Sunday, 28 February 2016

Full-Face Snorkelling Masks: The Easybreath Insanity Spreads

Back in 2015 we wrote a little post about the Tribord Easybreath full-face snorkel mask. The advertising for this science fiction style snorkel mask claimed that the Easybreath, with its revolutionary design, would open up the underwater world to all those people who didn’t like getting their faces wet or had difficulty breathing through their mouths. The mask's anti-fogging system would also end the niggling problem of having your vision obscured at inopportune moments and thus you'd never have to learn how to clear your mask. The Easybreath was, in essence, the answer to all those snorkelling problems that no one knew existed. Never again would you have to pack a separate snorkel and mask into your already overweight luggage, the Easybreath was an all in one. No more would you have to worry about your snorkel flooding as the Easybreath had a valve that stopped water entering. Never again would you have to worry about learning that most difficult of tasks - breathing through your mouth. And never again would that nasty, salty water have to touch your face. A great product all round then?

Err.... No! As we and a great many others pointed out at the time, the Easybreath is not revolutionary. In fact it is a step backward. Full-face snorkel masks have been around since the 1950's and all of them suffered from a shared flaw, they were rubbish. Let's explain.
Firstly, having your nose cocooned in a full-face design meant that you couldn’t pinch it and therefore couldn't equalise pressure. Diving down even a few metres meant your ears would explode. Then there's the fact that full-face masks have large air volumes by design, so if you did manage to survive your ears exploding two metres down, the air in the mask would compress your face to such a degree that when you surfaced you'd look like Quasimodo's uglier sibling. This means that all full-face masks limit the wearer to simply bobbing about on the surface like a piece of driftwood.
Secondly, all masks are prone to flooding. Whether it's from a seal failure or from being dislodged by wave action or even being bumped by another snorkeller's fin, the risk of water entering the mask is inherent. Snorkels can fail as well. Heavy waves can flood or dislodge them and valves can stick.

With a traditional mask and snorkel this isn't really a problem as your mouth and eyes are separated. But with the full-face design the problem is compounded. If water enters the mask in any real quantity, your breathing and vision are compromised simultaneously. Not a pretty prospect for those people who, as the advertising says, are uncomfortable with getting their face wet. Of course you could say that even this isn't a problem, if water gets in, just stand up and take the mask off. But, what if you can't stand up? What if you have happily drifted around and now find yourself a long way from the shore in deepish water with a mask filling up with water. The chances are that if that happens, the demographic that the manufacturers are aiming this product at will panic, and as all experienced water junkies know, panic kills. 
 
Finally there are a couple of other issues that even the manufacturer admits are a problem. You cannot exert yourself in a full-face mask and by exertion we mean swimming. Here's what the manufacturer of the Easybreath says on their own 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.

What the company is saying here is that you cannot use the mask to do swim training. What they are also saying is that they appear to know nothing about snorkelling or about the dangers of hyperventilating. Being able to swim well and at times, swim fast while breathing, is a very necessary ability if you are going to get yourself out of difficult situations in the sea. Any product that reduces that ability is potentially lethal. Equally, any manufacturer that doesn't believe that such an ability is needed is being rather stupid. Then there is the unique anti-fogging system that only works in water temperatures of 18 degrees. Anything below this optimum and the anti-fogging system doesn't work. Pretty useless then if you're snorkelling anywhere else than the tropics on a particularly hot day.
All in all then the Easybreath mask is a retro step in snorkelling design and we for one thought it would just be another gimmick that died out as quickly as it appeared. Boy were we wrong!

A quick look around the internet and you'll find that there are now a host of manufacturers expounding the benefits of their full-face masks.
There is of course the Easybreath made by Tribord but you can also buy the H20 Ninja mask made by a company in Hawaii, the Aria made by Ocean Reef, the Scubamax, the Neopines, and a great many more. Even Mares, a respected manufacturer of diving equipment for many years, has launched their own version called the Sea Vu Dry. We'd like to take a few seconds here to let out a deep despairing sigh..... Seriously Mares! What were you thinking?
Mares by the way are owned by the Head sports company, who now own the diving certification company Scuba Schools International (SSI). So if you are a diving school franchised to SSI we expect you'll be asked to sell this product to your students/customers – yes you will!


