Blog about Underwater Life and Scuba Diving

The Aquatic View: A Discussion (With Bonus Review of Sherwood Scuba Rona Mask)

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Masks: Windows Into Another (damp) World!

Divers dive for different reasons, but ultimately everybody from the lay snorkeler through to the hardcore tec diver is in the water for one thing: to experience the aquatic environment. Some people want to explore the wrecks of great vessels from our past, whereas others enjoy looking at shallow coral reefs but in both cases they are enjoying new sensations. These sensation cannot be experienced naturally being as we are land animals, so we rely on equipment to mitigate our underwater adventures. The most basic piece of equipment a water enthusiast can own is a pair of goggles or a mask to allow them to see what is going on under the surface. Indeed a lucky individual with a mask and no other equipment might spot a whale shark off the bow of the boat and jump in, leaving the divers scrambling about changing tanks and grabbing weight belts – sometimes a mask is all you need, everything else is just there to make the experience last longer, or to get you there quicker.

The only Way We Can Really Appreciate The Sea’s Beauty Is Through The Lens Of A Mask…

What I Look For In a Mask

 

This is one of those situations where the only way you can really tell what mask is right for you is by borrowing a friend’s mask and trying it out. So this is just about what features make my diving experience more pleasurable, either when I’ve got two thousand pounds worth of gear on my body, or when I’m just in shorts and fins – both situations need the same thing: to see!

My perfect mask has a few specific features that I find are either pleasantly surprising or absolutely necessary:

  • Single Lens – This is a real opinion splitter in the dive community but I have solidly sided with the single lens camp despite the fact that a single lens mask tends to have a larger internal volume which requires extra nasal expulsions to clear. I chose a single lens design, rather than a mask with two independent lenses is because I find the extra glass in a single lets in more light which reduces the feeling of being detached from the environment – I find the less I can see the mask frame, the more natural the experience feels.
  • Soft Skirt – This might sound like I’m being wimpy and choosing something that feels soft against my sensitive skin…but I assure you it’s not (not entirely anyway!). The softer the silicone skirt the more it will mould to the contours of your face, and thus becomes more watertight. The negative aspect of choosing an easy to mould silicone is that it will be much less resistant to tearing and loosing chunks when a piece of gear bashes against it. It’s a price I’m willing to pay to ensure all my air isn’t wasted on clearing my mask!
  • Transparent Skirt – This is another one that may call my manliness into question…why should I care about the colour or design of my mask? Well, I find that a clear and transparent side skirt lets in a considerable amount of extra light which I find helps to fend off the tunnel vision that I often get with opaque black silicone masks. It can also allow your peripheral vision to function to an extent – you can sometimes make out the shape of your dive buddy out the corner of your eye which can be helpful if you’ve got students to look after!
  • Wide and Deep Viewing Angle – This is an obvious choice, some might argue that it’s not really a preference when all masks strive for the same thing. The reason I included it on the list is because a large proportion of mask manufacturers concentrate on providing a wide field of vision, but not nearly enough of them go wide andlow. It’s obvious you need to see what’s next to you, but it’s also very useful to have an open vista of what’s below you. Without adequate bottom view it makes it a strain to properly look at your gauges, to look into your BCD pockets and to ensure that when you sit on your knees with a student you don’t drop them, or yourself, onto a stonefish or stingray!

    Some Mask Are Wide, But Not Tall – I Want Both!

  • Frameless – This is a new one for me, up until my most recent mask I always used framed masks because I didn’t know any different. Now I’ve gone frameless, I’m unlikely to return to framed units. The mask is so much lighter on your face without the frame, and it packs up much more compactly being as everything except the glass is flexible. Whether it’s as durable as a framed mask, time will tell – but it’s had some serious abuse at my hands for around six months and it’s still in good shape.
  • Neoprene Strap – This isn’t so much a feature of a mask, as an add-on that I wouldn’t ever give up. All it is is an oval of neoprene that has (usually) two Velcro straps that fit into your existing buckles. This replacement strap is much easier to adjust and is much more comfortable once you’ve adjusted it. The neoprene is stretchy, but won’t pull out your hair.

