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#3400
Mask on head
JoePagano - 11/06/2010 11:12 PM
Category: Training
Replies: 45



What is with this obsession in preventing folks from putting their mask on top of their head when surfaced? OK, if conditions are funky then you should take caution not to lose it. But in calm water what’s the big deal? Why would someone leap to the conclusion that a diver is in trouble absent any other indicators except a mask on the forehead?


I, for one, find the mask around the neck, especially with a 5 or 7mil hood, very, very bothersome, and more difficult to reposition to submerge. So, I will continue to do as I please with my mask, conditions permitting, and hope nobody gets their shorts in a knot over it. Joe P
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diverray - 11/07/2010 12:45 AM
I agree with you. I never understood why someone floating peacefully on the surface would be mistaken for a panicked/distressed diver just because their mask was on their forehead. However, I will listen to anyone who has a different explanation on the subject.
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slippin2darknezz - 11/07/2010 5:33 AM
From what I can gather when a diver is distressed they will put the mask on their head and reject the regulator, which is what most agencies teach. Since most divers are taught this they tend to look for this as a distress signal. The flip side of the coin is that if you are resting on the surface and another diver approaches thinking you are distressed, then that is a good thing. Someone is looking out and paying attention. When I remove my mask at the surface I turn it backwards so it is resting on the back of my head instead of the front so other do not think I am in distress. Thats the way I was taught. The downside to continuing to place the mask in a position where everyone is conditioned to recognize it as a diver in distress is one day you may actually be in distress and others around you are now conditioned to think you are resting at the surface and not respond to you.
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jimran - 11/07/2010 6:06 AM
I have been diving for about 11 years when I am quarry/lake diving I dont pay it no mind ,I even do it floating on the surface and talking to the other divers about our dive ,but if we were on a ocean dive then I dont do it and if I saw a diver on a ocen dive with there mask on there head I would check them,,,I feel in a quarry its more controlled then the Ocean ,,I was taught the same as others not to do it ,,only when there is a problem ...............!!!!!????
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jojodiver - 11/07/2010 7:34 AM
Perfect response. I couldn’t have put it any better.
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JoePagano - 11/07/2010 8:55 AM
Well, here is another point. I would say that 95% of the time there are 2, 3, 4 or even more divers on the surface in a group, minimum two buddies. We are usually talking about the dive, making a plan or preparing to submerge or surface swim to the shore or boat. Even under these conditions I have heard the moaning and groaning about the mask position. Why would ones brain even drift towards a distress situation under these conditions? Way too strict a "rule".
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LatitudeAdjustment - 11/07/2010 9:16 AM


 I always put it on my forehead until a wave washed it away and with a hood on I didn’t feel it leave so now it’s under the chin. With the price of mask these days you don’t want to loose them!


 Not sure why it’s become taboo. In the early days it was taboo to wear the knife on the outside of the leg where it could catch the weight belt but now you see it all the time and I still think it could catch a weight pocket.


 As for other divers watching for signs of stress, the more they know you the less they worry. I was once trying to bleed my tank down to 500psi to do a weight check while at a safety stop and had both regs freeflowing and out of my mouth to blow thru air and no one came over to check on me.
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slippin2darknezz - 11/07/2010 9:42 AM


The key word here is conditioning..divers have been conditioned to recognize the mask on the forhead as a sign of distress which I believe will not change. I understand your point that if there is a group why would anyone assume that everyone there was in distress. I think the happy medium would be to turn the mask to the back of the head..otherwise you will probably have someone say someting just about every time. After all, it tends to be an industry standard..
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jojodiver - 11/07/2010 9:53 AM
I was referring to the comment by slippin2darknezz. Believe me, I am the last person in the world who would advocate stupid rules but I don’t think the mask on the head rule is a stupid one. One of the things I love about diving and divers is that we, for the most part, are concerned, not only with our own safety but of the safety of those with whom we dive. Adherence to what may be perceived as stupid rules make diving as a whole, safer for everyone. 
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Slove77777 - 11/07/2010 12:12 PM
I hadn’t heard of this until I came to Hawaii and all my ’new’ dive buddies stressed I should put my mask backwards on my head when it wasn’t being used. I think it’s ridiculous especially if you’ve gone through any rescue training. I will continue to place my mask on my forehead, and I hope that no goober confuses me floating peacefully on the surface with being in trouble.
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SCUBASMITTY - 11/07/2010 1:54 PM
IF I AM IN TROUBLE YOU CAN’T MISS ME ! ILL BE THE ONE VIOLENTLY WAVING MY ARMS ABOUT IN AN ERRATIC MOVEMENT AND YELLING MY BLEEPING HEAD OFF ! 
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jojodiver - 11/07/2010 3:22 PM
"Goober"? Really?
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slippin2darknezz - 11/07/2010 3:58 PM
Actually if you look at all the agencies including NOAA they all in their rescue training make reference to the mask on the head and the stressed diver rejecting the regulator as a sign of distress, however it is individual choice as to where and how you place your mask when resting on the surface. Some of those goobers may actually be paid trained professional rescuers who stay current on trends and rescue procedures...
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Indiana - 11/07/2010 6:58 PM
This is plain and simple.Divers in distress will almost always put there mask on their forehead or take it off completely.There is no wriiten rule just common sense.This is a sport with a element of danger.It just makes it easier to identify a person who is in distress.I for one would not do it here in the north atlantic .I wouldnt take my mask off unless I had to.Just play it safe leave in on, turn it backwards or put it around your neck.Hopefully the day never comes when you may be in distress and someone just says "he always puts his mask on his forehead".Practice good dive habits all the time.Thats my view.Dive safe.
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JoePagano - 11/07/2010 8:36 PM


