Gear for Young Players

All playing children need to wear mask, snorkel, and fins. A snorkel is essential to advance the level of play in underwater hockey. It is best that each player owns their personal set of equipment, for the following reasons.
  1. Fit: every body shape is different. A well-fitted mask that doesn't leak is paramount. Fins stretch and mold to a player's foot.
  2. Personal preference: from color to style, it's more fun to use something we like.
  3. Hygiene: mask and snorkel are in close contact with mouth and nose.
  4. Club gear is really only good for starting players. It is in poor shape (alas) and is rarely maintained.
Underwater hockey is closely related to scuba diving and snorkeling, but much faster, and harder on the equipment. Most of the equipment found in retail stores is designed for diving/snorkeling, and is not suited to the practice of underwater hockey.

In addition to this article, see also Sean's view on equipment for adult players.

Swimsuit - Men's recommended suits are briefs ("Speedos"), although many boys use "jammers", women's are one or two piece swimming suits. The club has designed very cool club suits, available at Sea Lions Suit.

Buying a Mask

A good mask is key to enjoying the sport. It is the most critical item. Get a mask with: 
  • Two lenses of tempered glass. One-lens masks are dangerous, and not suitable for our sport.
  • A black silicon skirt and strap. Other types of plastics break down quickly, and are not as comfortable.
  • A prescription mask can be purchased at Snorkel-Mart.
With these requirements you will need to spend $20 at least. Really good masks cost ~$50, and they can be much better. They last years and years, so it is worth paying a bit more.

Here are some masks we recommend:
  1. IST M99: an excellent mask, well designed. (Cheaper clone, no longer available: Mahi Mahi Mask).
  2. Cressi Super Occhio, a classic that's been selling for over 30 years.
  3. UWX masks: look very promising, haven't tried.
Fogging Mask: A new mask fogs up, always. It needs to be cleaned thoroughly before first use. Rub toothpaste on the lenses with your finger, on the inside. Do it even if you have had the mask for some time. Before each practice, clean each lens again with a drop of dishwashing liquid. Rub, rinse. (The highly-priced "defogging liquids" are merely fancy soaps.) See also how to defog a mask.

Buying Fins

After the mask, get fins that fit and propel you underwater without hurting yourself or others. Underwater hockey fins need to be:
  1. Full foot. No straps are allowed, they are a safety concern.
  2. In general, they should be plain, without any special features: no splits, slits, or holes.
  3. Fitted. They should be a bit hard to get on when dry. If the foot slides in comfortably, they are too big. If a good fit cannot be found, use neoprene socks to get a snug fit.
We recommend:

For sizes 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 and above (for a snug fit, hockey players wear 1-2 sizes less in fins than what they wear in shoes):
  • Mares HP Avanti (also available at LeisurePro). THE classic fin for UWH, and recommended without reservations. These are optimal for kids that wear size 4 or bigger (in fins, which is usually 1-2 sizes less than what they wear in shoes).
For smaller sizes:
  • Cressi Rondinella (we are favoring this one in our recent purchases)
  • Cressi Clio (a classic alternative for kids)
  • Rubber "training" fins work alright (not ideal) for small kids (10 yr. old and under). Sports Basement sells those.

Depending on how tight the fin fits, players will be using two types of socks
  • Neoprene socks: We have been giving players TYR Fin Boots. Sports Basement carries them for ~$15, Leisure Pro also
  • Cotton socks: I've been just any inexpensive sport socks, those that come in packs of 3 or 6 pairs, usually cost $1-2/pair. They don't last too long, but they do the job.

Buying a Snorkel

When buying a snorkel, look for:
  • A soft material that won't scratch or sting the skin of other players.
  • Without a top device to stop water from entering.
  • A mouthpiece that fits -- most snorkels are designed for adult mouths and are too big.
  • We recommend it without a purge (a valve at the bottom), but it is ok if you like it. Purges break down often, and ruin the snorkel.
Here are some suggestions. They are known as "J-type" snorkels:
Most store-bought snorkels are not adapted to underwater hockey. But they can be improved. You need to:
  • Remove any device on top, they are nuisance for the rapid up and down and swimming actions of the game. They are also a safety concern. 
  • Cut the snorkel shorter. Many are too long and too narrow up top, which makes it harder to inhale and blow quickly. A shorter snorkel makes it all easier. 
  • Streamline the snorkel by cutting off any knobs or spikes, and smoothing them with sand paper after cutting.

Gear Backpacks

These backpacks are very practical to carry all the gear, wet or dry, including fins. They are also entirely optional.
Here are some examples in the $20-–$30 range in June 2014.

Blue Reef Snorkel Backpack from Leisure Pro

Blue Reef Backpack

Where to Buy?

Underwater hockey gear isn't common, and online shopping helps. We endorse CanAm for underwater hockey equipment: they have good prices, considering their free shipping, and no tax deal. We also recommend LeisurePro: excellent prices, and a lot more choice (not necessarily an advantage, as their focus is diving/snorkeling).

Retail (offline) stores let you try on equipment and sometimes carry the specialized items you need. Within San Francisco, we recommend Sports Basement (general sports store) and Bamboo Reef (dive store).

Shopping on a Budget

Kid snorkeling packages can be found for less than $50. While priced attractively, such packages are not suited to underwater hockey. An example of what not to buy includes fins with straps, a single lens mask, and a "dry" snorkel.

Although prices vary, a careful selection can yield equipment in a similar price range:
If your budget only lets you afford a single item, get a mask. It's the most important one.