A lot of things suck about scuba equipment—but there’s one thing that really sucks.

The mask.
Putting on the mask.

It’s a struggle.
It’s awkward.
Between that stretchy, taught plastic thing and your sticky skin—good luck.

I’d rather just do without. If there were any way to leave that mask behind, and just skip it, I’d do it. Unfortunately, the mask is quite essential if you’re interested in seeing anything underwater.

But you know when the plastic grabs your forehead skin and all the little baby hairs with it, and pulls and stretches and almost tears your face off. Your eyelids are strained taught and you might even look Asian while attempting to secure the mask. You try to pull the plastic over your hair, but it tangles and snarls and in the end you have a fist full of hairs and a twisted mask-strap in the back.

Yeah, it sucks.
And yeah, it’s uncomfortable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.. it could be better.
To make this endeavor more comfortable, consider the following steps.

1) Before getting on the boat, try the mask on. Spend some time with him, see how he works. Preferably while your more comfortable on ground, versus balancing on the edge of a boat with all gear intact, fighting to not fall into the water.
2) Fold the head-strap to the outer-side of the mask. Place the mask over your eyes, and inhale. Tilt your face downward. Does the mask stay on? If yes, this could be the mask for you.
3) The bottom lip of the mask should settle just above your upper lip. If it settles over your lip, the mask is too large. *Do you feel pressure? Like your eyeballs are being squished together? If so, ditch this mask and try a larger size.
4) Next, the head-strap. The god-forsaken head-strap. Right now, just experiment with it. Learn how it expands, and tightens, and loosens, and locks into place. This knowledge will come in handy later, when you’re the mask’s wet, slippery, and ready for a more precise fitting.
5) Once you’ve chosen the right size mask, pack it up and ensure it boards the boat with the rest of your gear.
6) Once on the boat, spray a de-fog solution inside the mask. If unavailable, spit. Rub the substance around with your fingers, then rinse the mask; we’re trying to reduce the amount of times you will need to attend to the mask in the future.
7) Once all gear is intact and you’re ready to enter the water, slightly loosen the head-strap so that the mask slips over your head. Let it hang around your neck.
8) Heed your hair. Short hair? No worries, be happy. Long hair, or a lot of it? Pay close attention– for those with locks, secure them with a binder high on the crown of the head. The goal is to remove all hair from the head-strap range (in the back on the head). Next, use your fingertips to smooth the hair back, away from the forehead. For those with facial hair, now would be an appropriate time to apply Vaseline or another product to prevent hair/mask interference.
9) You are ready to secure the mask. With one hand, hold the mask over your eyes.
10) With the other hand, ensure that the strap is smooth and untwisted. Next, pull the strap from the nape of the neck upward, to about mid-head.
11) Because you are familiar with your mask, tighten or loosen if need be; make the necessary adjustments so that the mask does not squeeze your brains out, but holds solid and secure as well. Then secure.

See? Not so bad. When you take it step by step, and don’t allow your brain to get all twisted in that head-strap and your hair, it’s really not that bad. And for nearly 20/20 vision underwater, I’ll take it.