It’s no secret, especially if you’ve taken one of our freediving courses before. We highly recommend the Sphera low volume mask by Aqua Lung for freediving and spearfishing. We urge all of our students to switch to this mask. And all of this hype without sponsorship!
We get emails all the time from people wanting gear suggestions. Should I get a new wetsuit? Are carbon fiber fins really worth it? When it comes to your money, there’s no amount we are not willing to spend for you, however, there is one particular gear upgrade you can procure for about $45. Which, trust me, is one of the cheaper purchases you’ll make next to the snorkel. Switching your middle to high volume, rigid mask to a nice supple, low volume mask will make the most immediate difference in your dive. A lower volume mask means that the airspace you must equalize in the mask is limited.
The Eye Hickey
While freediving, just one breath of air may I remind you, every bit of air that can be conserved is precious. There is a finite amount of air that is being brought down to depth in your lungs and tissue during the dive. Of this air, some is metabolized to keep your heart beating, brain functioning, legs kicking, etc. Some is forcibly pushed into the middle ear through the eustachian tubes while equalization occurs, which is a necessary use of the finite fuel source. The other portion of air not maintained in the lungs for metabolization is “spit” through the nose into the mask. If the mask was not equalized as well, the air inside would continue to compress until negative pressure built up, finally sucking the blood vessels in and around the sensitive eye area. A huge eye hickey would be the result. Try walking into the office Monday morning with a couple of eye hickeys. Doesn’t go over so well. The hickeys just leave you looking like a derelict. “Bar fight” they’ll all assume (the non-divers anyway) at the water cooler, behind your back. But, once your reputation is ruined, you can live quite freely.
However, Evolve Freediving does not endorse the eye hickey. To make equalization of the mask much easier and less air consuming, remember the fuel source is finite, we recommend switching to a low volume mask. It is at this point that we shamelessly promote the Sphera by Aqua Lung. The Sphera is one of the lowest volume masks on the market with an internal volume of about 75 mL compared to about 250 mL for a lower volume scuba style mask.
Not only is the Sphera ranked high (or low depending on your perspective) on the low volume scale, the mask lens is plastic. The Plexisol lens allows the mask to flex under pressure. This means that the deeper you go, the mask will actually bend inward, conforming to your face. The mask isn’t as rigid as typical tempered glass lens masks, and the mask actually bends inward, reducing the need to equalize the mask as often. Instead of “spitting” air into your mask after every equalization of the ears the mask “spit” can be reduced to maybe one or two equalizations every 66ft/20m. Not an exaggeration. The surrounding silicone comprising the frame of the mask is very supple. This makes the Sphera aruguably the most comfortable mask on the market.
Another reason we sing the praises of this particular mask is that it has managed to transcend the dubious task of mask fitting. Potential mask buyers spend a lot of time trying on different masks looking for the perfect fit, which is critical. Who wants a leaky mask? Masks are pulled off the wall, placed on the face and let to sit on the face as the shopper inhales strongly, sucking the mask to the face. If the mask sticks while the diver sucks in, the mask is supposed to be a good fit. Problem is, this method of mask fitting is good as a rule of thumb but isn’t perfect. Neither, by any means, is the Sphera but the fact is I’ve seen this mask mold gently to the face of a 300lb diver and provide a leak free swimming experience for our buddy’s 4 year old. The mask fits almost everyone! There are exceptions, of course, and if you are one of these exceptions I challenge you to let me help you with the mask before writing it off. Unlike most masks, the Sphera has to be worn loose to work properly. It should just lay on the face, not squeeze your brain and leave a big, red, indention on your face after a day of diving. Mask tan, yes. Indention, no.
Spearfishing in the Sphera
Now to the part you’ve all been waiting for, “I’ve heard you cannot spear fish in the Sphera. I’ve heard that the Sphera distorts your vision.” Yeah, I’ve heard that too and I call it all a load of junk. I’ve been spearing, freediving, teaching, taking video, playing in the pool, whatever in my Sphera since 2008. So has Ren in case you are thinking that I don’t spearfish enough. We live on a sailboat, trust me, we spear fish. The Sphera does distort your vision but the distortion is temporary. If any of you wear both contacts and glasses (at different times of course) you already have an idea of the distortion we’re talking about here. When you take out your contacts and switch to your glasses your vision is slightly warped for a minute or so. The distance of the lens from your eye has changed between the contacts and the glasses. Plus, the lenses are curved which makes a difference. Once your brain adjusts and catches up, your vision through your glasses is perfect, or near it anyway. The same thing happens with the Sphera. We’re only asking that you give the mask a FAIR shot. The ultra flexible mask offers 180 degrees of vis which is unparalleled. When Ren bought his first Sphera he took it spearfishing, missed a few fish, came back to the boat and threw the mask down…he “…threw it on the ground“. “Forget that! That thing sucks!” Sounds like Ren right? He gave up on the Sphera after just one session in the water. After teaching freediving and attending multiple competitions, and wanting to attempt serious depths (200ft/61m plus), he gave the Sphera a second chance. A couple of days later, he converted to a new religion. A religion of people who like nice cheap masks that work the absolute best.
Maintenance for the Sphera is easy. Here are 3 little pointers.
1. The lenses are plastic so do not apply a flame (which will melt the lenses), toothpaste or any other abrasive to them in order to break them in. They do not have a protective layer on them when they are new. Spit and go or if you more lady than me…fat chance…Sea Drops work well.
2. Use the mask case. The lenses will scratch easily. This is not the mask for throwing down in the bottom of the boat along with a flopping fish, speargun, fins, etc. The mask needs to be stored in a case or at least hung over one of the rod holders on the leaning post. Keep it off the floor.
3. Rinse it. We are not good examples of how to take care of gear but I do know that my masks last a lot longer when I flush them with fresh water after diving. The lenses will pop right out of the frames. Between the lenses and the frame bits of sand and salt get lodged causing the mask to leak prematurely. Rinsing will prevent this from happening.
To order the Sphera we recommend the following resources (in no particular order):