We have already discussed why some freedivers prefer nose clips to traditional masks. Not only do you save the air that you would use to equalize the mask and have the benefit of hands-free equalization, nose clips also help induce a stronger mammalian diving reflex, earlier in the dive. However, before you buy your first nose clip, you should know what to look for in one and how to train with this tool before taking it down on a deep dive.
The Search For The Perfect Fit
All nose clips are not created equal, and for that reason, you should never purchase one blindly. A quick search on Google will reveal that there is a multitude of different freediving nose clips on the market, yet it is important to remember that noses come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes. You may prefer to stick to a certain brand or want to copy one of your favorite freediver’s equipment, but this can be a big mistake when it comes to fit. Your best bet is to try one on first, either a friend’s nose clip or at a dive shop. Ask yourself these questions while trying one on:
- Does the general shape of it fit your nose?
- Is it comfortable?
- Does it sit correctly on your face, without impeding your mouth?
- Can you remove it fairly effortlessly?
- When you put it on, close it, and equalize, does air escape?
- Does it slide around too easily (possibly due to an oily nose)?
- Does it have replacement pads available (not necessary but very useful)?
Make sure to buy a nose clip that is specifically for freediving. While nose clips designed for swimming may be cheaper, they might not have a tight enough fit, and you can usually exhale with them on. This means that if you have strong contractions, there is a possibility of accidentally exhaling your precious air.
Training With a Nose Clip
Wearing a nose clip will change the way you dive, so it might be a good idea to gradually introduce it into your diving rather than wearing it for all of your dives in your first session with it. Try some static with the nose clip on first, and get used to the feeling of water against your eyes and cheeks, and the constant pressure of the nose clip on your nose. Make sure that strong contractions will not cause the nose clip to move or release from your nose. See if it is comfortable to open your eyes underwater (unless you are wearing contacts) and get used to the change in vision. Try to focus on the feeling of more open space and use it to relax further into your breath-hold.
Once you have verified that the nose clip has a tight fit even through strong contractions, you can take it out in open water. It is very important to wear a freediving lanyard every time you dive with a nose clip, if not on all of your dives. Your vision is now impaired, so if you lose the line during freefall, tugging on the lanyard to find the line is a lot less stressful than spinning around and searching for it through a blurry field of vision. Remember that if the impaired vision bothers you, you can purchase fluid goggles (which you fill with seawater or a special solution) that have corrective lenses to be able to see more clearly underwater. If the feeling of water rushing past your open eyes is bothersome, try squinting instead, or fill up regular swimming goggles with seawater so you do not have to equalize them and have a barrier between you and the rushing water, but make sure the goggles are completely filled with water since air bubbles can cause a mask squeeze.
In open water, start using the nose clip on your warm-up dives in the beginning of the session. Stay around 15m (49ft) or less and practice hangs. Try opening your eyes, or keep them closed and enjoy the change in light that comes with depth, and feel the change in pressure and buoyancy on your body rather than looking at the line markings. Once you feel comfortable with shallow dives, gradually increase depth with each dive rather than attempting your personal best directly. Focus on the flow of a dive with hands-free equalization, and learn to enjoy all the shades of blue you are now diving in.
Some people have trouble adjusting to diving with a nose clip. It can be too big of a change to dive blindly, or with the change in vision, and the feeling of a naked face can be disconcerting. That is why, just like with anything else, more experience and more training with the nose clip can help you get accustomed to the new diving experience. With time, patience, and persistence, you will fall in love with your nose clip and all of the benefits that come with it.