What is the difference between skin and SCUBA diving?

 October 1998

The biggest difference between skin and SCUBA diving is air.

Divers & Vis 6.5x8.53 v FF72Skin divers are limited to how long they can stay underwater by the amount of air they can hold in their lungs. SCUBA divers carry their air supply with them. SCUBA actually stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

Skin diving is also referred to as free diving, breath-hold diving or sometimes snorkeling. Skin divers often use a face mask to see more clearly underwater, along with fins for propulsion and a snorkel for breathing.

Snorkeling has become a favorite water sport. The snorkel tube is attached to the face mask, which allows the swimmer to breathe without raising his  head completely out of the water. With the use of a snorkel, swimmers can float almost effortlessly on the surface of the water, or dive and swim until they need to come up for air. After surfacing, there are several ways to clear water from the snorkel, and, with a little practice, a confident swimmer can master these techniques.

SCUBA divers also use masks, fins and snorkels, but carry tanks of compressed air on their backs. This allows them to stay underwater much longer.  They use the snorkel when on the water’s surface and want to conserve the air in their tanks before descending underwater. Snorkels also come in handy after a dive, when swimming back to a dive boat or to shore.

Unlike skin diving or snorkeling, SCUBA diving requires certification in order to purchase or rent gear or receive other diving related services. Most dive shops offer certification classes, and they may even be available through your local college, university or YMCA.

SCUBA was invented by the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Without its development, we wouldn’t know nearly as much as we do about the ocean. Both skin and SCUBA diving are wonderful ways to explore the underwater world and learn more about the fascinating creatures that live there.