Axel’s first Full Face Mask Dive.

For almost a month, my class has taken a very exciting new step in our diving education: we have initiated our training in full face masks! This unit has provided us with a proper introduction to the necessary skills and discipline for safe and effective use of full face mask, and we continue to practice and hone our skills.

Believe it or not, we kicked the unit off with a test! It was a test of each individual’s ability to read and follow directions. There was a hidden trick in it, and the majority of the class failed the test! The moral of the experience, as Lenny would later explain to us, proud of himself, was that the importance of carefully and thoroughly observing and following directions in this stage of our training could not be emphasized enough. As always, the majority of what Lenny and Zoe do always has a valuable lesson behind it.

We then got the opportunity to physically interact with and observe the full face masks in addition to watching instructional videos and (carefully) reading the user’s manual. We were taught to identify the numerous different parts of the mask, followed by how to properly don the mask and breathe from it. Then came the most exciting part: the pool!

In our briefing, we were given the layout of our expected accomplishments for the session. We would first station ourselves in the shallow end of the pool and submerge our heads with the masks in order to experience the unique sensation of a new field of vision and a new freedom of breathing (through the nose!!!). Next, we would transition to the deep end for equalization practice in the new mask. Finally, we would conclude with a move back to the shallow end for practice in removing the mask underwater and putting it back on. I was slightly intimidated at the initial thought of it, but I was ready nonetheless!

I was immediately overjoyed and welcoming to the experience from my first breath. The excitement was overwhelming. Though it was very hard for others to hear me, I could actually talk and breathe underwater at the same time! This was the closest I had ever come to being Aquaman.

We then moved to the deep end of the pool and descended, accustoming ourselves to proper equalization in the mask. This was not much trouble for me, for I do not equalize by pinching my nose, but by yawning. Therefore, the new mask made for no increase in the difficulty I had in equalizing.

It then came time for the final skill of the day: mask removal and refastening. My group and I gathered around in a circle and observed a demonstration performed by Zoe. Then, one at a time, Zoe observed the attempt of each group member, sitting right in front of them and ready to take prompt action in the case of a mishap. After watching some of my peers complete the skill, it was my turn. My heart began to gradually speed up. I was able to remove my mask without any trouble, for Zoe had showed us a convenient trick beforehand. I proceeded to breathe from my alternate second stage and fasten my spare mask to my head. I took all the time I needed to assure that every strap on the mask had been loosened entirely before removing my spare mask and sliding my head into the spider strap of the full face mask, only putting the mask itself on halfway. I waited, took one last deep breath from my regulator, and took it out, pulling my mask down over my face as quickly as I could and purging the mask’s regulator. When I took my first breath in, I was horrified to find that water remained in the oral nasal pocket and I inhaled water! I started to panic as my eyes widened and looked to the surface, and I debated standing up and surfacing. But I refused to and I persevered, forcefully exhaling and purging two or three more times before my mask was entirely cleared. I gave the “Ok” to Zoe and received the high-five of approval.

Overall, I had a positive first experience with the full face mask. I was able to grow comfortable in using it as well as take notes of and learn from my mistakes. I am eager to learn more and continue my training!

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