Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Easybreath Full-Face Snorkelling Mask. We Don't Know Why You Need It.


Last year we spotted an article in the Daily Mail that hailed a revolution in snorkelling equipment. A mask that let’s you breathe through your nose! In all honesty we paid little attention at the time. Full-face snorkelling masks are not revolutionary; they have been around since the 1950’s in various forms but have never caught on, mainly because they didn’t actually work. Now however we’ve noticed that the Internet is awash with articles, blog posts and images of this new mask. So we thought we’d better have another look, just in case someone really has come up with a full-face snorkelling mask that works. In hindsight, we really shouldn’t have bothered.



The Easybreath Mask is designed and manufactured by the French company Tribord and came about as a response to the problem of people wanting to snorkel, but not being able to because they couldn’t breathe through their mouth. To explain this problem the company released an advertising video where we were introduced to three wannabe snorkellers. Jean-Marc had a terrible problem, every time he put a snorkel in his mouth he felt “oppressed” and found it impossible to breathe. “It just didn’t feel natural” he bemoaned. Yang on the other hand, had leaned his head too far forward, when he first tried the sport, and consequently swallowed the water that entered his traditional snorkel. Yang was so panicked by this event he never tried snorkelling again. Finally there was Catherine. Catherine had dreadful trouble with both putting on and wearing a mask. “I tended to breathe through my nose and therefore suffocate”, she said despondently. “Then it fogged up, I couldn’t see anything, it was too tight and therefore I was really scared”.  All of these snorkelling-preventing problems were solved instantly when they tried the new Easybreath. Jean-Marc stopped feeling oppressed and started feeling more at ease. Yang could move his head as much as he liked and thought that this was just great. Catherine was equally gushing in her praise. “I saw fish, starfish”, she said joyfully. “It’s really great, I felt incredibly free”.

It was not just Jean-Marc, Yang and Catherine who are impressed either. In December last year, the Easybreath Mask won the Oxylane Innovation Award for 2014. Impressive you might think, until you realise that the Oxylane Group is the new name for French sports company Decathlon and Tribord is one of their brands. In a rather tacky ceremony, with dancing girls and overexcited Frenchmen prancing about everywhere, the people who make the Easybreath were presented with the 2014 innovation award by the people who…. Err… Make the Easybreath. Doesn’t look that impressive now, does it? So let’s go back to that advertising video with the oppressed Jean-Marc, Yang with his head issues and the “prone to suffocation” Catherine and see if we can solve their problems without inventing a brand new, revolutionary mask. 

Is it really too difficult for Jean-Marc to learn to breathe through his mouth? All divers and snorkellers have experienced the same issue when they first try the sport. Breathing through your mouth using a demand valve or snorkel takes practice but we would hardly call it an oppressive experience. It’s something that you get used to the more you do it. As for Jean-Marc’s suggestion in the video that breathing through the mouth is unnatural, we imagine that he must never have undertaken any strenuous exercise. Anyone who has ever exercised, run for a bus or had to take the stairs because the lift was broken will know that, as your muscles demand more and more oxygen, you stop breathing through your nose and switch to breathing through your mouth in order to increase the amount of air getting to your lungs. The same thing will happen if you exert yourself when snorkelling. Then there is Yang and his water swallowing issues due to immersing his head too much. This is not an uncommon problem and is easily solved by using a snorkel with a dry-valve purge system. These valves are available in a variety of makes and models. In fact the Easybreath uses exactly the same technology itself! Now we come to Catherine and her problem of suffocating herself and her mask fogging up. We’re worried about Catherine, very worried and here’s why. If every time that Catherine has difficulty getting air through her nose she starts to suffocate, how on earth does she cope when she gets a cold? We don’t want to sound rude here, but open your mouth Catherine and breathe! Seriously, even premiership footballers have mastered mouth breathing so it can’t be that hard. As for mask fogging, this is due to a number of reasons from variations in temperature between the outside and the inside of the mask to the inside of the mask being contaminated with microscopic dirt which moisture can attach to. There are a number of ways to stop fogging from using commercial de-fogging spray to the old tried and tested method of spit and rinse. However the best advice we can give you here Catherine is that when you buy a new mask make sure you clean it thoroughly to remove any remaining contaminants left over from the manufacturing process. Many people claim rubbing the lenses with non-abrasive toothpaste works but we prefer a simple solution of washing up liquid and water – works a treat. There you go Tribord, de-fogging solved without having to design, develop, test and re-test a revolutionary new mask.

Besides, the suggestion made by the company that the Easybreath eliminates the problem of fogging does not stand up to much scrutiny anyway. In fact the Easybreath designers state that their exclusive anti-fogging concept (yes it’s only a concept) is based on the principle of ventilation used on car windscreens (and they never fog up do they?) and only actually works properly in water temperatures over 18 degrees. Umm… That means if the water temperature is below that optimum, the anti-fogging concept stops working. This means snorkelling in the UK and most of the Mediterranean is out of the question.

There are other problems too. The Easybreath cannot be used for breath hold dives, even short ones, due to the fact that you cannot equalise pressure since you can’t get to your nose to pinch it. The volume of air in the mask is also considerably larger than traditional designs and diving down to even the relatively shallow depth of one metre means that the increase in pressure is going to make your face look like a squashed tomato when you surface. 
You can’t do much swimming in the Easybreath either. The Company states on it’s  website: Swimming requires a lot more effort than snorkelling, just as running requires a lot more effort than walking. Swimming training needs a significant amount of oxygen and your body will automatically switch to intensive mouth breathing. At this point, breathing with the Easybreath® would become very uncomfortable. 

