It’s time we talked about an important question that’s been popping up on snorkel websites and message boards everywhere. It’s controversial but it’s relevant to the safety of everyone out there who likes to dabble in snorkelling:
Are full face snorkel masks safe to use?
They came out of nowhere, they conquered the world of snorkelling, they changed the game and have been picked up by avid snorkellers everywhere.
Ninja Shark is all about safety and this is what you can find in this article:
We are here to innovate and improve, and since day 1 we’ve heard about all the CO2 danger claims we stood up and made a lot of changes. There are a series of improvements like: wider tube, separate breathing channels for inhaling and exhaling, extra exhaling channel, extra uni-directional valves – just to name a few).
As much as we do care about safety, we know how media loves to spread false claims just to raise their clickbait or audience. Find out the breakdown what really happened and real stats that you won’t find in the headlines.
Great question after so many details, right? We don’t want to scare anyone from doing one of the best water activities, but when you’re out in the water, you’ll always be in a bit of danger. Making sure you’re equipped with durable, trustworthy, and safe snorkelling equipment is the first step to preventing those dangers.
1. But do full face snorkel masks put a user in danger?
As avid snorkellers and passionate producers of the full face snorkel mask, we take this issue extremely seriously here at Ninja Shark.
We’ve raided the internet for all the information we could find about the safety of full face snorkel masks. After taking in all the different facts, data, and opinions from different sources, we put together this article. We want to keep our customers safe, informed, happy, and confident while snorkelling.
This article will examine why full face snorkel masks are being claimed as ‘unsafe’ for use, going into the different dangers involved, the claims of CO2 build up, how the Ninja Shark snorkel masks compare, and how you can stay safe while out in the open water.
2. Where did full face snorkel masks come from, anyway?
One of the first questions people ask when doubting the safety of full face snorkel masks is asking, where the heck did they come from anyway? It seems that throughout history there’s always been one snorkel mask on the scene, the traditional two-piece mask. Full face snorkel masks are too fancy, too innovative, and too fresh to be considered legitimate by some people.
But just because they’re a newly developed product, it doesn’t mean that they’re not safe for use. Full face snorkel masks were first released around 2014, by two major, well known manufacturers. A lot of work, time, and effort had gone into the design of these new full face snorkel masks, introducing a whole new system of breathing and air circulation. For the first time ever, snorkellers were given the ability to breathe through both their nose and mouth, making snorkelling way more natural and enjoyable.
And that’s why they were such a popular hit – full face snorkel masks are an innovative solution that took a little too long to come out. Since the initial released in 2014, several other manufacturers have improved on the design, developed their own unique features, and taken the full face snorkel masks from good to great.
3. How full face snorkel masks became a knock-off
The full face snorkel masks’ success was as much of a stroke of good luck as it was a stroke of bad. As with anything that becomes too popular, others will always want to cash in on the success. And that’s exactly what happened with full face snorkel masks.
Initially a product of passionate, dedicated manufacturers who truly wanted to create a useful and valuable product, full face snorkel masks became a chance for unethical businesses to make some easy money. Along with the exceptional designs by legitimate manufacturers came copies and poor quality drop-shippers directly from China.
Appealing to those who’re looking for something easy and cheap, the Chinese drop-shipped masks were sold on websites like eBay or Amazon for next-to-nothing. How do you know a bargain isn’t a bargain?It’s too bloody cheap for what it is! If you’re purchasing a piece of equipment that’ll have you breathing underwater, you want to invest a good amount of money into it. You want to make sure it won’t break down, leak chemicals, stop working halfway while you’re underwater.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing more appealing to a market than the promise of cheap goods. People love nothing more than a good discount, and if they can find a full face snorkel mask that’s ridiculously affordable, they’ll buy it. It won’t work properly, they’ll be disappointed, and then maybe even injured. This is where a huge danger of full face snorkel masks lies.
4. Why you don’t want to buy a cheap snorkel mask
Look, we understand the allure. It’s so cheap, you’re thinking that it’s just a mask anyway, and what do you need to splurge all of this money on? Cheap, drop-shipped, full face snorkel mask knock-offs might look good in the pictures online, but there’s a whole lot else that’s failing behind the scenes.
