ON A RECENT DIVE-TRIP to the Maldives, several divers sporting balding or shaven heads had taken to wearing baseball caps under water.
The reason, of course, was not to prove allegiance to any team or brand while diving, but to protect their scalps from sunburn during the brief periods waiting at the surface to be picked up.
Back on the boat and under the shade of its roof, off came the hats and on went the sunglasses. And, when the diving was over, so did the sunscreen. We’re learning to fear the sun, or at least to treat it with increasing caution.
As divers we know that UV light can penetrate water and, in the shallows, still cause sunburn. On the surface, as divers, we might use hoods (or baseball caps) to avoid skin damage, but what about protecting our eyes? After all, even if you swapped your mask for the latest Wayfarers as you broke surface, you’d get a serious admonishing for taking your mask off.
TUSA claims to offer a solution. The long-established company is well-known for premium-quality face-masks sold both under its own branding and badged for other suppliers.
In the Paragon, marketed unabashedly as a luxury model, it has incorporated special lens-coatings said to help protect your eyes from the damaging effects of sunlight.
TUSA does an excellent job of explaining the features and benefits of its equipment. For me, as a former dive-shop owner and now as an equipment reviewer, such information is really helpful. Often, however much money is thrown at designing a piece of equipment, the manufacturer doesn’t tell you what it has built in, let alone why. So well done, TUSA.
At the end of the day, however, what’s most important is how the kit performs.
Fit and Comfort
The Paragon is a low-volume split-lens design with nose-pocket. The most important criterion for choosing a mask is the seal, and every potential owner’s face will have subtle differences. For guys, there are also the more obvious differences arising from facial hair.
I first tested the Paragon with six weeks’ growth. While a rival mask sealed perfectly, the Paragon leaked. The silicone skirts seemed equally soft, but the Paragon was shaped differently where it rests across the lower cheek bones and upper lip.
This is a leak point that is influenced by a moustache as well as your mouthpiece. I had a shave and the TUSA was fine.
As usual with masks, there’s a double seal. This is a mask you can easily clear hands-free as well.
Comfort is another key issue. You’ll spend a lot of time wearing your mask, especially if you’re making long, repetitive dives, and the Paragon scores well here.
The included strap is a conventional split design. The length is easily shortened by pulling on the strap tab, and slackened by squeezing two release buttons between finger and thumb. It’s easily adjusted with gloves on.
The buckles swivel up and down a little and have five click-stopped positions. The idea is to line up the head-strap so that it sits across your crown the way you prefer it each time.
If you equalise your ears using the Valsalva manoeuvre, even with gloves you can easily pinch or block your nostrils.
The Paragon feels a little on the heavy side compared to, say, a frameless mask. This is because it has a heavy-duty frame, made up of two distinct pieces secured with small screws. It looks and feels rugged.
The field of view is comparable to other twin-lens masks I’ve reviewed, both out to the sides and looking down where chest releases and drysuit inflators are located.
TUSA combines AR (anti-reflective) and UV 420 coatings onto the mask glass. This is the same type of treatment you’d find in sunglasses and its purpose is the same – to improve your vision, compared to cheaper untreated glass, by getting rid of distracting reflections and enhancing the contrast that is naturally lost under water.
And, like sunglasses, the big selling point of the Paragon is that it claims to offer protection from some types of eye damage. Unfortunately I have to take that on trust, because there’s no practical way for me to test those claims scientifically.
For those requiring uncomplicated eyesight correction, TUSA offers a wide choice of minus-strength lenses to replace the originals. These are also coated.
If you require correction that TUSA doesn’t provide, a specialist supplier can bond custom lenses into the Paragon, so you retain the properties of the original glass.
For underwater photographers, tinted lenses can present problems. Some of the coatings used in spearfishing masks to hide the hunter’s eyes from prey can make it difficult to see LCD displays.
This is not the case with the Paragon. However, if a model is wearing this mask it will imbue a yellowish/brownish tint to flesh tones. This should be correctable in photo-editing.
If you buy into the claimed protective benefits of the Paragon’s lenses – and if you normally wear sunglasses, why wouldn’t you? – then the Paragon should be on your shortlist. That aside, this is good mask in its own right.
TESTER> Steve Warren
PRICE> £170. Corrective lenses £54 each
SIZES> S-4XL (men’s only)
CORRECTIVE LENSES>Dioptres -1.0, -1.5, -2.0, -2.5, -3.0, -3.5, -4.0, -4.5, -5.0, -5.5, -6.0
COLOURS> Black, blue, yellow, metallic dark/red, white
CONTACT> CPS Partnership
DIVER GUIDE> 8/10