Still, no one answers the question - absent ANY other indicators, what would lead a rational person, be they rescue or otherwise, assume a diver is in distress just because his mask is on the forehead?


I am very safety concious and have vast experience in safety, emergency activities, have actually rescued persons and even been recognized for life saving. Before getting into scuba I snorkled for decades and never heard of this mask thing, nor would I ever think a diver/snorkler is distressed, or in danger, just because the mask is on the head. I think someone came up with this a long time ago and we may just be stuck with it. But I am still going to do it...........
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Slove77777 - 11/07/2010 9:30 PM
I didn’t mean "goober" in a bad way. Just the first adjective that came to mind. :)
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SCUBASMITTY - 11/08/2010 1:07 AM
From Slove77777: I didn’t mean "goober" in a bad way. Just the first adjective that came to mind. :)



how do the Yankees put it? oh yeah, forgetaboutit !

as to the subject matter, Ive had my mask on my head and reversed and some one ASKED ME are you in distress? I said yes,im distressed that you are ASKING me if im in distress.
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jimran - 11/08/2010 7:03 AM


Smitty thats funny
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LatitudeAdjustment - 11/08/2010 3:31 PM


Apparently Mike Nelson who always had his mask on the forehead was always stressed on Sea Hunt!


Probably worried about someone cutting his exhaust hose or dropping his double 72 balsa wood tanks on his foot :) or he was a "goober".
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jojodiver - 11/08/2010 6:26 PM
I definitely vote "goober".
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Indiana - 11/08/2010 7:07 PM
To make it easy I am sure it is a statistic that most divers do this.The more training you receive the more they teach you about noticing signs of a diver in distress.It is a practice to make diving a safer sport.If you like to put your mask on your head dont get upset when somebody ask you if you are in distress and if you a re on a dive boat out of Jersey you will get yelled at.DIVE SAFE
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Indiana - 11/08/2010 7:07 PM
To make it easy I am sure it is a statistic that most divers do this.The more training you receive the more they teach you about noticing signs of a diver in distress.It is a practice to make diving a safer sport.If you like to put your mask on your head dont get upset when somebody ask you if you are in distress and if you a re on a dive boat out of Jersey you will get yelled at.DIVE SAFE
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csemenko - 11/08/2010 11:26 PM


The reason I was told not to put my mask on my head was simple "if it is on top of your head it can fall off easier if a wave hits you." My mask doesn’t float. I’ve heard the panicked diver with the mask on their head or completely off...I fall back to some of the comments about the rescuer (or the wanna be a hero) assessing the situation. A calm diver talking to their buddy probably isn’t panicking.


I will be waving my arms and screaming if I need help (maybe with or without a mask). If you see me exhibiting this behavior look for pirates with guns, large dorsal fins, or a spear in my leg.


I personally leave my mask on until I am on the boat and then I take it off. I’ve actually seen a mask fly off a guys head on the way to a dive site. A faster moving boat than most I’ve been on in Hawaii, a little bumpier, and he was leaning back against the rail.


I won’t even touch the topic of what the books say about an Instructor / Divemaster and the equipment they should / should not have and how to wear or use it. Keep blowing bubbles.
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SCUBASMITTY - 11/09/2010 12:07 AM
From Indiana: To make it easy I am sure it is a statistic that most divers do this.The more training you receive the more they teach you about noticing signs of a diver in distress.It is a practice to make diving a safer sport.If you like to put your mask on your head dont get upset when somebody ask you if you are in distress and if you a re on a dive boat out of Jersey you will get yelled at.DIVE SAFE



EEEEHHH, JERSEY ! THEY YELL AT EVERYBODY..
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jojodiver - 11/09/2010 5:53 AM
Hey Smitty, I thought you were from Arizona!

