Don’t panic, it’s just a mask.

There are a few rules in the diving community, that are treated like common knowledge, and that when broken illicit a response of mockery, frenzy and rounds of beer on your tab. So today I figured I would shine a light on one of those rules, that many people yelled at me for, without ever explaining the why. And that rule is the terrible offense of having your mask on your forehead when at the surface.

A masksive no-no

If you are ever at the surface, enjoying the feel of a post dive float waiting for the boat to come pick you up, and you have the misfortune of pushing your mask onto your forehead, you will get scolded. Of course, there are reasons why this is seen as an unprofessional action, but if you don’t know the reason, then it is rather annoying to get yelled at for no reason. So let’s talk. You are never supposed to push your mask on your forehead, because that is a sign of a panicked diver. There are two kinds of panicked divers, the passive or active panics. A passive panic is often characterized by a very still and withdrawn diver, and can quickly escalated to an active panic if not addressed. An active panic is more dangerous, both for the diver and yourself, as the panicked diver may attack or do irrational movements which may cause harm. There are a few symptoms and tips that can help identify a passively panicked diver, one of them being a mask pushed onto the forehead.

When reaching the surface, it is instinctive to remove the mask, either dropping it or leaving it resting on the forehead. Dive professionals, such as Divemasters, Instructors or even buddies with experience in Rescue Diver may look out for these symptoms, and seeing a misplaced mask would indicate panic. This is why it is a big no-no to put your mask on your forehead, because it is seen as a sign of panic, and essentially worries the divers around you.

There are other places where you can store your mask while on the surface. Most divers pull it down and leave it resting below their chins. I find that very uncomfortable, so I usually remove my mask entirely and clip it through my chest buckle. You could also store it in your BCD pockets if you have some big enough. I wouldn’t recommend holding it in your hand as you may drop it unexpectedly.

No need for such a maskumental reaction

Of course, there is no reason for dive professionals to be rude when pointing out this error. Simply asking the diver if they are OK - to check for panic - and explaining the error when realizing they are not would suffice. It is always very shaming to be pointed out by a more experienced diver, and made fun of instead of taught better. But keep in mind that whoever reacted this way probably learned the rule of the mask the same way, no matter how irritating it is. So if you even see a diver with a mask on their forehead, check for panic, ask if they are OK. And if they are just enjoying their float and the mask is simply a beginner mistake, then explain! Tell them they should not wear their mask on that spot, give them alternatives, and most importantly explain to them why. Because that way they will be thankful that you corrected them without judgement, and they will be able to pass on the knowledge.

Scuba diving is about fun, exploration and adventure. Yes there are rules and technical sides to it, but the fun part should never be questioned. Don’t be rude to inexperienced divers because you know better and they don’t, share your knowledge and help them become better.

In conclusion

Don’t put your mask on your forehead, because people will assume you are in a passively panicked state. And now that you know why, make sure to spread the knowledge to less experienced and less informed divers!


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Marie Brier
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