Now, you'd be hard pressed to find any difference between any of these products. They are essentially the same. Clearly, sometime, somewhere, a group of people in suits got together and held a focus group. The result of which (we imagine) was that a series of licences and co-operative programs were instigated to sell exactly the same product under different names to customers in various locations. Just as car manufacturers use the same chassis and engines but change the body shape and badge, the people behind the full-face mask concept have decided to do the same. Although they couldn't be bothered to change the actual body at all and decided that changing the name and colour was good enough. This has led to one of the funniest things we have ever seen. Watch the video below. It was made by the great guys at Deeper Blue and features three salesman from Ocean Reef, H20 Ninja and Mares (sigh) respectively, all demonstrating their full-face masks at the DEMA 2015 show in Florida. Now we don't know if the guys at Deeper Blue were deliberately poking fun but the sight of three salesman looking sheepish as they show off their wares is priceless. The sound is pretty poor in places so you cannot always hear what is being said but you can almost sense the cameraman thinking, “but it's exactly the same as that mask over there, and over there and... That one over there!”


Staying with the car manufacturer theme for a moment, imagine that you bought a car that had sealed windows and an engine that only worked on hot days. It could only reach speeds of thirty miles an hour, wouldn't go up the smallest of hills and the doors rusted away every time it rained . Now imagine you took it back to the salesmen and he said that it wasn't really meant to be used on the road, or at speed or off road or in temperatures below 18 degrees or in the rain. But then offered to replace it with exactly the same car but in a different colour and as a bonus, he'd throw in an action camera mount on the dashboard, would you take his offer?

Full-face masks are the snorkelling equivalent of that car. You can buy them in a variety of colours and with a variety of badges but they are all exactly the same with the same inherent problems. You can't dive with them, you can't swim with them. You can't use them in cold water or rough water. Yes you can mount a camera on the top which will film what you're looking at, but if the mask floods and it can, you will suddenly find you cannot see or breath and your film is going to be a bit jumpy. Still, at least it will provide the coroner with something to look at. Then again, as the manufacturers will no doubt say, these masks are not designed for traditional snorkellers, freedivers or bubble blowers. They are designed for people who are nervous of the sea, who don't like getting their face wet, who can't deal with traditional snorkels or masks and really just want to stay perfectly still and drift about on the surface. 

If this is the case and you are one of the people the manufacturers are aiming at we would like to offer a little piece of advice. Snorkelling is not as easy as some say. You need to be able to swim and swim well, which means you also need to be fit. You need to know how to deal with a mask that floods and a snorkel that fails. You need to understand the dangers of the ocean, its currents, waves, rocks and sea creatures that can sting and bite. If you can't cope with all of these things, then save yourself one hundred bucks or however much these things cost and stay out of the water - because snorkelling is not for you. There is also one other added benefit, you won't look like a twat on the beach.

Oh Mares,,, Why? Why?
Links
Our original post on the Easybreath

An endless stream of reviews of these masks can be found on Youtube, Just click here and enjoy

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was looking at this "matrix" looking mask, I am a climber nd sometimes I dive, Thought was kind of a new concept ( not that i am in that world) .
Thanks for your review, another expensive stuff i dont need ...

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Thanks for your comment anon... We agree, you don't need it.

SharkLens said...

Shark Lens Snorkel Mask is the most innovative and affordable full face snorkel mask a revolutionary Most Affordable Full Face Snorkel.

Snorkel Mask

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Hi Shark Lens. Apart from the cheek of trying to advertise via a comment without asking us - shame on you - we have couple of questions:

1) In what way is your mask innovative when it looks like all the other full-face masks you can buy? In fact, it looks exactly the bloody same!

2) Since it's not innovative, how can it be revolutionary?

3) As for affordable, it appears your mask costs $55. That's more expensive than the original mask by Tribord.

Sorry Shark lens, you don't have a innovative, revolutionary or affordable product. You have a product that's the same as all the other full-face masks on the market and no doubt suffers from the same drawbacks we mention in our posts. Your comment here just proves our point, every seller of these full-face masks seems to think their version is revolutionary and innovative when they are exactly the same..... How insane is that!

Anonymous said...