My Personal Choice: The Sherwood Scuba Rona

The two items of dive gear that split opinion the most are masks and fins. This is because they directly interact with our bodies, and being as everyone’s body is distinct and unique – it makes the design of universal gear tricky. That’s why the Sherwood Rona has everything I want in a mask and it fits me perfectly, yet several of my good friends have tried it and had constant leaks. It is a personal choice that, as I said before, can only be validated by trying gear on. If I wasn’t in a dive school I’d even consider joining a diving club purely so I could check out the other divers’ gear! But then, I’m a gear junkie…

Sherwood Scuba Rona – Close to, But Not Quite, My Perfect Mask…

Pros:

  • Light Weight – The Rona is really comfortable to wear, primarily because it is very lightweight. It doesn’t pull down on your face, nor does it wobble when you turn your head rapidly. Because it’s lightweight, you don’t need your strap to be tight, which makes it even more pleasant to wear.
  • Soft Skirt – This mask has the softest, most featherlike skirt material I’ve ever felt. It feels almost like a cloth, but is obviously much more water resistant.
  • Large View Angle – The lens on this face mask is enormous! It gives a very wide and tall  viewing angle with extra dips on the bottom of the lens to help you look at your waist area. It’s not the widest lens ever made, but it’s wider than I’m used to.
  • Low Volume Airspace – This is the magic part – not only is the mask a single lens and  offers a very wide view angle, but it has a tiny air volume. They manage this by positioning the lens close to the face, which also helps the feeling of immersion into the environment.
  • Frameless – As I said above, this changed my mind about masks forever. It makes the mask look much less bulky, it reduces the weight dramatically and it squashes into a pocket with ease (which would make it ideal for tec divers who normally carry a spare mask). It also seems to make it less likely to crack, because the glass is protected by shock-absorbent silicone rather than rigid plastic, which means when you drop it just bounces – no cracked frames.
  • Price – This was a real surprise to me, because I used the mask before I saw a price tag and initially thought it was an expensive, high-end affair. It turns out that it’s really very reasonably priced and so it’s excellent value for your hard earned dollar!

 

Cons

  • Ugly – Alas, the Rona doesn’t fit my perfect mask description in its entirety – it has some flaws. One of my main concerns is that it’s really ugly! It’s quite a handsome and trendy looking piece of gear when it’s sitting on the shelf, but once you put it on it looks ridiculous – I’m yet to meet a man or woman who doesn’t look like an alien with it on! Luckily this isn’t really an issue for me being as I think scuba chic is a bit girly, I like my gear functional, safe and reliable – pretty comes in way down the list!
  • Semi-Opaque Skirt – This is only a slight problem with the mask as it does offer a translucent skirt which does let some light in, but it has a frosted effect which makes it impossible to see through. There is also a black version which looks better but is completely opaque.
  • Strap Is Silicone – Another minor concern, and something I had to remediate before use. The default strap is a standard issue silicone band which is fine for irregular use, but I much prefer my Velcro-neoprene solution for day-to-day diving.
  • Possible Durability Issues – Although I said above that the mask was surprisingly robust, I do have issues with the integrity of the skirt after say six months in a wardrobe or shed. I do have a couple of little nicks in the material, but nothing that affects its performance. So this is a watch-and-see issue.

Final Thoughts

Masks are a personal item, just like glasses are on land. They both help you to see, they are both made in many shapes and colours and they both suit people differently. One pair of glasses may look sexy on one girl and dull on another, the same goes for masks (without the sexy part). All I can say is that I love my mask and hope, for your sake, that it fits you so you can enjoy it as much as I do!

Do you own a Rona, and if so what are your thoughts on it’s design and function? Do you prefer frameless masks? Single lens or double? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Happy (visible) bubbles!

By Jamie Campbell.


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Comments

  • Heather said:

    I agree with a lot of your likes/dislikes, except for the clear skirt one. I personally prefer a black skirt because it reduces the light that can reflect on the inside of the glass. I have terrible vision, and I find that the black skirt reduces backlit glare and helps me see more clearly. But that’s why mask choice is such a personal one! To each his own!

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