This subject has been killed! Bottom line is that there are standards that we should all adhere to while diving because it’s a dangerous sport. If you choose to dive in a vacuum, then do what you want! Dive without a mask! If you choose to dive with other divers, comply with the standards.

Since when has caring about the welfare and safety of fellow divers something to be criticized for? I’ll tell you what, all of those "goobers and want to be heros", I hope you all dive with me!
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tmac_diver - 11/09/2010 8:06 AM
Hey there, just a gentle note to mention that quite often, a person who is swimming and on the verge of severe panic or death by drowning is very pasive while struggling on the surface. This is caused by severe exhaustion or lungs filling with water. The person in trouble often goes un-noticed by others and just dissapears under the water. This is very,very common when analyzing death by drowning events. Also, try to understand that wearing the mask as noted in the OP, is a very common sign of distress. It is most always the first or second thing divers do when they are on the surface and highly stressed. Being that this is true, it is generally safer and wiser to avoid wearing the mask in this way if you are not in trouble. I am not trying to flame anyone by this post, just adding to the conversation. 
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SCUBASMITTY - 11/09/2010 1:11 PM
im IN az- NOT FROM AZ-I am regrouping here in az because i have good friends here, I am from texas, but I have friends world wide, I have hauled boats into and out of the new jersey/nyc area so many times that I know the area and the local idiosyncrasy’s fairly well - as far as the mask’s are concerned, can you show me in ANY instruction manual where the standardized operating procedure for a diver in distress is the position of the mask ???-no worries, we all have our opinions and that is why this forum is here..
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SaintsReturn - 11/10/2010 11:48 AM
Although things may be different from place to place, i was taught to remove the mask from my head when in distress. I see divers all over with them on there forhead and i only way something when they look "odd" but usually there just floating around, laughing, talking, or prepping to submerge. This is something i cover (usually) with new dive buddies and leave it at that. Its not worth yelling at someone if they are visibally ok and their mask is on the forhead. I do place mine on the back of my head out of training and habits. Also i agree with Smitty on this one, you would have no trouble identifing me if something is wrong...
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JoePagano - 11/10/2010 2:40 PM


Who thought I would have created such a lively topic. I think the responses generally go to my original point, most divers think it odd, some think it necessary, but no one seems to know how it started and why it is taught, in some circles, anyway. To repeat myself, there is no logic that, ABSENT any other indicators, one diver would assume another diver is in distress because the mask is on his forehead. Add to this that MOST of the time said diver/s is/are in a group just bobbin around enjoying the water.


Mask on forehead, much more comfortable and so easy to transition on or off with just one hand.


I agree that safety is paramount, but so is common sense............................
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AOW_dude - 11/10/2010 11:14 PM


It might be a good topic to post as a survey too.
That’s Cousteau in distress on the picture.



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jimran - 11/11/2010 5:21 AM
thanks Dude love it
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JoePagano - 11/11/2010 6:32 AM
Bravo, yes lets poll.................. how?
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AOW_dude - 11/11/2010 9:05 AM


From JoePagano: Bravo, yes lets poll.................. how?



From ’Quick Links’ box on top pick ’Add New Survey’, you might get some interesting results, dude.
For instance, if I didn’t start a Solo Diving survey I would’ve not known that a third of divers (out of those who responded anyway) dove solo without having a cert for it. That too is not something that’s encouraged in training (well, unless you’re a DM/instructor). I bet if you’re solo with a mask on your forehead there’s nobody there to crack those ’diver in distress’ jokes.

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SCUBASMITTY - 11/11/2010 9:42 AM
From JoePagano: Bravo, yes lets poll.................. how?



