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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Review: Vaincre Kids Snorkel Mask

I'll state up front that there's a ton of controversy over the concept of a Snorkel Mask, with some claiming that it's dangerous, while others claiming that it's because of either a cheap knock-off or use misuse. These masks are intended for surface snorkeling only, and not for free diving, so it's quite possible that some people killed themselves by free-diving in it. Examining the snorkel mask, it's also quite possible that an improper design could cause air exchange to be a problem. Of course, Americans can make nearly anything dangerous.

That said, I bought the Vaincre Snorkel Mask because try as I might, we could not find a snorkel with a mouthpiece that would fit Boen. It is my belief that the elimination of concerns about breathing is the biggest obstacle to learning to swim, as my experience with Bowen bore out. Bowen was the kind of kid who would follow instructions, but Boen wasn't, so with him I had to get him a snorkel mask so he could breath through his nose instead of trying to do that while wearing a mask/snorkel and then choking.

Our first day of swimming bore this out. Boen loved it so much that he wore it into the Jaccuzzi.

Then the next day we took Boen and Bowen on the whale shark tour, and once he saw that Bowen had a mask and snorkel just like daddy's he refused and insisted on wearing a regular mask and snorkel as well.  But he just couldn't fit it into his mouth and never made it off the boat. Then he tried again the day after at an easy snorkel tour and would still end up breathing water instead of air.
On the final day of our trip we went to Santa Maria Beach and finally, Boen was willing to wear the snorkel mask into real snorkeling conditions. The difference was nothing short of a revelation. Not only could he see fish for a change, with his fins he happily pushed away my hands and chased after them by himself. While it wasn't a super long trip, it was clear that he was happy and comfortable in the water in ways that he wasn't before using the snorkel mask. In the pool, he's now confident that he can swim and propel himself, which wasn't true before.

Now I will state that I was always monitoring the kid (anyone in real snorkeling conditions with a 4 year old has to do that anyway!) and checking for any signs of distress or pain. But on the same Santa Maria trip Bowen had much more struggle with his snorkel and mask, and needed to abandon the entire attempt without even seeing a single fish, so you can have problems with any kind of equipment. The onus is always on you to check on your kids using this stuff.

With that in mind I'll recommend this piece of gear. Boen would never have been able to snorkel without it, so put me in the "these things are safe if intelligently used" camp.

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