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?|
Our original post on the Easybreath