DONE ! LET THE SURVEYING COMMENCE !
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tmac_diver - 11/11/2010 12:45 PM
Just to comment further on this well discussed topic; putting the mask up on the forehead is not something that is taught as a signal of distress or trauma. It is something that distressed divers do almost upon instinct after they spit their regs once they make it to the surface. This is why it is best not to wear the mask this way as a choice, its better to wear the mask some other way. From a distance, it is hard to tell whether a diver is in trouble or just relaxing and a boat crew will usually always assume there is trauma if they see a diver with his/her mask up { esp. if there is any kind of chop out there }. Again, I am not trying to flame anyone. 
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Indiana - 11/11/2010 4:12 PM
Well said tmac_diver. People just dont want to here that a person in distress almost always will flip there mask off.This is not saying every diver who does it is in distress.I dont understand the big deal with keeping your mask on.If it bothers you that much you may want to try another sport.Very few things are comfortable in diving.But this is a crazy jersey person saying this.So please next time you are in distress tell somebody or should they just let you drown.I would rahter a person come to me and ask then just guess that I am ok but thats me.
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JoePagano - 11/11/2010 9:05 PM


"Not trying to flame someone", "just a crazy Jersey person", "dive in a vacuum", "dive without a mask", yada yada yada. Why the stern hard line?


We are not telling you not to do it, just questioning where it came from and point out that most of us do not see it as a distress indicator. Are you "demanding" that we comply? Are we to be thrashed for non compliance? Banished to a mud hole?


Well, now I may wear two masks, one on my face and a permenent one on my forehead. Flame on ........................
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AOW_dude - 11/11/2010 10:16 PM


From JoePagano: Well, now I may wear two masks, one on my face and a permenent one on my forehead.



LOL, dude (:


A diver walks in with the mask on his forehead and asks to rent a tank. Dive Nazi behind the counter looks up and yells "NO DIVE FOR YOU!!!"
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tmac_diver - 11/12/2010 9:01 AM


Hey there Joe, you asked in your original post, why people interpret a diver with his/her mask on to be stressed or in trouble. In my posts, I tried to explain why this school of thought exists. One of the great things about our activity is that there are no scuba police. Most of the time, in most cases, we can all behave anyway we choose without fear of being fined or going to jail unless our actions damage or hurt other divers. If you want to wear your mask on your forehead, or two masks or whatever, by all means go for it. I think it would be a good idea to inform the boat crew or surface support before hand of your choice. This will save a lot of time, commotion and worry for everyone. This will be my last post on this topic. I really was not trying to flame you or anyone else. My intent was to try help try to answer your original question. Good luck and safe diving!!
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Indiana - 11/12/2010 10:43 AM


Like tmac diver said I did not try to flame others just pointing out what other people said about jersey divers.I am a jersey diver by the way.The point is it is a unwritten rule.Have you ever seen anybody in distress first thing mask goes on the forehead second they spit their reg.In jersey you have to dive with a pony or doubles.Why ,becuase the boat captain said you do.By want they have seen they think it is needed.If you think keeping your mask on is over the top try DIR they have one way of diving.........I have to say most of the DIR guys are excellent divers.Hope you can see the point.


They crazy jersey diver was a making ref. to somebodies earlier reply.
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JoePagano - 11/30/2010 11:51 AM


Well, after many comments and the completed survey, the results are as follows. The consensus is that having the mask on your forehead, absent any other indicators, means very little to the majority (65%) of respondents. Now, could these findings be extrapilated to the entire dive community? That may be a stretch. But it does show that there is not a universal thought to it being an emergency situation. I therefore submit that in my opinion it is unwise to assume a diver is in trouble just because of the location of his or her mask. And should not even be taught as such.


I thank you all for your thoughts and attention to the subject. Especially Smitty for the survey.


Safe diving.............................................. Joe P
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MDW - 1/12/2012 4:48 PM
I like to wear my mask very very very low on my forehead... so low, in fact that it covers my eyes and nose. This is the most comfortable and safest position and I can easily reposition it for diving with zero hands. No one has ever asked me if I was in distress, because I remain calm at all times.

When shore diving, I install my mask in dive position when I step away from my truck and then remove it when I return to the truck. For boat diving, I put it on when I stand up to walk to the stepping off point and remove it after I have sat back down on the boat and removed my tanks. Never lost a mask.
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davethediver - 7/12/2012 1:29 PM
I teach this as a way to get into good habits. If you keep putting your mask on your head chances are a wave or someone’s fin is going to hit and and you might not get it back. You might throw your head underwater to adjust your BC, wetsuit or fins...mask gone. This is from my teaching experience and the student said..."you told me so". If you are bobbing up and down with your mask on our head in 6 ft seas in the Mid-Atlantic the DM might swim out to you and be pretty pissed for the false alarm. This was another experience. And lastly mask-on-forehead contributes to fogging in some conditions from the heat loss from your head in the ambient air.


Overall start good habits early. When you become a super diver you can do what you want but students and newer divers need some guidelines so they don’t look stupid after losing their mask on dive one of a 4 dive weekend. Yes diving...it’s all about how good you look.