the sea of seven colors in Isla San Andrés, you will want to carry a snorkel mask, an item as common as sunscreen and a towel in most beach bags around the coast.

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A Tale of Two Masks: Traditional Tube and Full-Face Ready for Testing

Traditional Tube Snorkel Mask

For many people, the traditional mask is a piece of equipment most feel comfortable wearing for sea exploration. For some, this mask evokes childhood memories of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (1968-1976), while others may picture James Bond snorkeling with Domino in Thunderball. Whatever your vision, this mask is tried and true, and good for daily use.

Watch the moody intro to Thunderball, with theme song by the infamous Tom Jones

Traditional Tube Mask at Playa Blanca, Barú

The mask shown here is flexible, durable and, although a little uncomfortable to wear at times, provides a decent diving and snorkeling experience in most seas. It was received as a gift from a major US retail store and has long since exceeded its original purchase price of $35 USD with frequent use in adventures around Colombia.

Scuba do: Traditional tube mask exploring

The pros of this mask include an adjustable head strap and bead-stopper to keep the breathing tube from being waterlogged. The cons are deep face markings that last for hours after some long-term snorkeling, and the occasional headache or jaw pain from gripping the mouthpiece for an extended period of time.

Although these types of masks will leak if not sized properly, overall they are the standard choice for divers and snorkelers. Traditional masks come in a variety of sizes and quality, ranging from inexpensive kid versions to pricey, professional grade models.

Interested in purchasing a good dive mask? Check out Scuba Diving Dreams Top 10 for 2017

Disclaimer: The full-face mask in this article was purchased online for $52 USD from a retailer who used a trademark name in describing the mask. Purchased in haste the day before returning to live in South America, it arrived as a bootleg copy of the popular maker’s mask. Rather than return it and go without, the option was to bring along the bootleg and try it out.

Full-Face Snorkel Mask

The full-face mask, not to be confused with a full-face diving mask, has some speculation over its inventor, but many people believe this to be a French company that developed its version of the full-face snorkel mask.

Read this awesome article from Manfish on the Evolution of the Modern Diving Mask

Ready to try the Full-Face (Bootleg) Mask

The first noticeably different feature on the bootleg full-face mask versus and the French maker’s mask is the small “vent” which resembles a resting fan blade. The vent in the bootleg model is in the center, below the chin, while the vent in the French maker’s mask is on the rubber breathing side panels that rest on the face inside the mask.

Pressing on a proper fit with the Full-Face

In using the bootleg full-face mask, this small vent either continuously fills with water or remains nice and dry, there is no in between mode. Another strange characteristic of the bootleg full-face is the nose-and-cheek, forced pressing sensation as a result of going below the surface.

Awesome surface snorkel with 180° view

It’s true most divers do enjoy the occasional submersion to go closer to view a bottom-dwelling starfish or peer daringly into a lobster’s den. For surface snorkeling, the full-face mask performs well, with the suction level steady; however, the suction around the face seems to tighten drastically when diving down, creating an uncomfortable pressure on the nose and cheek area.

Hmm… did he use a traditional tube or full-face snorkel to find these guys?

While not having to breathe through a tube requires some adjustment (like remembering not to breath through the mouth into the mask), the 180° view provided by the full face mask, it’s highest marketable selling point, does prove to be quite stunning when surrounded by sea creatures.

Reaping the benefits of a 180° view

Unfortunately, the cheaper, imitation version of the full-face mask proved itself to be just that, as one of the adjustable strap locks on the back broke after the fifth or sixth use in the water. While a future investment will probably be made towards a quality full-face mask, the bootleg mask is still usable, it just requires extra adjustments around the head.

With the Caribbean sea being so beautiful at times, it’s almost tempting to dive in the wild without a mask or swimsuit like the bold Japanese women of Hekura island. As expected, most people are smart enough not to dare to to this, and opt to purchase a snorkel mask early on in their dive life.

Watch this picturesque historic video of the Ama Uminchu divers

Two Ama divers, photo from Deep Blue Home

Instead of going full Ama Uminchu, visit a local dive center for suggestions, choose a mask that works for you, then get out there — to Colombia or wherever your seaworthy heart desires — and enjoy a day of ocean celebration.

Aerial view of Isla San Andres, Colombian paradise ©Kate Dana

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