Difference Between Scuba Diving and Freediving

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If you’re interested in new experiences, venturing under the surface of the sea is always a great option. It’s hard to describe diving to anybody who hasn’t done it before. However, that feeling of floating in one spot and relaxing as the water washes past you is unreal.

Of course, getting to see all sorts of marine wildlife is pretty neat. That said, there are different types of diving.

This article compares the difference between scuba diving and freediving. As someone who’s never dived before, you probably don’t know the differences between the two. So let’s figure out what you’re getting into with scuba diving and freediving.

5 Main Differences Between Scuba Diving and Freediving

There are a few differences between these two types of diving. Some may seem more evident than others.

1. Breathing

One significant difference between scuba diving and freediving is breathing. If you didn’t know, scuba stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

If you have ever seen a scuba diver, you know that they use air tanks (and gases) for breathing underwater; in scuba diving, you can breathe underwater thanks to that oxygen tank.

On the other hand, freediving does not use any such gear. On that note, there’s also no breathing involved. Freediving involves the diver taking a deep breath and staying under for as long as their lungs will allow. Unlike in scuba diving, the oxygen you have in freediving is limited to what your lungs can hold.

2. Time and Depth

Perhaps one of the most significant differences between scuba diving and freediving is how long you can stay underwater. This is directly related to how deep you dive.

The record depth for scuba diving is 332 meters or 1,089.24 feet. In freediving, the record is 130 meters or 426.5 feet.

The scuba diving record is around 132 hours In terms of time spent underwater. For freediving, it is just under 12 minutes.

Of course, these are unreal records, and most people won’t get close to these records. However, the average safe depth is between 45 and 90 feet in scuba diving. The average dive time is between 45 and 60 minutes.

On the other hand, the deepest that most people go to in freediving is 20 feet. So anything deeper is considered deep diving.

Moreover, how long you can stay under all depends on how long you can hold your breath. Most people won’t make it past 90 or 120 seconds without serious training.

In scuba diving, you have an air tank that lets you stay under for as long as the tank allows. In freediving, the only air you have is in your lungs. So, you can stay under for long periods in scuba diving and dive very deep. However, in freediving, there is only so far, and so long you can go on a single breath.

3. Reliance on the Diving Gear – Mobility

Another difference is that you always have to carry gear in scuba diving. Besides metal tanks, other components are required, such as the BCD and the regulator.

The BCD is an essential component, as it assists with buoyancy. Diving as deep as scuba divers do while efficiently controlling buoyancy and depth would not be possible without a BCD.

All this gear helps scuba divers dive deep depths and for long periods. However, this equipment is cumbersome. With a full scuba setup, you cannot move very fast and explore tight places. Also, you constantly have to pay attention to your equipment.

Unlike freediving, you don’t have any gear besides a mask and fins. Freediving is a lot less restrictive in this sense. It’s much easier to move and maneuver when you aren’t wearing scuba gear. You have more flexibility, you can explore tighter spaces, and you can move much faster. Also, in freediving, you don’t have to pay attention to air levels in a tank and other technical details.

That said, for buoyancy control in scuba diving, you have that BCD. However, in freediving, you have no such buoyancy control equipment. Therefore, how deep you can go, and how fast you can sink and ascend is down to your physical abilities.

So, while scuba divers can go deeper and stay under much longer, freediving feels much less restrictive and technical. Instead of relying on gear to remain under and control buoyancy, it all comes down to your own physical prowess.

In freediving, the only thing dictating your adventure is your own ability. In freediving, you are a lot more mobile and can move quickly.

Difference Between Scuba Diving and Freediving

4. Bubbles, Noise, and Sea Creatures

In scuba diving, there is a lot of noise created with released bubbles. Unfortunately, this often scares away a lot of marine wildlife.

Scuba diving will often scare away animals before you get a chance to get close to them. Moreover, due to the lack of mobility in scuba diving, keeping up with fast-moving fish is impossible.

However, scuba diving is ideal for sitting in one spot and waiting to see particular creatures. With scuba gear, you can sit at the bottom and wait for elusive animals that take time to spot.

This is not something you can do in freediving because you just don’t have enough air to sit in one spot for a long time to wait for elusive creatures. However, you also don’t make any noise in freediving by letting out big air bubbles. It’s much better for getting up close and personal with skittish sea creatures.

It’s much less scary for a fish to see a silent free diver than it is to see a scuba diver. But unfortunately, many creatures are scared by the strange noise and commotion caused by scuba diving.

In addition, you’re much more mobile when freediving. This allows you to swim and turn quickly and keep up with fast-moving creatures.

So, while both types of diving allow you to see sea creatures, you probably won’t see the same ones.

5. Focus and Reliance

While you should always scuba dive in pairs, your reliance on your buddy tends to be greater in freediving. This is because freediving buddies have to know each other’s limits and be able to tell when their buddy is having a problem.

In scuba diving, you rely much more on your gear than on your buddy. However, in freediving, your buddy (and yourself) is all you have to rely on. Therefore, freedivers have to be much more attentive and vigilant when spotting problems with their diving buddy.

You must constantly check time, depth, air levels, and more in scuba diving. In addition, you have to know your equipment, how to read it, and how to use it.

However, in freediving, it’s a lot more intimate and feeling-based. For example, you aren’t looking at a gauge to see how much air you have left; instead, you rely on your lungs. So physical awareness of yourself and your surroundings is critical in freediving.


Both scuba diving and freediving are great sports. However, as you can see, although both involve being underwater, realistically, that’s where the similarities end.

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