Modern divers don’t know how lucky they are. An example of all the equipment sold in Ocean Leisure has been used and evaluated by someone on its staff and we are confident that it will all do what it promises. However, only twenty years ago there was a lot of diving equipment on the market that was not as good as it might have been. CE regulation and market forces have seen the products for diving mature and the bad old days are long gone but as a scuba diving journalist working for the leading diver’s magazine at that time, I took it upon myself to identify the good, the bad and the downright unattractive! I upset a lot of retailers at that time by promoting a regulator made in the UK by Apeks Marine Engineering. The company had little or no reputation for making good regulators at that time but it came up with a world-beater and I took pleasure in telling the world about it! I took a group of divers to 50-metres deep breathing off a single first-stage. The rest is history.Products were not always good. At the same time a manufacturer with a strong reputation came up with some new fins that were patently ineffective. I told the world. They were soon taken off the market. There were plenty of other products that proved not to live up to their promise: A curved mask that gave distorted vision; a regulator that gave a wet breathe; a full-face mask that had some design defects that were quickly rectified by the manufacturer after I travelled over to Italy to dive with its boss and chief test diver. Then there was the computer that promised more bottom time. It was positively dangerous! The list goes on. There were even some BCDs that exhibited obvious defects once they were under water. You won't find any of those BCDs for sale at Ocean Leisure. Although there was plenty of good stuff too, the list of the less good seemed never ending back in those days and I didn't make myself a favourite with any of the manufacturers. I tried to make comparison tests as fair and objective as possible, for example taking computers on deco-stop dives attached side-by-side on the same rig. I even tested fins with teams of divers using underwater speedometers that I had especially made for the job. I'm pleased to report that all the diving fins offered for sale at Ocean Leisure did very well in the tests and most of those that did not have sunk without trace. So now when customers are confronted with a choice of similar products we can have the confidence to say that the right one is the one that suits you! The people at Ocean Leisure have masses of accumulated experience and they are happy to pass it on to you. Come in for a chat.
It’s always nice to get something new. My favourite old mask had seen better days. Its silicone skirt had yellowed and stiffened with time and probably too much exposure to tropical sunlight so I got hold of a new one. The staff at Ocean Leisure avoid recommending any particular mask from the huge range they carry because a mask is such a personal item. Instead, they encourage you to come in to the store and try them all so that you go away with one that sucks on to your face nicely and thereby does not leak. I’m very lucky in that I seem to have a face that gets along with almost any mask despite my ill-groomed facial hair and the latest TUSA mask was said to have a super-flexible silicone skirt so fit was never a worry. They say that there are two types of people past middle-aged: Those who wear glasses and those who never read books. What was a worry was the fact that in common with many people over the age of forty-five (I’m well over that) my eyesight is no longer as good as it was. Similarly, many people suffer short-sightedness from birth and wearing a mask in conjunction with contact lenses can inhibit the freedom to take it off underwater. I still remember the time it took me to feel carefully along the bottom of a swimming pool in a desperate search after one of my trainees lost a contact lens during a mask removal exercise. Naturally, I found it. A good instructor as ever, I wasn’t ever going to let anything spoil my trainee’s day. When it comes to choosing a mask, if you are so afflicted by imperfect vision, you’ll want a mask that will take prescription lenses and that reduces the choice available. However, it’s a much better option than battling with contact lenses underwater. Now, I might add that you may not need lenses that completely match your prescription since even the clearest seawater is quite poor optically but an approximation with do and go a long way to getting you the maximum enjoyment from getting your head underwater. If you want to be good at something, you’ve got to practise. I took home my shiny new mask and a set of lenses with the intention of installing them. I’ve worked in the diving industry for a generation and yet I found difficulty in taking the mask apart. Even a phone call to the distributor who sent me a special tool for the job left me pondering how to get the old glasses safely out. It’s simply that every mask seems to be different and I’d only done this about once every five years. If I had been clever, I should have let one of the helpful staff at Ocean Leisure do it for me. They do it virtually every day. Well, I managed to successfully install the new lenses at the end. I then merely had to get rid of the inevitable and invisible silicone deposit that gets on to the inner side of the mask glass during manufacture. The safest way too do that it to rub a bead of old-fashioned white toothpaste around the surface to gently abrade the silicone deposit off. Otherwise, it gives an edge for tiny droplets of moisture to cling to, precipitated out of the damp air inside the mask while you are using it with the dreaded fogging effect. After that, each time before you go under water, simply spit on the inner side of the mask glass and rub the saliva around before giving it a rinse in seawater. If you don’t fancy doing that, there are proprietary products available that do the same job. When it comes to choosing a skirt, the choice is usually between clear silicone or opaque silicone. Some divers swear that a mask with a black skirt gives them better vision. I suggest that a transparent skirt gives you a better feeling for what’s around you. Just like driving a car and looking through the windshield, the side windows of the car don’t destroy your forward vision but certainly make the car less claustrophobic. That said, some like to look like Zorro or Batman with a black-skirted mask and who am I to argue with that? It’s a question of personal preference. My best advice is to get one that fits you well with lenses that suit your eyesight. Almost without exception, the people at Ocean Leisure can either fit factory-supplied lenses or lenses with specific prescription to any mask you choose from the wide range available in-store.