If you have a look on those imported snorkel mask pages, you’ll find a lot of 1 star reviews. People mention the snorkel float getting stuck in the tube, air being cut off, masks leaking, and pieces not fitting in together properly. Silicone that’s of a poor grade lacks flexibility and can be very painful on the skin. All of the fun of snorkelling? Replaced by these inconveniences.
It’s also important to note that when you buy a full face snorkel mask, you want to make sure it’s designed to be flexible and fit on your face properly. If the orinasal pocket (that part which covers your nose and mouth) doesn’t properly seal over your face, then you’ll be exhaling carbon dioxide back into the mask rather than expelling it out of the snorkel. The moisture will cause your snorkel mask to fog up, and the carbon dioxide poses a real danger of unconsciousness.
5. Full face snorkel masks and CO2 build up
You might be thinking: ‘Wait, carbon dioxide build-up? Danger of unconsciousness? That doesn’t sound safe’… and you’d be right!
So what’s the deal, here?
How can full face snorkel masks be safe for use if they pose the risk of inhaling carbon dioxide?
The answer is simple: they don’t.
And again, it all comes back to whether you’ve purchased your full face snorkel mask from a dedicated manufacturer or a Chinese knock-off. First of all, you want to make sure you have a good idea of how a full face snorkel mask works before heading out to sea. Simply chucking on the mask and breathing whichever way you like won’t do here.
Try to be aware of the following:
When human beings breathe in and out, we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When we’re exercising, our body needs more oxygen to provide us with energy, and so our breathing increases. While we breathe faster, we also have more shallow breaths, and this is where CO2 becomes an issue.
There’s more carbon dioxide in our exhalations than there is oxygen in our inhalations. If we’re constantly exhaling in an enclosed space then we won’t be able to exhale deeply enough to push out all the carbon dioxide. It’s like breathing into a plastic bag – the CO2 will all build up inside the enclosed space until it becomes toxic, fills up the entire space, and we all fall unconscious.
But any self-respecting full face snorkel mask manufacturer would have taken this into account…
6. Quality full face snorkel masks and CO2 build up
It’s pretty lucky that dedicated designers of full face snorkel masks have taken human breathing process into account when creating full face snorkel masks. That’s why every mask has a separate chamber for breathing and for viewing. The breathing part seals the mouth and nose off from the rest of the mask, forcing carbon dioxide downwards where it can flow out of the sides of the mask.
It’s only when purchasing from a non-dedicated, profit-hungry, cheapo snorkel mask manufacturer that you’ll realise they haven’t put in all the effort to separate the chambers. The snorkel mask might look the part, but it definitely won’t function the way it should. These manufacturers know that they’re not pedaling a good product. They just want to sell it, get it off their shelves, and have little concern for your experience with it.
It’s absolutely essential to understand that the knock-off snorkel masks do little beyond looking like a snorkel mask. They don’t work well, they don’t fit well, and they’ll just cost you time and money that could’ve been spent on a quality piece of material.
7. A response to the CO2 danger claims
Another way to tell a dedicated, passionate snorkel manufacturer from your average knock-off company is through their commitment to developing new and better products that improve on the older ones. Knock-offs will just push out product after product that’s the same as ever, with little-to-no interest in improving their items.
Truly trustworthy brands are consistently working to improve the safety, comfort, and features of their product. At Ninja Shark, that’s our number one priority. We’re not out to sell as many masks as we can, regardless of experience. We’re out to provide a seamless, comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable snorkel experience for everyone.
That’s why when we heard about the CO2 dangers of full face snorkel masks, we immediately got to work designing a new model that would relieve some of these dangers. Our new Equaliser mask, has been heavily improved upon to reduce the chance of CO2 build up. We’ve added an additional exhalation channel and improved on our design to even create a separation between the air exhaled from the mouth and from the nose.
We’re still pushing the innovation, testing it out to perfection, and soon we’ll have an official independent laboratory test to showcase our results. Again, there’s no better way to ensure you’re purchasing a quality product than by seeing the passion and dedication of its manufacturers. We, here at Ninja Shark, we are for the long run, not for one season.
