Diving with Contact Lenses

Ever since I was a kid, I hated opening my eyes underwater. The burn of chlorinated, or worse, salt water, had me squeezing my eyes tighter than a duck’s butt. At least you knew I was never cheating at Marco Polo.

As I grew older and started wearing contact lenses, the situation most certainly did not improve. If I opened my eyes while wearing contacts, they’d certainly pop out, right?

Fast forward a few years. As part of the circuit of skill demonstrations required for PADI divemaster certification, you must swim a large circle with your mask off. Uh-oh.

Now as far as skills go, this is an easy one. I thought I could give it a go with my eyes closed, squinting occasionally to get a peek of where I was going.

Off comes the mask and off I go, swimming my big circle. I get to the "end", replace my mask, and open my eyes, expecting to see an approving look from my instructor.

Nothing. That’s all I see. Turning around, I found everyone a good 10-20 feet away, wondering what the heck I was doing.

Eventually I realized I was going to have to open my eyes to complete the skill. So I did, and I realized something: It’s not that bad. It doesn’t really burn. Your contacts don’t pop out. You can’t see too well, but you can get around ok (at least swim a big circle). It’s not that bad.

I wouldn’t do it all the time for fun, but if you’ve been holding out on opening your eyes underwater because of contact lenses, give it a go. It’ll be just fine.

This is useful if you’re a beginner doing mask removal and replacement exercises, and want to be able to look to orient your mask and mask strap. Even more so, this is helpful if you are an instructor who needs to demonstrate these skills while keeping an eye on your students. Otherwise, it’s just useful if you want to cheat at pool games.

Photo by nikozz