In Grand Cayman this week and took my 11-yr old son on his first "real" snorkeling trip (which just means an hour swim right off the shore, looking at reefs, some colorful fish, etc.). We had a blast. Of course we had to deal with the usual water in the mask, fog, etc. but it was a great learning experience for him and I calmly showed him the ropes. But......as we exited the water we saw these creatures going by with these full-faced masks. I had never seen before so figured would check out. That led me to this site and this review which is actually quite funny! No surprises, really, but funny to see in print and all put together. I give you an A+ on your assignment....

Anonymous said...

10/31/16
Review of the Azorro full-face snorkel masks posted by me on Amazon, and continuously taken down-- Guy Cooper

My wife just recently drowned using one of these. Stay away! Especially you parents thinking these would be great for your kids! Do some research. These full face masks have all kinds of problems I wish we had known about beforehand. Inconsistent quality. Leaking. Unreliable mechanisms to evacuate pooling water. Air masts that can easily dislodge and air intake valves that can jam. Unable to handle normal snorkeling activity, exertion as simple as swimming can precipitate air hunger potentially leading to hyperventilation, panic and asphyxiation. CO2 buildup in some of these masks can trend to dizziness, disorientation, loss of consciousness and death. These things are strapped tightly around your head and both the nose and the mouth are enclosed together. In an emergency there’s no way to quickly remove one before you are overwhelmed. Despite manufacturers’ claims of ease of use suitable for the beginner, you have to be expert to quickly and properly react to any of the above problems. My wife was not inexperienced, yet she drowned. Please, stay away. I don’t want to see another loved one lost.

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Hi Anon,

Horrified to hear of your wife's tragic death and you have our deepest sympathies. Could you provide some more information, particularly where and when did this tragedy happen? Do you have any media links that we can post up to inform other users? We have never heard of the Azorro mask, do you know who makes this? Finally have you taken your concerns to the local authorities?

Again our deepest sympathies and we would really to hear from you again. If you don't want to post here please use our email link in our profile.



Anonymous said...

You can find media reports by searching for Pohoiki Bay drowning 9/6/16. You can search for the Azorro full face snorkel mask on Amazon. There are a few listings. Read the negative reviews that highlight the problems. I have a public safety concern. These masks are marketed to beginners and kids. Local authorities responding to the incident apparently did not take care to secure the gear my wife was using, as it is currently missing. Also, my research so far has not turned up any stats correlating snorkeling fatalities with the gear the victims used. This needs to be done. I'm continuing to follow up. I can email you more particulars if you wish.

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Thanks for the follow up Guy.

We're pleased to see that your Amazon review is now back up on their website. We agree with you about the flaws in these masks and the inherent risk of CO2 build up. We hope that others take note as well.

Please keep up us updated by email. Just click on The Dangerous Snorkelling Club link at the bottom of any of our posts. This will take you to our profile page then click the email link.

Best wishes
JP

The Baron said...

I have 3 easybreath masks, they are really good for staying on the surface in the shallows and you can go down for shells etc. However after a few times using them they started filling with water as the bottom drain valve had fallen out.

Anonymous said...

If you read, the Azorro mask vents out the bottom. This makes it very easy for CO2 to build up in the mask because it doesn't work well. This is why other brands such as the original Tribord vent it back out a separate part of the snorkel, so this can't happen. I feel styles such as Azorro's should be banned from all countries as it sounds like a cheap and dangerous way of making these masks. I will be trying an original Tribord and appreciate the advice given here. I will see how hard it actually is to remove these masks in an emergency and will keep very close to family members. Thank you so much the warnings.

Nancy E said...

Let me first say that I am a very strong swimmer with over 30 years of ocean swimming and snorkeling experience. I swim regularly as part of my fitness routine, and consider myself to be physically fit. It is not unusual for me to snorkel for a couple of hours in a morning on vacation.
Today I demo'd the Sea Vu Dry full face mask by Head, after a strong sales pitch by a snorkel rental place on Maui. It was a calm day. About 50 yards from shore I noticed that my mask was leaking a very small amount of water at the forehead. I stopped, adjusted the straps and continued. At about the 15 minute point I realized I was breathing more heavily than usual, and made a conscious effort to slow my breathing. After another 5 or so minutes, I again found myself breathing heavily, and made another effort to calm my breathing. At about the same time I started hearing bubbling when I exhaled. I stopped and tread water while struggling to remove the mask and dump some accumulated water. After another 5 minutes of snorkeling I was exhausted, and again, water was leaking at the forehead. I stopped, dumped water out, attempted to put the mask back on, but eventually gave up. My buddy carried the mask back to shore while I swam back.
I would not recommend this mask for anyone. Most families who snorkel together do not have the experience to deal with an emergency in the water, and my swim today might have been a disaster for someone else.