8. Full face snorkel masks and Hawaii deaths
You may have heard about the multitude of snorkel-related deaths in Hawaii. These are one of the biggest ways that news has spread about the possible dangers of full face snorkel masks. Tabloid newspapers, like the UK Daily Mail, are quick to put the blame on full face snorkel masks. But as we know, it’s all too easy to lay the blame on a foreign piece of equipment when the exact details are murky and unknown.
When it comes to snorkelling-related deaths or drownings, too many of these happen out in the open water where nobody is able to supervise or determine exactly what happened to cause the death. For that reason, it becomes easy to consider that the snorkel itself is behind it. These days, it’s all too important to recognise when you’re reading sensationalised media or clickbait.
While the drownings in Hawaii were an extremely unfortunate and sad occurence, we’re not sure if full face masks had much to do with it.
These are the official known statistics about the Hawaii deaths:
10 of the 11 drownings involved men over the age of 50,
2 of the deceased were actually scuba diving and not snorkelling,
3 of the deceased were using traditional snorkel masks and not full face masks,
2 of the deceased were swimming and not even snorkelling,
2 of the deceased were wearing full face snorkel masks,
1 of the victims was actually fishing from a jetty and not swimming.
From these statistics, we can see that only 2 of the 10 victims were wearing full face snorkel masks at the time of death. Yet the papers are all reporting the full face masks as being the culprit. While there’s no way to know for sure what did cause the drownings, it’s quite obvious that a full face snorkel mask wasn’t responsible for the remaining 8 deaths.
This is nothing but a case of media sensationalism, clickbait, and fear mongering. The story sounds intriguing, it mentions full face snorkel masks which are taking over the world by storm, it’s bound to get a lot of clicks and likes. But it’s also bound to share misinformation.
Snorkelling, swimming, and any other water activities always come with an element of risk.
Nobody claimed that the ocean was safe! It’s always important before heading out into the open water to make sure that you’re familiar with the beach conditions and rips, or go in with a more experienced buddy.
The Hawaii related deaths could have been nothing but the result of unfortunate inexperience and erratic weather conditions. There’s no way to know for sure, and we think it’s about time that full face snorkel masks stopped getting the blame.
9. Misuse of full face snorkel masks
Another way to turn full face snorkel masks from fun into “possibly fatal” is by misusing the product itself. We hate to tell people what to do, but when it comes to keeping safe and saving life, we reckon it’s okay to do it. If you’re planning on purchasing a full face snorkel mask, please remember that this isn’t an opportunity for you to run wild in the water.
Sure, snorkelling is made easier, breezier, and more free, but that doesn’t mean you can just let go of all the precautions you’ve been taught all these years. Full face snorkel masks have been designed for a relaxing, smooth, and slow snorkelling experience. Snorkelling itself was never intended to be a high intensity sport or activity, it’s a way to peacefully stroll through the ocean and admire its plant and animal life. Snorkelling isn’t going for a run, it’s going for a slow dawdle. For that reason, you should try to always swim slowly and avoid going too fast, which can cause shallow and fast breathing (thereby releasing more carbon dioxide into your mask).
Full face snorkel masks have also been specifically designed for surface swimming. The idea is to stick to the surface of the water and enjoy the views from afar. This is taken into account when designing the full face mask, no manufacturer is out there designing a snorkel mask that goes beyond the surface. Because that’s not what snorkelling is! For this reason, it can be hard to equalise properly with a full face snorkel mask. If you want to go freediving, use a traditional snorkel mask. If you want to do some really extensive open water swimming, again, go for a traditional snorkel mask or even a scuba diving mask.
10. Staying safe while using a full face snorkel mask
Okay, so you’ve got a full face snorkel mask and you’re pretty sure it’s from a dedicated, trustworthy manufacturer. What else can you do to ensure you stay safe while out in the water? It’s not always build up of carbon dioxide/CO2 that poses a threat with full face snorkel masks, so it’s important to take the following safety measures before heading out to play:
Practice putting on and taking off your mask – Sounds boring, but very necessary. You’ll want to make sure you can confidently put on and take off your snorkel mask without an issue before you head out to sea. There are all kinds of situations out in the open water that’ll have you needing to put on and take off your mask quickly, and you wanna make sure you can do that without panic and disruption. Practice until it becomes a smooth, easy transition that’s familiar.
