Ask an Underwater Nerd
Ever had problems with your mask being knocked off in a game? Does your mask leak when the skirt rides over your cap?
Years ago this was a big problem for me. Guys in my team including me were experimenting with different kinds of mask straps, and building their own custom straps that were bomb-proof and ratcheted the mask so tight on your head it'd survive a nuke, involving bits of hosing, plastic clips and seat-belt nylon. It was a crazy time. When I was a young fella I heard tales of masks and headgear being ripped right off in test-matches and guys duct-taping everything that could be removed to themselves to prevent it. Funny to think back on.
Then one day I was visiting in Holland and putting my gear on poolside for a club practice, standing next to Sandor Duis. He asked me, "why do you put your mask on over your cap?" I shrugged, said "I dunno, I always have?" And I tried putting my mask on the way he did it, under the cap (which looked weird to me). I have never ever had a problem with my mask being knocked off in a game again (apart from when people do it on purpose of course).
No fancy webbing straps, just the standard silicon from the factory. Once you get used to it, it's easy to adjust the strap on the back of your head through the cap if it slips down to your ears. When your snorkel or cap gets knocked or pulled out of your mouth, or you get crunched, your mask hardly slips even if the cap pulls off. Just clear it underwater and carry on. Compare that to having your mask over the cap... any yank on your snorkel pulls your cap and mask clear around your head and leaves you gasping on the surface like a blindfolded mummy.
Many people will just nod and say "of course, why would you do it any other way?" But I still see lots of players with fancy bomb-proof buckles and straps on their masks on poolside... and the vast majority of people I see around my local pools put their masks on over their caps. Sometimes I mention that they might try it the other way around, but they don't trust me like I trusted Sandor :)
If your mask getting banged around your face is a big problem for you and you haven't found another solution, maybe try the simplest solution in the book and see if it works for you?
I get this question every now and then and recently it's come up, so I thought I would quickly cover how best to handle new sticks.
When you have new sticks you haven't used before, there are a lot of things that need getting used to... a different passing edge, different bevel, textures, thickness or weight. So it's a good idea to feel your way into how the stick works best for you.
You can simply practice or play as you normally would and eventually you will naturally get the feel of a stick, hopefully! But it can really speed things up to have a short routine to run through.
Here is a simple progression that I recommend be used any time you are getting used to a new stick, or in a new pool, new puck, glove, anything.... Any time your pass suddenly starts to go plop, in fact, is a good time to run through this and quickly rebuild your pass again.
Start by making lots of small flat passes without lifting your stick off the tiles... don't allow yourself to raise the stick off the bottom at all. Don't go for height or distance at first, but focus on rolling the puck all the way along the bevel and get it spinning. This helps to get the starting angle of your wrist right and most importantly sets the timing right for you to build on.
Next, once you have the puck spinning smoothly, start to gradually add a little more power and build the length of your pass. As you add more power the puck will start to sit up naturally on it's side. Keep your stick flat on the tiles.
Once you have consistent distance, add more and more power and you should see the puck lift further and further off the bottom, still with your stick flat on the tiles. You can get quite a lot of height without even lifting the stick off the tiles, and very good distance.
Lastly, once you are throwing good consistent flat passes, finally let yourself bring the stick off the tiles during the pass... not a lot, just let it happen naturally. Some people throw their best passes as flat passes all the time, and they are certainly more consistent for most players.
If at any time things go wrong, just rewind to the last stage that was working or all the way to the beginning and repeat... once you have done this progression a few times it takes only a couple of minutes and then eventually just a few passes to run through it and adjust to new conditions.