Anonymous said...

Lifes got lost in the sixties when this full face system was first introduced in Norway and I thought it was illegal after that. Therefore surprised to see it back on the market

Anonymous said...

We have been using the "original " tribord one for a year now. I bought them to introduce my son who were 7 at the time to the under water experience. I ONLY use them for surface snorkeling and to make him actually see what's going on under the surface. He loved it as soon at his head got under the water, and we are using them on a daily basis. Just the other day he experienced his first "shock" when he got a bit deeper than he thought and the valve was in the locked mode when he thought he could breathe in. The then just automatically lifted the mask a bit from his jaw and breathed normally. He is 8. I get that the snorkeling community don't like this because it's not real snorkeling or diving. But as a tool to surface snorkeling this actually can be a good start for some people. We will be going over to snorkel and mask later but for now this is what we are using and this works very well. (For what it is used for)

Wildswimmer Pete said...

I use my Easybreath for pool swimming as well as outdoors. I swim at a rate that leads to me burning a measured 800-900kcal per hour that obviously implies I'm pulling in enough oxygen. A performance I can maintain for several hours when taking part in a sponsored charity swim. A stroke led to my breathing being "gaspy" and shallow at times and my GP (US = MD) has advised me to keep using my mask as it's ensuring I'm fully aerated while swimming. The design of the Easybreath avoids any chance of hypercapnia while most municipal pools in the UK don't allow conventional mask and snorkels because of the chance of hypercapnia in elderly swimmers with breathing problems - I'm 67. My local authority risk-assessed me using an Easybreath and now allow others to use them in all three of our municipal pools.

Fogging? Never happened even when using in cold UK waters. Using my mask I'm always swimming with a chest full of air because I can breath normally through my nose - I can literally float just below the surface without moving my limbs. That's in fresh water. In clear waters I can look down and just enjoy the view.

I understand the fatalities you describe were in US waters? Snorkel masks rented to tourists without enquiring about any medical problems and swimming ability? It took me over a week of pool sessions before I considered myself competent to properly use my Easybreath mask - and I've been a swimmer in both open water and pool for over 50 years. I've advised those intending to buy one to be strongly urged to get used to the mask in the warm, sheltered environment of a swimming pool before venturing into open water.

You are criticising a bit of kit that isn't intended for "extreme snorkelling" whatever that means. Snorkel masks are of great help for those like myself who have medical conditions that preclude taking part in scuba activities. The manufacturer specifically mentions that the Easybreath mask is for surface use only so much of your criticism is unfounded. For the record, there have been no fatalities among UK users of Easybreath masks. To my knowledge no-one in the UK rents out snorkel masks. Pointless anyway as the Easybreath only costs £30 to buy new.

The Dangerous Snorkelling Club said...

Hi Wildswimmer Pete,

Many thanks for commenting.
You say your local authority has risk-assessed you using the mask. Could you elaborate as to which authority that was, how the assessment was carried out and the qualifications of the person who did the assessment? We'd certainly like to contact that authority/person and see the assessment etc.


Wildswimmer Pete said...

Firstly, I didn't realise this was a UK site! I can be "sharp" when writing prose as I lost speech, reading and writing after my stroke hence both my speech and prose can still be quite terse. Apologies for that.

I can't really give those details as the risk assessment is confidential - I've never actually seen the documentation. I was verbally advised that I could now use my mask in the pool. The assessment was quite rigid and applied to me personally and the Easybreath mask only, nothing else. I've used the mask for two years without any problems or narrow squeaks which is why centre management have decided to allow others to use the mask as long as permission is first sought. Currently there are three of us using Easybreath masks in our council pools.

Regarding aeration, Tribord actually state the Easybreath is unsuitable for strenuous swimming. I'm quite hefty at 110kg and swim breast, the least efficient stroke of all. It takes a lot of energy to haul my bulk through the water, and I use a Suunto Ambit 3 Sports for swim logging which uses stroke metrics to calculate calorie burn. As mentioned, if I manage to burn up to 900kcal/hr I'm easily pulling enough air through the mask.

