Scuba Diving vs. Free Diving

a free diver descending on a line

Scuba Diving vs. Free Diving

Humans have been going underwater for years and years, before any kind of scuba diving equipment was even thought of. Unfortunately, their time below the surface was limited due to having just one breath of air. Nowadays, we have the ability to stay underwater for longer because of the invention of the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. Despite this invention, some people still love free diving and its popularity is growing. Not everyone’s reasons are the same but some divers enjoy both scuba diving and free diving, others prefer one or the other.

The obvious difference between both scuba and free diving is the breathing part. Scuba divers are taught NEVER to hold their breath underwater to prevent the risk of pulmonary barotrauma. Free divers do the complete opposite and they must hold their breath throughout the whole dive. Remember that scuba diving is breathing compressed air from your scuba tank and this air can expand upon ascent. Whereas free divers don’t intake any extra air underwater, the volume of air inside the lungs of a free diver is never greater than it was at the surface.

A second major difference is that the free diver does lug a lot of heavy equipment around with them. Free divers try to be as light and streamlined as possible to avoid unnecessary drag. A lightweight, low profile mask, such as this one, is popular with free divers. Free divers can use wetsuits, masks, fins and snorkels, but they are not essential.

Recreational scuba divers enjoying being in the water to explore the underwater world, perhaps take underwater photos and enjoy their surroundings. Whereas free diving opens up a new challenge, although it allows you to see marine life and the underwater environment, you also push your boundaries and try to hold your breath for longer. World champion free diver, Umberto Pelizzari once said that the scuba diver goes diving to look around but the free diver dives to look inside.

As well as differences, there are some similarities in scuba diving and free diving. Both require some techniques and skills such as being confident in the water. Being able to relax while free diving or scuba diving goes a long way to being calm and preventing strain and panic. Another point to note is that free divers need to equalise their air spaces, just like scuba divers. Free divers should practice this often and find quicker and more efficient ways to equalise because they descend more rapidly than scuba divers. If you speak with any free diver, you will probably learn that they practise meditation and deep breathing exercises, this helps them to relax and hold their breath for longer periods.

Some of the benefits of free diving include the ability to get closer to some marine life as you don’t exhale those pesky bubbles from your regulator, frightening the fish away. Your free diving equipment is less cumbersome than scuba diving equipment, which is great for your travel allowance! Free diving also encourages you to live a healthier lifestyle and control what you eat and how often you exercise. Monitoring the calories and keeping fit allows you to push your limits more easily.

On the whole, free diving is an interesting sport, even if you already a scuba diver. But, remember that the safest way to do any kind of diving is with proper training with a professional diving instructor.