5 Differences between Freediving and SCUBA Diving.

Freediving represents an up and coming market, as people seek ways to challenge themselves mentally and physically while still enjoying the magic “under the sea”. It seems like the allure to practice meditation and relaxation underwater surrounded by life is becoming more mainstream. Yet, many people still don’t know what the differences are between freediving and scuba diving. Well here it is, laid out as simply as possible:

One Breath
Perhaps the most important difference is not always the most obvious one. Freediving is the act of holding your breath underwater, which means you only get one at a time! I know what you’re thinking, “I’m pretty sure I can only hold my breath for like, 15 seconds”. Well, we respectfully challenge that assumption, and will happily share with you some techniques to increase your breath hold. In fact, we can almost assure you we will have you holding your breath for 90 seconds or more after a few days of practice. 

No Bubbles, No Sound, and No Machinery.

Yes, scuba diving is a silent sport. When I used to teach scuba, one of my favorite pastimes was to drop below the water where I couldn’t be reached, and enjoy nothing but the sound of my own breathing. Well, in freediving you don’t even have THAT sound, so vis-a-vis, it must be even quieter down there. Slipping under the water and experiencing it without bubbles, silently gliding with no equipment and no drag- it’s a feeling that is hard to describe and more appropriately experienced first hand. Many of us who have been scuba diving for years can still appreciate the feeling of being completely natural underwater, and continuing to build confidence to allow us to stay longer. 

Full Body Relaxation

I used to teach students relaxation techniques during their PADI Open Water Course, to prepare them in dealing with bouts of anxiety that may be felt during their first immersions. Often students encountered feelings of Claustrophobia, or even Agoraphobia (fear of OPEN spaces), and learning a few simple breathing techniques allowed them the tools to overcome the body’s natural responses. 

In freediving, students can experience similar sensations, but are already well prepared to handle them as much of the focus in the beginner level courses is on body relaxation, and subsequently, mind relaxation. If you have ever settled into a guided meditation, or even an intense yoga class, you may be familiar with the feeling of repose and euphoria that comes from mind relaxation. This is what freedivers practice, and in time, what everyone can learn to master. And guess what, this is a great skill for EVERY aspect of life, not just to stay underwater for longer. Need to work on your road rage? Take the PADI Freediver course.

Trust in Buddy and Freedive Friends

In freediving, it is very important to have unwavering trust in your buddy, especially during training. How is this different from scuba diving? While the premise of being in close vicinity is the same, the ability to respond to problems requires much more vigilance and intimate knowledge in freediving. The most likely problem when doing longer breath holds or deeper training is what is called a shallow water blackout. Having a buddy who knows your dive depth, your capabilities and your general attitude is more adept at being where you need them, when you need them. Becoming a better freediver also means becoming a better buddy, so it’s intrinsic motivation to progress. 

Better for the Gram

I don’t think I have a single cool picture of me underwater with scuba kit. The last difference appeals to our social media gremlin, who we all converse with, regardless of how much we deny it. People like to look good doing the things they love. Need an example? Go ahead and search instagram for underwater model shots on scuba and while freediving, and tell me how they compare. Nothing beats that natural beauty. 

No one is asking you to stop scuba diving- I know I never will. Freediving can offer something different, something that may be equally or more rewarding, and it's certainly worth a try. 

Cam Hookey is a PADI Freedive Instructor based at Blue Corner Freedive on Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia.