The no-mask swim skill from Confined Water Dive #4 of the PADI Open Water Course is a skill that often appears during the PADI IDC and the Instructor Exams (IE). There are a few different ways to teach this skill, and the main differences are regarding the organisation of the skill – how to set it up and conduct it underwater. The mechanics of the skill are relatively simple, yet students may be a little anxious before attempting this skill for the first time.
The performance requirements for this skill state a certain distance must be covered during the swim to successfully complete the skill. The first thing to think about when organising this skill then, is to ensure the full 15 metres will be covered. If you are teaching in a pool, then this is very easy to do once you know the dimensions of the pool. However, if you are teaching in confined open water, from a beach, then you may need to measure the distance using a reel or tape measure. A tape measure is obviously already marked out with the distances, but if you are using a reel, you may need to add some distance markers yourself.
I prefer to use a reel, as it is more convenient because it is already a part of my dive equipment, and is easier to stow when not in use. Along the length of my 40m line, I have used a permanent marker to add a mark every 5 metres – as below:
These markings are not just useful for the no-mask swim skill, but for many other skills and dives within the PADI system (e.g. Navigation Adventure Dive, wreck penetration).
Once we are happy that we have a means of ensuring the full 15 metres will be completed, we can think about the other aspects of the organisation of this skill. First, let’s see what PADI’s Guide To Teaching suggests:
The final sentence in the above excerpt from the Guide To Teaching is an important factor to consider when deciding how to organise this skill. I find it more beneficial for the students if they work in buddy teams and take turns guiding each other over the 15 metres, rather than the instructor guiding the students. This strengthens the understanding of the buddy team, makes the skill more realistic as training for the event of a lost mask during a dive, and is extra practice at swimming whilst neutrally buoyant.
During the briefing for this skill, I will let the students know that I will demonstrate the skill with the Divemaster first, and that the students will then perform the skill as buddy teams, switching roles after one buddy team member has completed the skill satisfactorily. The student with their mask in place can guide the student without the mask by swimming alongside, and holding the other student’s first stage with one hand, and their wrist out in front of them with the other hand. Having physical contact with the buddy’s wrist during the skill helps the students stay relaxed, especially if they will close their eyes during the practice. I will also inform them that I will be swimming alongside the buddy team, on the side of the diver without a mask. If I only have one student, then I would take the role of guide as the student performed the skill.
I will also tell the students during the briefing that when they are happy with their neutral buoyancy, they can then flood and remove their mask to perform the skill, and that they should then pass the mask to me. I then hold onto each student’s mask whilst they swim the distance. It is not a requirement to take the masks from the students, but I find it helps with the realism and conduct of the skill. In real life, if they lost a mask, it would not be in their hands. Also, if the instructor has the mask, the student cannot replace the mask too early, before the full 15 metres has been covered. This method also removes the issues of students dropping their masks during the exercise. During an IDC or an IE, this method of teaching has then eliminated two of the problems that a Course Director or PADI Examiner can assign during this skill – your anticipation and actions have prevented problems.
Once I am happy that the student has mastered the skill, and completed the full 15 metres comfortably, then I can signal this to them with a tap on the shoulder, and I can place the mask back in the student’s hand – ready to be replaced and cleared to complete the skill. The same two students would then switch roles, and complete the skill again…
If you have any questions regarding this skill, or any others, please feel free to email and ask us for our advice. Also, if you are looking to complete a PADI Divemaster or IDC programme, please email and ask for further information about our courses in beautiful Koh Lanta, Thailand – firstname.lastname@example.org