Know the signs of CO2 build up – You should still know the signs of CO2 build up on the off-chance that something goes wrong with your mask. Rather than wait until you’re convulsing or in a coma, know the signs early on so you can take off your mask quickly (using the practice you did before!)
Early signs of carbon dioxide poisoning include breathing difficulties, hyperventilating, dizziness, sleepiness, or impaired consciousness. If you do feel any of these symptoms while swimming, stop as soon as you can and take off your snorkel mask to release the CO2.
Practice equalising – Look, if you really want to go below the surface, it’s a free country. We’ll remind you that full face snorkel masks aren’t built for that purpose and impart you with some tips. Since there are no nose plugs on a full face mask (unless you’ve purchased our Pinch Your Nose & Equalise! mask), it can often feel like you’ve got suction cups on your face if you try to go too deep underwater.
This is because the pressure is difficult to equalise. Some people find no issue with the weird sensations of a full face snorkel mask, while others get deeply uncomfortable. There are different tips and tactics you can try to equalise with a full face snorkel mask on, but it’s always important to test this out in a easy snorkel spot with lots of supervision before giving it a go in open waters.
Go with a mate – We can’t stress it enough, but snorkelling is a buddy activity. It’s all too easy for things to go wrong, and without someone nearby, you can be difficult to spot and save from the shore. Always take a mate with you, it’s heaps more fun, and you’ve got the added sense of safety from having a companion there. This will help dissipate any fears, anxieties, worries, or panic while out in the water.
Know the ocean conditions – One of the likely factors with the Hawaii deaths was lack of experience in ocean conditions. As fun as it is to snorkel somewhere new and different, always be aware of the conditions and if you don’t have a buddy then make sure you’re in constant view of a lifeguard. Sometimes there’ll be lots of jagged rocks under the water, there’ll be rips, currents, and other dangers like jellyfish or sharks in the area. Make sure you’ve sussed out your spot before you head for a snorkel.
Don’t push yourself – We all do it. You’re out there having a great time, start to experience some discomfort, but convince yourself it’s no big deal so that you can keep playing in the water. It’s extremely important when snorkelling not to push yourself. The last thing you want is to hold out and hold out on a bit of pain, then allow it to go too far while you’re out in the middle of the ocean.
Stop as soon as you feel the onset of discomfort, pain, or tiredness, and you can always jump back in the water later. If you’re too scared of disappointing your snorkel buddy by cutting the trip short, don’t worry about it. Your safety is more important, and we’re sure they’d rather be out of the water a little early than stuck having to try to save your life out at sea. Buy them a beer on land and you’ll be right.
Know how to do stuff– Don’t just grab your fancy new snorkel and run out to sea in a fit of excitement! Before you head out snorkelling, make sure you know how to defog your mask, purge your snorkel, take your fins on and off in the water, and do all the necessary things. Don’t do anything for the first time while out in the middle of the sea.
11. So, should you buy a full face snorkel mask?
Many of you reading this may be doing so to get a good idea on the product before making the purchase. You’ve heard the danger claims and want to find out for yourself.
So what’s our final opinion on this matter?
Well as a full face snorkel mask manufacturer, we may seem a little bias, but here’s our completely objective perspective on the matter:
In all of the articles we read, in all of the internet, there was not a single article or piece of news out there that put the blame of full face snorkel masks on the contraption itself.
Instead, the warnings were repeating the same bits of information:
Don’t buy a cheap knock-off,
Go for a brand that’s passionate & constantly innovating,
Know the dangers of snorkelling before heading out to sea.
Don’t fall prey to media sensationalism and fear mongering. Yes, there have been injuries due to the use of a full face snorkel mask.
Were those masks of a high quality, however? Probably not.
Were those snorkellers aware of all the possible dangers and ocean conditions? It’s hard to say.
All we can offer you is the following advice.
When you’re out in the water, you’ll always be in a bit of danger. Making sure you’re equipped with durable, trustworthy, and safe snorkelling equipment is the first step to preventing those dangers. Having confidence with your snorkel mask, going with a buddy, and knowing when and how to stay safe is second to that.
Snorkelling is fun, peaceful, enjoyable, and relaxing, but the whole time you’re out there you’ve gotta also make sure you’re alert, aware, focused, and ready to respond to dangers. Take care, be aware, and your snorkel worries will be rare!