Free Diving vs. Scuba Diving

Freediving-vd-Scuba-DivingIs there really a difference between free diving and scuba diving? While both sports deal with exploring the underwater world, there is a significant difference between the two.

Goal of the Sport

Free diving is a sport often associated with the objective of achieving a personal best on depth or dive time. Its stress is to go beyond one’s limits. Scuba, on the other hand, is a recreational sport that enables one to enjoying the aquatic marine life. And the stress is to dive within one’s limits.

Breathing Technique

Breath-holding is the technique used by a free diver. This single breath of air may last an average of anywhere from 45 sec. to 3 min. or sometimes longer. For scuba diving, the rule is to breathe continuously and to never hold your breath. This is because breathing compressed air at depth will allow a diver to fill his lungs to capacity. Breath-holding will cause lung injury upon ascent due to expansion of the air in the lungs which in turn is caused by decreasing water pressure. Since scuba diving is done with the help of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA), the diver may last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the depth, tank size and the diver’s rate of breathing.

Lung Over-Expansion, Narcosis and Decompression Sickness

These diving injuries which may afflict a scuba diver is non-existent for a free diver. Because a free diver dives with a single breath of air, the volume of air in his lungs is never greater than it was on the surface because no additional air was inhaled underwater.  Likewise because the free diver is not breathing compressed air at depth, then there is no nitrogen overload that may lead to nitrogen narcosis at depth or decompression sickness on the surface. This means a free diver has no need to be concerned with maintaining a safe ascent rate or doing a safety stop.


Because free diving relies only on a breath of air, a mask, a snorkel and fins are all that is needed. Sometimes if the water is cold then a wetsuit and weight belt is added. Scuba diving on the other hand requires not only the above set but also the bulky SCUBA unit to allow the scuba diver to adapt underwater.

Dive Preparation

Free divers need several minutes to prepare their body before a dive. They undergo a pre-dive respiration technique to relax their body. Scuba divers on the other hand use the time to prepare their equipment for a dive.

Mobility Underwater

Without the bulky SCUBA unit that also creates drag, a free diver is more mobile and agile underwater. Likewise with no air bubbles being exhaled or distracting sound caused by breathing from a regulator, a free diver becomes a silent and deadly hunter while spear fishing. He can also interact and be one with the aquatic life without them being intimidated.

So if you’d like to merely observe the marine life underwater, be a scuba diver. But if you want a closer interaction with the marine life, without a bulky apparatus that is both an encumbrance to you and somewhat of a threat to the aquatic environment, then go for  free diving.