I noticed another poster complained about the mask being pushed into their face. It's part of the design - trying to descend below one metre is intended to cause discomfort which will encourage the user to return nearer to the surface. I've found the anti-flooding valve works well should the top of the snorkel become submerged however, as stated in the instructions, should the valve stick closed a sharp exhalation will free it.

A question was raised at an H&S meeting as to how difficult it would for someone to remove my mask should I become incapacitated. As a test one of our lifeguards attempted to remove my mask - result: came off easier than a pair of swimming goggles! As all the "insides" are soft silicone there's no chance of injury.

The person who actually did my risk assessment is a member of senior staff who knows my swimming ability also my state of health.

Could I reiterate? Snorkel masks like the Easybreath are sub-aqua kit and should be treated with the same respect as scuba air bottles and regulator. Read the instructions FULLY before first use. Before going into open water have a few supervised sessions in a swimming pool. Although municipal pools generally ban snorkels in public sessions some allow use in private (club) sessions. Many private pools allow them. Never snorkel alone, always have a companion. Don't try to rent a snorkel mask in a resort and then expect to snorkel in the open sea. That could result in a tragedy. Should you wish to use a snorkel mask on holiday, bring your own. You'll be familiar with its use and also know it's been properly maintained.

Brad Houghton said...

My favorite line in the video..."it comes in 4 colors...black, blue, and green". Nope. I think I'll stick to scuba diving

Tim said...

I was very amazed at the comment that the ears will "EXPLODE" wow.. I ha made over 6000 scuba dives and never heard of anyones ears exploding.. there have been a few with burst ear drum when they over tried to equalize..BUT Exploding...my God...Those kinds of remarks contribute to and other wise interesting article.. These masks/snorkle do need more investigating.

Anonymous said...

I have read people say that the mask is hard to take off and I am not sure I understand that claim. I use Tribord and I simply slip it off... it is super easy. And you slip it back on.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I am a keen diver and anaesthetist in the uk. In both capacities I deal with breathing systems.

These masks are fundamentally flawed in a dangerous way. It is all about the dead-space, the volume of the breathing system before an expiration valve or outlet to the air. This allows re-inhalation of CO2 in previously exhaled air. An average adult breathes in 500ml at rest in comfort (less if you are old or have a chronic ilnessl or young).. Any proportion of this that is made up of previous exhaled gas will draw in CO2 (exhaled gas contains about 5%)This will make someone breathe faster and eventually shallower. If this rebreathing continues the CO2 will build up causing hyperventilation and panic. These masks potentially have over 250ml dead space (more if the valves of internal masks are not 100% sealed. This means half of what you breathe in will be exhaled gas..... with about 5% CO2. As you breathe this in and out the process repeats itself and the CO2 builds up and up. Panic, accidents etc...

These should all be banned. Now.

Wildswimmer Pete said...

@Anonymous
"These masks are fundamentally flawed in a dangerous way. It is all about the dead-space, the volume of the breathing system before an expiration valve or outlet to the air."

There is no "dead air" using an Easybreath mask as there is no mixing of inhaled and exhaled gasses. You get "dead air" in conventional snorkels which is why most local authorities ban their use.

" An average adult breathes in 500ml at rest in comfort (less if you are old or have a chronic ilnessl or young).. Any proportion of this that is made up of previous exhaled gas will draw in CO2 (exhaled gas contains about 5%)"

I'm 68, have asthma and also Stage III heart failure, yet I can swim for literally hours (1500m/hr) using my Easybreath without any change of my respiration rate. My breathing remains deep and steady while I'm maintaining an hourly burn of 800-900 kcals.

"build up causing hyperventilation and panic" which happened to me quite recently in the deep end of the pool - while swimming on the surface just using goggles. My GP confirmed that I should keep using my snorkel mask a.) because it ensures I breath properly while swimming and b.) the confidence given by a chest full of air knowing whatever happens I'll float and still keep breathing as there is a chance I could black out which can happen with heart failure. Pool staff know of my medical condition and they keep an eye on me.

michael Ross said...

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michael Ross said...

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