Forward-thinking Aqua Lung is one of the latter companies, and it sent me samples from its women’s range, which I’m obviously not qualified to test. I took its Linea mask with me on a recent reef-diving trip, hoping to find a surrogate female tester to help me out.

The Design
The Linea is specifically engineered for the female face, manufactured using Aqua Lung’s “Micromask” technology.
The frame and skirt are moulded in one hit without clipping various components together, and the result is a very low-volume model with a thin frame and smooth lines that’s also unobtrusive and light in weight.

The single lens is held closer to the face, providing a larger field of vision. It’s also raked slightly to enhance the view lower down. The clear silicone used is soft and pliable, and the skirt is elongated at the sides to improve fit.
Aqua Lung uses differing textures around the skirt’s edge to enable a superior seal. The buckle system incorporates a four-way swivel, meaning that it’s free to move in and out as well as up and down, ensuring that the wearer can find a perfect position.
It has an elongated strap-guide on the buckle, which gets rid of the need for keeper-rings and prevents long hair getting entangled, something I’ve seen and winced at in the past.
The strap is adjusted with the use of a double-pinch button that’s easy to access and provides smooth movement. The rear of the strap is anatomically cut, with a 3D profile that nestles neatly round the back of the wearer’s head.
The Aqua Lung Linea is available only with a clear silicon skirt, and comes with three frame-colour options.

Under Water
I met Sarah Valentine on Elite Diving’s day-boat at Shark’s Bay in Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh. She was enjoying a diving holiday with her husband Mark, and agreed to deputise as a DIVER tester with the Linea.
Sarah told me that she had experienced problems with mask-fit in the past and had to resort to using children’s snorkel masks, as these were the only models that provided a total seal around her face.
Her first impression of the Linea was that it was small, unobtrusive and feminine. When she tried it on and tested the fit, a big smile appeared on her face. “Perfect,” was all she said.
We entered the water and completed two full one-hour dives together. Not once did I see her pull at the mask or try to adjust the fit. She just enjoyed her time under water, seeming to have forgotten that the mask was even there.
Back on the boat she told me: “This is the most comfortable mask I’ve ever used. The nose-piece was a lovely fit. I also loved the style, and the bright view through the lens.”
Sarah went on to say that unlike other masks she had used the Linea felt non-claustrophobic and gave a fantastically wide view of the reefs. “There were hardly any water leaks; in fact I had a really trouble-free dive in that respect.
“I didn’t get my long hair hooked up in the strap or buckles either, which is a first for me,” Sarah added.
“This is the mask I’ve been looking for since I learnt to dive – I’m going to get one for myself and for my daughter Katie when I get home”.

A Photographer’s Perspective
A few issues ago, Alex Mustard produced DIVER’S cover shot, featuring a female diver exiting a wreck with clever red lighting in the interior. The mask she was wearing was a white Aqua Lung Linea, and it looked fantastic.
I know I’m not alone in saying that eye contact is everything when shooting divers.
Most wear black-skirted masks (myself included), which creates all sorts of problems with regard to shadows, and doesn’t look nearly as good.
I photographed three female divers wearing the Linea mask on this Red Sea trip, and I’m more than pleased with the results. The minimalist look of the fine white frame accentuated the eyes without any troublesome shadows, making for a clean facial image.
I had to pry the mask from Sarah’s hands after the test dives, and had to repeat the process with the other ladies too.
Back in the UK, I asked Aqua Lung if I could keep the mask for a little longer, for those rare opportunities when someone of the opposite gender consents to model under water for me.
For the women who dived with this mask and for me as a photographer, it proved a perfect solution to our long-standing problems. Win-win all round.

COLOURS Twilight, pink, white Arctic
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