Apparently no one at the company bothered to tell Jean-Marc that. Nobody at the company seems to be aware either, that not all snorkelling consists of simply bobbing about at the surface. As some of our other posts have highlighted, snorkelling has some inherent dangers and the ability to be able to swim quickly is damn important. Swimming quickly and being able to breathe too is even more important.
Then there is the problem of sizing. The Easybreath only comes in two sizes, Small/medium and large/extra large. These two sizes the company suggests, encompass 90% of the worlds faces… Really?  Bad luck for the other 10% then. Because it is also a full-face design, beards will play havoc with the seal and based on the FAQ’s on the company website and customer feedback received, there are quite a few other issues. The Mask sometimes leaks, the snorkel sometimes doesn’t work, sand tends to cause things to block, breathing causes a buzzing sound in the mask and the mask is rather cumbersome.
 

1955

All in all the Easybreath seems to be a solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist outside of the mind of the designers. At £35 it’s cheap and unfortunately, with its garish colours and child’s toy-like appearance, it looks it too. The size and shape makes the whole thing unwieldy, the tightening strap has a tendency to break and the entire design limits your snorkelling activities to simply viewing the underwater world from the surface – you could do the same thing from a glass bottom boat. If, like Catherine, you can’t master the survival skill of breathing through your mouth or like Jean-Marc you want an oppressive free snorkelling experience, then the Easybreath will probably suit you – if it fits. If however, you want to experience the underwater world closer up, if you want to be able to swim and breathe at the same time and generally go snorkelling rather than laying dead still, face down in the water, like a drowned fisherman than we think that you, like us, will come to the conclusion that the makers of the Easybreath haven’t come up with anything revolutionary at all. Instead they have re-visited an old idea that didn’t work and come up with a new idea that doesn’t work either.
 

9 comments:

Gary D said...

A little warning if using the easybreathe mask.

I almost drowned in the Red Sea, Sharm el, sheik, Egypt 16th October 2015.

I had ventured of the reef snorkeling for around ten minutes when I had to swim against the current to reach the jetty. Having to exert myself I found it hard to breathe and get enough air. This resulted in me hyperventilating. I had to remove the mask and try to stay above the waves to get air to breathe.

As I struggled to regain control of my breathing I realised that I could not make it back to the jetty with or without use of the easybreathe mask. My only option was to swim into the reef wall where I received bad cuts to my feet and legs.

I exited the sea relieved to have escaped with my life.

I feel this mask is not suitable if you need swim a lot while snorkeling as it does not provide sufficient airflow.

Gary

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Hi Gary,
Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. The company does make it clear in the literature that exertion, as in swimming for your life, is not what the mask was designed for. However your comments clearly illustrate why making a mask that does not allow the user to breath properly when exerting themselves is not just foolish, but potentially fatal. We're glad to hear you escaped with only minor injuries and thanks again for telling us about this incident. Let's hope the people who make the easybreathe are paying attention as well.

fran B said...

Just back from Crete the family invested in the easybreathe masks. Had problems with the lower side vents getting blocked. Inside if suncream is a factor. Can I post a photo on this site ? Jury still out. Fran

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Hi Fran
Send the photo to our email address and we'll do the rest

Alan said...

Hi Dangerous Snorkeling Club, really appreciate this post. I was so dissapointed in the Tribord for my swimming. Just can not get enough air when I do laps. I have been trying to find a full faced swim mask with snorkel for swimming, but just can not find. Any Suggestions? alan_champagne@yahoo.com.

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Hi Alan,
We don't know of any full face mask that doesn't suffer from the same issues as the Tribord. However Speedo does a range of snorkels for swim training and there is the Ameo Powerbreather. It is a little expensive but was specifically designed for swim training.

If anyone else out there has any ideas that could help Alan, let us know

Cheers


David said...

Hello,

I tried it too today in Hawaii and I almost died. At first I found it really cool to have that sensation of breathing in the water but then I ventured a little bit further than I usually do from the shore and when I tried to come back I had to swim against the current. For some reason the closer I was getting to the shore and the less air was in the mask, at some point I was suffocating in the mask my only option was to remove it. I'm not a very good swimmer so when I removed my mask I almost drown in the panick that followed. I shouted for help. By chance there was 8 feet of water below me and the ground, when I came down I found the strength to push back in front and reach 7 then 6 feet and walk my way up to the shore. Long story short, I almost died today and I probably should have spend more time learning about that mask. If you're not a good swimmer I would definitely not recommend you that device unless you're taking a lot of precautions and adding maybe like a floating belt for more safety.

Helaine Collova said...

I just returned from Belize where my husband I went snorkeling on the reef - I owned by Easybreathe for a few years now and LOVE it! I purchased 2 other masks for my husband and an extra one since we seem to have friends that love to use ours - well, not sure if it is a new design or defective product - BOTH masks had the inside nose retaining clip fall out - which now the masks fogs up and both masks leak and the snorkel bobber was broken in half- we had all types of people try the masks and it was not a size issue. I have pictures of one of the issues - the plastic nose clip - it appears the newer masks I purchased are not as "heavy duty" or well made as the original one I purchased a few years back - very disappointed. I hesitate purchasing another one since I will have 3 masks that I can not use!

William said...

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