I’m a Chicago boy…should be used to the cold don’t you think? And here in Northern VA, the diving is a bit “Cool and Refreshing”….maybe down right “Perky” close to half the year. That is the first reason I thought about being a Full Facemask (FFM) diver. That revelation came to me following a regular mask and reg dive with my younger son. We had just excited a dive with the bottom temperature clocked at 48 degrees….My lips were a lovely shade of blue and my mouth was not working…my son took his FFM off, laughed and made fun of my slurred speech due the cold. Although I wouldn’t tell him this…he may have had something there with the FFM.
Since that dive, I acquired a FFM and got myself trained up started diving it, and now I’m a FFM Distinctive Specialty Trainer. Only now am I fully cognizant of all the virtues of FFM diving…and some pitfalls. The value of the mask transcends cold water application. Public Safety Divers use them in polluted waters. Fire and Rescue leverage the communication features and the wide field of view for team dives. Recreational divers can benefit from all of that plus the ability to breath thru your nose!
I just completed leading a trip to the Florida Keys were I had two FFM students, complete with WiFi comms. It was an awesome experience. The wide field of view was great, and the natural “defogging” of the mask, due to design of how the air comes into the mask, was a natural plus. You didn’t miss a thing with these masks. Additionally a properly fitted mask does not leak and is darn near impossible to flood. So we never “Wasted” air clearing masks. The WiFi comms meant that you didn’t necessarily need to see your buddy to stay close and you could immediately share awesome underwater sites, instantaneously and on the fly. In the words of the students, “This was amazing! … And now the “normal” way we will be diving!”
There are some challenges to overcome in FFM diving, and all good reasons to take the Distinctive Specialty. For one, you have to be able to clear your ears reliably. Many FFM’s employ a paddle or plug system that allows you to plug your nose with an upward push of the mask. Others have built in “Pincers” that allow you to pinch your nose. Either method requires the mask to be fitted and aligned properly. Second, In many FFM, the regulator and Mask are integrated. That means if one or the other fails, they both do. So, you need back-ups (extra mask and reg.) Third, FFM are multi-strap systems. They have a procedure to donn properly and to doff properly. Just a little more involved. Finally, if you are diving with FFM divers who are talking to each other, you may feel left out of the conversation, or worse, constantly wondering where they are going as they change the plan on the fly…This is a good pre-dive discussion point!
All and all, I will not give up my Rona mask and SR2….but I will dive FFM time and time again. It is an awesome experience and a tool that can really add to the comfort and enjoyment!