Is Freediving Harder Than Scuba Diving?

Is Freediving Harder Than Scuba Diving?

Generally speaking, freediving is harder than scuba diving because it challenges the diver’s body and mind. When a freediver holds their breath, it goes against the human body’s nature, so a freediver must adapt their body to depth and to the amount of oxygen their muscles consume. 

Freediving is a more liberating way than scuba diving to explore the mesmerising underwater world, but there is one big difference, you will be doing it with one single breath!

When scuba diving, you need to watch your ascent and descent speed, decompression sickness, and bottom time. But, as a freediver, you can go up and down at your own pace, and your bottom time depends on how well you have trained your lungs to hold your breath.

As a freediver you will learn different ways to improve and enhance your underwater experience, making it less challenging. This can be anything from working on your diving techniques such as equalizing properly to learning how to relax your mindset to flawlessly sink below the surface. 

So, you are probably wondering, is freediving harder than scuba diving? What makes freediving different from scuba diving? In this article, we will discuss the following points:

How Hard is Freediving?

Freediving is physically and mentally challenging; it requires a lot of time and practice to get the hang of it. 

Freediving, like any water-related sport, requires time and practice to get better. So, do not worry if you find freediving challenging at the beginning, with more experience, focusing on your fitness and working on certain relaxing techniques for your mind, you will be an underwater explorer in no time!

If you are already an experienced scuba diver, you may be thinking, how does this make freediving harder than scuba diving? 

Well, I asked my good friend Denys from Pure Dive Resort, Nusa Penida (Indonesia) who is a very experienced scuba diving instructor and keen freediver, if he thinks that freediving is harder than scuba diving. 

Let’s check out what he said!

Darby: “Denys, with your experience, do you find freediving harder than scuba diving?”

Denys: “Yes, because of the equalizing techniques, and you have to kinda be fit in most cases. For example, you need to be fitter than an average scuba diver. So, for these two reasons, I would personally say that freediving is harder, or you could say that it is commonly more challenging than scuba diving.” 

As Denys mentioned, freediving requires much more training to reach depths than scuba diving does. Training includes a lot of dry training to prepare your mindset and physical ability to sink underwater safely in order to minimise risks

But wait, there’s more…

Also, many professional freedivers hoping to achieve a personal best will complete one or more of the eight freediving disciplines, which need you to have a certain fitness level. This includes your eating and drinking habits outside of the sport and understanding how carbon dioxide and oxygen are affected during a breath hold using tables. 

So, if freediving is generally harder than scuba diving, does it take longer to learn how to freedive vs scuba diving? 

Read on to find out!

How Long Does it Take to Learn Freediving?

Basic freediving training usually only takes two to three days, however, freedivers focus on becoming confident and a more comfortable diver, not how long it takes them to learn to freedive. 

OK, now you are ready to take on the challenge of freediving. I can almost hear you wondering how long it’s going to take you to become a certified freediver, so let us dive straight in!

Most basic freediving courses take two to three days, sometimes longer. The recommended duration to learn to freedive is 15 hours, which in this time you will be with a freediving instructor to learn the ropes of freediving, making you more confident and comfortable underwater. 

If you are interested in finding out more about freedive training, check out our article on, how freedivers train.

Can Anyone Learn to Freedive?

Generally, freedivers need to be fitter than scuba divers. Although anyone can learn to freedive but like any sport, some people will be more natural than others at spending time underwater while holding their breath. 

The good news is, that anyone can learn to freedive

Yet, just like scuba diving, some will take freediving like a duck to water, while others may need a little longer to take on the challenge. 

Fun fact! Infants are actually better freedivers than adults, as research shows that newborns can hold their breath underwater for more than 30 seconds. 

In terms of age restrictions, most freediving shops will follow standards set by a freediving certification agency. For example, RAID’s standard is that freedivers must be at least 12 years old to complete the basic freediving course. 

Freediving Vs Scuba Diving

The biggest difference between freediving and scuba diving is the equipment used and the way the divers breathe. 

Freediving and scuba diving are both perfect ways to discover the underwater world. But, depending on how you want to explore an epic shipwreck or cruise over a sloping reef, it is important to compare the two.

Let me break this down for you!

Breathing: 

The number one rule in scuba diving is to never hold your breath because you will be breathing oxygen under pressure. 

However, in freediving, it is all about holding your breath. Holding your breath is one of the first challenges you will learn for freediving, making freediving harder than scuba diving. 

Marine Life Interactions: 

One of the best things about an underwater activity is the marine life you can observe. Most marine life is very shy and will stay far away, especially those that are scared of the bubbles made when scuba diving. 

As freediving doesn’t produce any bubbles, because you do not exhale during the dive, it lets you get much closer to marine life. But, remember to always allow plenty of space between you and marine life to avoid disturbance. 

However, experiencing marine life underwater is limited with freediving as you will need to surface much faster than if you were to go scuba diving. 

Training: 

Technically, anyone can freedive without a certification, but it is highly not recommended. 

Always ensure you complete at least the basic training (for example, the SSI Level 1 or AIDA Level 1 freediving course) in freediving before heading out! 

“The SSI Freediving Level 1 program is the best first step to becoming a freediver. It  certifies you to freedive with a dive buddy in open water to a maximum depth of 20 meters.”

On the other hand, to go scuba diving you will need to complete some form of training like the PADI DSD or Open Water Course before you are allowed in the ocean. 

Equipment: 

Scuba diving requires a lot more equipment than freediving because you need to use a cylinder containing air to aid with breathing in the water, and to inflate your BCD to maintain neutral buoyancy underwater. 

In scuba diving, you will need weights, an exposure suit (maybe even boots and a hood), a mask, scuba fins, BCD, a regulator, and an oxygen tank. Whereas, when freediving, a mask, freediving fins, weights, and an exposure suit are the only basic requirements. 

Cost: 

As mentioned above, you need more equipment to go scuba diving, therefore, scuba diving is usually more expensive than freediving, particularly if you want to buy your own equipment instead of hiring from dive shops. 

Fitness: 

Both freediving and scuba diving requires you to be relatively fit, however, scuba diving relies more on your scuba equipment to assist you, making it easier than freediving. Freediving focuses on your physical ability to sink below the surface, which is why it is considered harder than scuba diving. 

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:

DiveAssure

Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final Thoughts

Freediving and scuba diving are both sports that push human limits to explore great depths, whether it be physical or mental training.

Freediving is considered harder than scuba diving because it challenges both your body and mind. This doesn’t mean you have to be a bodybuilder or yoga instructor to successfully freedive, but you will need to complete some freedive training to make you feel more confident and comfortable underwater.

Remember, despite freediving being harder than scuba diving, anyone can take part!

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Darby Bonner

Darby is a marine biologist and PADI scuba diving instructor from the UK. With over ten years of diving experience, she has visited some of the best dive destinations in the world. Currently, Darby is living in Bali, Indonesia and regularly dives at some of the most beautiful dive sites in the Indian Ocean. Her passion for the ocean led her to study seals, publish a paper, and become a marine mammal medic. In the future, she hopes to complete her master’s in marine science, and of course, continue her love for teaching and diving!

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