You’ve asked, & now I’ve (finally) answered;
“What is the best mask to wear for curling?”.
I am not a doctor, but here is what I have learned from a lot of smart people.
What we don’t know:
- A crap-tonne, don’t get me started.
Let’s pay attention instead to what we do know:
- Masks + 2m physical distance is the best way to keep us safe from contracting and sharing COVID.
- Keeping a small social circle* helps make contact tracing easy, and decreases the risks for you and those you care about.
- Washing your hands and taking care of your mind & body is the best bet to keep you as safe as possible from the risk of COVID.
 *A ‘small social circle’ means understanding that your friend sees their family, and her brother sees his girlfriend, and his girlfriend sees her family and her family has 10 people in it... and all of a sudden your “bubble” of those you might share or receive COVID from is 50-100 people. (This isn’t including those in sporting or educational cohorts). This is why I stress that keeping 2m distance and wearing a mask when gathering with those out of your regular small social circle is an act of love.
But first, 2 friendly reminders heading into this curling season:
- Even if wearing a mask is not mandatory, you can still make the choice to wear a mask.
- If you don’t feel safe curling this season, it is ok to take a year off, or curl less. You are not a failure. You are not weak. You are strong and kind and it is an honour to be in your bubble of friendship. You are keeping yourself and those you love safe both mentally and physically. There is no shame in that. You can focus your attentions instead on mental and physical training, strategy, communication skills, or even just give your mind and body the time and space to recover.
Now, back to business.
When we are looking at what mask to wear, here are a couple things that I’ve put together to make your experience a little more comfortable:
1. Fit your mask:
- How to make the mask fit comfortably:
- Shape: I find the ones that fit over the nose, the chin and don’t leave space out the sides fit and feel the best … they look like a jockstrap not a rectangle.
- Wire or fashion Tape: A mask with the wire built in to the top piece to bend around your nose and cheekbones helps keep the mask in place, without blowing your own air into your eyes and out the sides. Fashion tape can be used on those masks that don’t come with wire.
- Piece on back: Those in the medical field use a small piece on the back of their mask to take the pressure off of their ears. Consider this route too if the mask you purchased is just too big.
- Tie the pieces at the back of your ear in a small knot to make smaller.
- Blue Surgical Mask tip
- How to deal with glasses fogging:
- This is a big issue for those wanting to curl with their glasses & a mask. You can purchase ski goggle, or swim goggle spray, and apparently this helps to decrease the fog that can happen. Find a mask that fits over your nose well (with wire or tape), and hopefully you can put your glasses on the top of the mask so less exhale gets blown upwards.
2. How to manage a mask safely and effectively:
- How to breath?
- Hopefully by now you aren’t surprised to hear me say yet again to stop breathing in and out your mouth, and try to breath primarily through the nose. Breathing in and out your nose as much as possible is a sign of fitness and health. Yes, after a hard sweep you might be tempted to open your mouth. Use the need to keep your mask dry as an excuse to remember to shut your mouth as you recover between shots. You lose a lot of moisture through mouth breathing, which leads us to the next point.
- What to do with a wet mask?
- A wet mask is less effective at protecting you, and can make it real hard to breath (my husband likens breathing through a wet mask like being water boarded…).
- So have a few masks available, and a safe plan in place to store both the used and new masks, as well as a plan to change where you can sanitize your hands immediately.
- Breath as much as possible through your nose. You lose more moisture through mouth breathing than nasal breathing. Nasal breathing not only helps decrease the amount of moisture accumulating in your mask, is also it will also decrease the chance that your lips and mouth get dry, and decrease the amount of water you need to consume during a game (this is a key point for curling at all times, not just during a pandemic). If you image how a game will run, it is going to be more of a hassle for you to reach for water mid-game, so decrease the amount of moisture in your mask, and decrease the amount of water you need by focusing your breathing in and out of your nose as much as possible.
- There are silicone inserts that you can purchase that help keep the mask away from your mouth. Just remember that a wet mask is still less effective, so change it throughout the game at least once, depending on your position.
Last note on nasal breathing: Often if we feel uncomfortable in a mask, or stressed, or overworked, we might start to breath into the upper chest with short and shallow mouth breathing. For most people, one of the simplest ways you can decrease the stress and anxiety around breathing in a mask is to breath through your nose, deep into your belly (not a big breath, but a breath that moves the diaphragm), with a silent and a relaxed breath.
Final (not medical) tip: Put your mask on, and see if you can blow out a match or a candle with the mask on. If you can’t then you know your mask is “good”.
What brand of mask to wear?
I want you to consider supporting the companies that continually support you, your team, and your curling community year after year. Dynasty, Goldline, and other curling manufacturers are creating masks for use during games. A lot of local shops are creating masks, and a few charities have masks that are available with the proceeds going to a good cause. Do your research, and test some out.
Note: I have not tried Dynasty or Goldline masks yet, so am looking for feedback on fit, feel and effectiveness while curling.
I’ve heard from a few sources that the blue surgical grade masks that nurses and your R.Kin might wear are the most effective, and most breathable mask for activity and long use. The downside being that they are not reusable, and create a lot of waste. (Ps. Remember to cut the straps on your disposable mask to protect wildlife and the environment).
I bought a pack of black masks off Amazon a couple months ago, that have been doing me wonders (I’ll hunt down the link). I’ve got a small head, but will be experimenting throughout the fall and will report back.
Ps. I am 100% on board with updating this post as new information comes to light.
Shoot a message to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any:
- New ideas,
- A review on masks available,
- Questions, concerns, quarries,
- Or anything else you want answered about masks.
Thanks for reading. If you think this can help a friend or teammate out, please share it with them!
In the meantime, take care friends!
Be kind, wash your hands, airhug your friends and don’t be a racist.
Stephanie Thompson is a former student-athlete at Western University and is a certified Kinesiologist who plays on the WCT Women's tour. This article, What is the *best* Mask to Wear for Curling? was originally published on on her blog, Empowered Performance, and is re-published here with permission.