Both activities involve being underwater, but theres something very different about them, other than the obvious - No breathing.
With SCUBA diving, besides having to learn physiology, effects of pressure, equalisation etc, a lot of time goes into teaching how to use the equipment; you’ve got the suit, boots, flippers, tank, BCD and all those pipes.
In freediving, all you have is your suit, mask, fins ,lungs and mind. Instead of teaching how man made equipment works, people are thought how to use their mind and body to prepare themselves for a dive.
We educate people on things such as; correct breathing (hot to properly fill lungs) - which can be practiced in everyday life and have incredible health benefits, the effects water has on our body, how freediving is 90% mental and relaxation techniques.
Why bother using or buying gear when you’ve been gifted with the most powerful machine - the mind.
Our innate ability to freedive
Most people wouldn't know this, but humans share a common reflex called the Mammalian Dive Reflex (MDR) with diving whales, seals and dolphins. These reflexes are triggered when we submerge ourselves in water. The most basic example of this is when we go for a swim - what’s the first thing that happens? We feel completely relaxed. When we submerge our bodies in water, hold our breath and expose ourselves to pressure, all these reflexes trigger, and help us in holding our breath for longer and in a safer manner.
If feels as if it’s like we were born to freedive. Did you know that as infants, we can comfortably hold our breath underwater for more than 40 seconds? We will instinctively start breast stroking and open our eyes and lose this ability when we are taught how to walk.
Freedom of movement
Another significant difference between the two is the equipment involved. When wearing bulky SCUBA gear, divers tend to travel in a linear direction making it difficult to have a 360 circular movement. In fact, whenever I go for a dive and approach SCUBA divers - no matter how much I try to attract their attention, they always seem to miss me - I’m a complete ninja to them.
Freediving on the other hand gives you complete freedom of movement, and gives you a real feel of being part of the ocean. It teaches you how to move efficiently through the water, whilst at the same time increases your comfort; which will be extremely beneficial for SCUBA divers’ air consumption.
The silent difference
When you take your final breath and go for the plunge, you immediately notice how silent the underwater world is. Vast amounts of ocean sitting right on top of you when you suddenly realise how alone you are, all by yourself. You will discover that reefs come alive with sounds you've never heard before. It is the most intimate way to connect with the ocean; fish and other marine animals are not scared off. Instead, the animals become docile, even playful. They often welcome freedivers into their schools making them perfect underwater models. No other activity can get you as close to ocean wildlife than freediving.
For some it’s time taken to listen to yourself; there’s a great saying by Michael Grevias, an elite sports performing coach;
‘There’s nothing better than an uncomfortable moment, because in that moment we are incredibly aware of ourselves’.
Time spent underwater
SCUBA divers win at this one. Obviously you will spend more time underwater with the help of breathing apparatus - thats guaranteed. With freediving however, you will spend more time in the water allowing you to cover more ground.
How can freediving help your SCUBA diving?
- Freediving breahting techniques help you breathe a lot more efficiently, preventing fatigue and breathing difficulties.
- Freedivers learn to move efficiently with finning and body position in order to save precious oxygen.
- When it comes to equalisation, freedivers are thought two ways on how to equalise; Valsava and Frenzel manoeuvre. Most SCUBA divers are thought the valsava, which causes a lot of strain on the lungs and is a very inefficient way of equalising, leading to more air consumption. The Frenzel however, uses minimal effort to equalise the ears.