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.
Ocean Leisure Diving and Photography Blog
I used to be technical editor of Diver Magazine, but after twenty-one years as an active diving journalist, travelling all round the world and experiencing a wide range of conditions I decided to retire. I’d been going on dive trips every month and sometimes more often than that. I calculated I had made more than two hundred and fifty of these expeditions and that’s a lot of dives! After doing multiple plane journeys for dive trips to many different distant exotic sounding places, I was starting to feel jaded. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing – eventually! However the inactive life of retirement didn’t sit well with me and a year later I decided I still wanted to make use of the huge amount of knowledge I’d accrued about all manner of diving locations, technique and underwater photography and found an outlet for this at Ocean Leisure, probably the most comprehensively stocked dive store in London. Within the first week I was meeting some customers, old friends, that I had last shared a cabin with in places as far away and as far apart as Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, as well as making a great many new friends too. What really impresses me about the people who work at Ocean Leisure and Ocean Leisure Cameras (a store within the store) is the vast amount of product knowledge that they have at their disposal. They are almost without exception young; many are multi-lingual and, of course very enthusiastic about their subject. In fact at first I felt a little bit out of my depth and that’s the first time in a very long time indeed. If you want to talk about diving, I’m your man, but I’m still learning about the incredibly comprehensive stock held at Ocean Leisure. This is especially true in the camera department because the advances in digital camera technology during the last couple of years are unprecedented. For example, that annoying lull between pressing the shutter release and recording a picture, experienced with older compacts, has more or less disappeared. Then there’s the ever-onward marching technology of GoPro. These tiny little cameras are suitable to taking places where you would never have dreamed of taking a camera before and they simply marched off the shelves as the must-have Christmas present for 2014. Ocean Leisure Cameras stocks a massive range of accessories that will allow you to combine a GoPro with your favourite all-action activity. When you visit, I’m easy to spot. I’m the older person. Please bear with me if I need to ask one of the young blades where to find something that you are particularly interested in. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of diving and underwater photography equipment!