Watching the World Championships has definitely created a strong sense of 'equipment envy' amongst some in the UWR community. It's undeniable, a well kitted team makes an intimidating and devilishly handsome team. And of course, the two most important bits of equipment in this game are your mask and fins.
Mmmm, sexy carbon fibre fins...
This post will focus exclusively on masks whilst I investigate exactly what types of fins are being worn out there in the rough and tumble of the WC!
Abyss vs. Super Occhio
The Omersub Abyss and the Cressi-sub Super Occhio seem to be by far the two most popular masks in not only the underwater rugby world, but also in underwater hockey. Sportsbutikken, one of the most well known European websites for UWR gear (the proprietor is also the President of the CMAS UWR Commission) in fact only stocks these two models.
Both Italian made (just like Ferraris!), sturdy and compact. You really can't go wrong with either, indeed there is very little discernible difference between them - even the shape and the price are the same!
The Sphera is the dark horse here that has been slowly gaining in popularity. While not as strong and protective as the Abyss and Super Occhio, it really gives you an unparalleled field of vision (no more sneak attacks!). This mask uses a plastic lens instead of tempered glass, therefore allowing it to have a singular and curved construction, completely opening up your peripherals underwater. It also has a smaller profile and sits closer to the face, reducing the amount of knocks and bumps you may get. However, the softer and weaker frame means that it provides less protection if you do get bumped. The plastic lens is also more susceptible to getting scratched and therefore losing its transparency.
It is the same price at US$50 as the other two. Free shipping is included for all the masks and you also get a free UWR mask strap to replace the original elastic strap the masks come with.
Does it fit?
Apart from the technical points to consider, probably the most important thing is how the mask actually fits with your face. Unlike fins and other equipment, masks don't come in different sizes, so you will have to select a different model if one doesn't fit you. However, for most people this isn't usually a problem and the three masks mentioned above all have quite similar fits. But if you think you might have a discerning face, then by all means ask someone to try theirs out before choosing which is best for you.
The Cressi Focus and Problue Tiara 2 masks can be bought with compatible optical lenses - here and here respectively.
The Cressi looks a bit more suitable for UWR but the Tiara is also looks pretty good and has cheaper lenses. Although I don't have any actual feedback/experience with either mask or their lenses.
If those options don't appeal to you then worry not, there is quite the treasure trove of other options out there. If you live in Australia, Adreno has an incredibly extensive range of masks, some of which even come in a range of fun colours!