This is one of the most important items for ANYONE that enters the aquatic realm. Having an ill-fitting mask or one that fogs up continuously can not only be very frustrating but dangerous as well. The ability to SEE under water is what it’s all about.
There are many makes and models in the market. Forget about brand names and get the one that FITS YOUR face the best. Since everyone has different facial features, the only way to select a mask is to visit your local dive store and try on as many as you can. The easiest way to test a mask is to put it on your face, ensuring it fits snuggly and then gently inhaling through your nose. This should suck the mask to your face. Tilt your head forward, looking towards the ground. The mask should still be stuck to your face. Should the seal not be good, it will fall off your face. (NOTE: you do this WITH-OUT the mask strapped to your head!!) Make sure that the nose piece of the mask is comfortable enough for you to hold, as when you descend, you'll need to equalize by pinching your nose. Try it with gloves!! Stay clear of masks with purge valves on. They do work, but have a rather short life span. They also tend to have smaller space for your fingers for equalizing!!
For spearing you have two extremes: your shallower dives and your very deep dives. For deeper dives, you're looking for a low volume mask, which allows for easier mask equalization. The downside with low-volume masks is that they offer limited-vision.
Once you've acquired your mask, you need to clean INSIDE of the lens, so as to prevent fogging up. Some toothpaste smeared on the inside and rubbed around works great!! Repeat it a couple of times and your mask should not fog up anymore!!
All you need is a simple J shaped snorkel. Once again, stay clear of snorkels with purge valves and anti-splash contraptions. They also work, but add additional drag and the purge valves always BREAK when you least expect it!!
For the average spearo, a medium bore snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece is all that’s needed. Having a mouth piece that’s uncomfortable or too hard, will cause your gums to pain or even start to bleed and possibly also irritate your tongue causing swelling.
A weight belt is needed to counter-act the buoyancy of your wetsuit. Since everyone has a different body shape each ones weighting will be different. Depending on the depth of water that you’re diving in, a spearo should always try to be positively buoyant until -6m. This is to ensure that he will float up to the surface should he suffer from shallow water black-out. Care should be taken NOT TO OVERWEIGHT yourself, as this might make you go down quicker, the extra time gained on the bottom is offset against the additional time it takes to swim back up as well as the additional time it’ll take to recover. It’s much easier to swim down against the buoyancy of your wetsuit, than to swim up, against gravity. Much safer as well. Remember, when you’re laying on the surface, when you EXHALE, you must still be positively buoyant.
Most divers use a rubber weight belt with a quick release buckle. This stretches and doesn’t turn whilst you’re diving, unlike the normal webbing belts. This accounts for the compressing of your wetsuit as you go deeper. This way, your quick release buckle will always be in the same position. When surfacing from a deep dive and you’re feeling out of breath, it is advisable to open your buckle whilst ascending. Should you black out, the belt will slip from your hand and the weight belt will fall off, allowing your wetsuits buoyancy to take you to the surface.
Another handy hint is to buy TWO complete weight belts. This way, you’d be more inclined to dump your weight belt should the need arise.
Weight Harnesses can be substitute for a belt if the diver suffers lower back pain. These move the weight up to the shoulders and assist in duck diving. The down side is they generally create more drag coming up from a dive (more energy is burnt, increasing the risk of blackout).
Contrary to the diving movies, your knife isn’t going to be used to fend off aggressive sharks!! A spearo’s knife serves two basic functions, namely, to dispatch his catch as quickly, safely and humanely as possible and to cut himself free from any line or rope he might get entangled in. A smallish knife with a strong sharp point is what is required. Bulky knives are heavy and cumbersome and tend to hook onto kelp and your floatline and offers more water resistance.
GLOVES AND SOCKS
Gloves are used to protect the hands from not only the cold, but from fish spines, corals and reefs. Most gloves are 3mm thick, which provides ample warmth. However, most spearo’s prefer leather palmed gloves. These gloves are much thinner on the inside of your hand, allowing your hand to be more sensitive. Very nice on spearguns with sensitive triggers. For the spearo operating in warm tropical waters, normal cotton garden gloves work great.
Most BFWA divers use cotton gloves with latex dipped palms and fingers. These gloves are as tough as brand name gloves but approximately 25% the price.
Neoprene socks are available in 1, 2, 3 and 5mm thickness. Make sure that you fit your socks on when fitting your fins in the dive shop. Socks have a very short lifespan. Replacing them one a year is normal, obviously depending on how often you dive.