There are many pieces of dive gear that arouse great differences of opinion, and all make for interesting discussions on the dive boat. One of these discussions is the best colour for the silicone skirts of dive masks.
Back when dives masks were pretty much all made of rubber, 90% of them were black, and a few were some pretty ugly shades of green or blue. Most “experienced” divers stayed away from the coloured ones, as they faded out from UV in the hot sun, and became even uglier!
So for years, black pretty much reigned. Then the new miracle material for divers – silicone – came along, and at first, just because it has always been done that way, they were black. Then, the huge phenomenon of CLEAR silicone masks came out, and immediately became popular, especially with snorkelers and new divers. Many people felt that black opaque masks felt claustrophobic, dark, and gave the effect of tunnel vision, and the new clear masks felt much more open, and let more light in.
Millions of nice, bright clear masks were sold in the marketplace, but there is a big problem with that brightness that may people don’t realise until it’s too late. All that light coming in the back of the mask – especially when you are snorkelling face down in the sunshine, or even on scuba in clear, sunlight waters, bounces off the mask lens right into your eyes. The result is you see yourself in the lens, which can be annoying and obstruct some of your vision, but the biggest issue is the bright light tends to make your iris contract, allowing less of the light coming up from below – where all the stuff you are trying see is – to get to your retina. This is really easy to test if you have a clear mask. Next time you are out snorkelling or diving on a bright day – or even just go outside in your front yard if you don’t mind your neighbors questioning your sanity – place your cupped hands on each side of the mask, by the straps and block the light from coming in. I guarantee you’ll see more of the stuff you are looking for below you.
So, you were faced with one of two choices. A nice, bright clear mask that gives you reflections and reduces what you see, or a dark, claustrophobic one that gives you good vision, but makes every dive feel like a cave dive.
Until now. Last year I had my first opportunity to dive with a high quality frameless style mask with a skirt made of pure white silicone. When I first saw it I thought it was a gimmick, or possibly only popular in the Japanese market, where everything in white is very big. I could see no practical reason for it, other than a fashion item to match other white gear.
I was wrong! Once in the water, the aspect was so much nicer than a black mask. The dive seemed bright and open and just great – and then I realized I was seeing no reflections. Ten minutes into that first dive I was sold, and my long trusted black mask has never left my dive bag again, and probably won’t.
Next time you are in your local dive shop, ask to try one on. You’ll be glad you did!