Is Freediving Safer Than Scuba?

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Is Freediving Safer Than Scuba?

In general, freediving is much safer than scuba diving! Scuba diving has an average death rate of 3/100,000 while freediving only has an average rate of 1/100,000. This is because most scuba fatalities happen due to equipment issues or inexperience e.g. running out of gas or losing a weight belt which could be fatal in some cases depending on factors e.g. depth, time, decompression sickness, etc.

If you do not have lots of experience, it is highly recommended that you take lessons or get certified before free diving on your own accord, or even just trying scuba diving.

It’s best to approach this hobby properly, learning with a professional and getting certified from the start.

Is it worth the risk to dive without equipment to breathe? Is it worth risking your life for that one breath of air in such a harsh environment? Is freediving safer than scuba? These are questions that people often ask when thinking about freediving. In this article, we will take a look at some dangers and risks of each and whether or not they outweigh each other.


How are you kept safe with scuba diving? 

First, let’s talk about Scuba Diving. Scuba diving is any sort of underwater diving with breathing apparatus besides normal human breathing (like snorkeling).

There are three types of scuba diving: Open Circuit (re-breathers), Closed Circuit, and Atmospheric Diving Suits. The most common type by far is an open circuit where you breathe a gas that is stored in the tank of your vest. This is where you typically breathe nitrox or a mixture of different gasses depending on depth and time underwater, along with an optional Isotope to help monitor depths.

Closed-circuit takes all oxygen out of the air used for breathing and stores it separately from the tank so you don’t inhale another diver’s carbon dioxide. Atmospheric Diving Suits are very similar to closed-circuit except there isn’t any gas released or recycled in the system as it isn’t needed (given perfect circumstances).

All three have their own benefits and drawbacks and we will not go into them here (look up each individually if interested).


What about freediving? 

Freediving is any form of underwater diving without breathing apparatus. There are several disciplines of freediving and they all have their own sets of rules and characteristics to them. The most popular discipline is called No-Limits, where divers typically do not have any equipment other than a mask, fins, weights, and perhaps a wetsuit.

In this discipline, the divers try to get to a depth as fast as possible while holding their breath for as long as possible before surfacing (some say that is called Variable Weight but I will leave it at No Limits for simplicity).

Other disciplines include Constant weight where the diver wears a monofin or bi-fins and attempts to swim with them down until either he/she runs out of gas or in his/her legs e.g. Apnea – a sport which has athletes holding their breath underwater to achieve the longest time possible e.g. Static Apnea where they hold still in one position and Dynamic Apnea where they move around as long as possible (usually with fins on)

There’s also Free Immersion. This is like Constant weight but the divers use a rope instead of fins so they can pull themselves down faster than swimming with fins, again either surfacing because of gas or legs Fin AID (fins assisted individual distance), it’s similar to free immersion in that the divers use ropes and fins but they also wear weighted sleds to help them go down further than without them or just treading water up top until he/she runs out of gas of legs (fin AID is a relatively new discipline) and lastly Constant Weight without Fins where the divers are weighted down so they don’t need to use their feet to move around.

Now there is a reason why I said most fatalities happen due to inexperience or equipment issues in scuba diving. There are several rare but very serious cases where for example a diver runs out of gas during a dive (which is not supposed to happen), his/her buddy does not have enough gas on his/her own tank to help him/her get back up or even worse cannot find him/her and the diver dies down there. Another scenario is that a diver gets stuck in a bad current and runs out of air because he/she couldn’t fight it long enough. It would then be up to a rescue diver, but the victim ran out of air in such a short time that rescuers cannot get there on time.

Those are rare cases though, so I will focus back on freediving and say that generally speaking it is way safer than scuba diving as you can see from the statistics! Plus as a side note, did you know that freediving is also used for scientific research?

That’s right! Scientists used to use scuba divers to do their work underwater until they started using freedivers instead because the latter is less likely to disturb or change the environment which is extremely important when doing research. So next time you think about going snorkeling, think again and try some deep breath-hold diving instead!

Or, head to your local school to get certified to learn safely.. then you’re not worrying about stats like these ones!