| What is the Difference Between
Skin and SCUBA Diving?
26 October 1998
You might say that the biggest difference between
skin and SCUBA diving is air.
When you skin dive, youre limited to how
long you can stay underwater by the amount of air
you can hold in your lungs. When SCUBA diving, you
carry a supply with you so you can stay down longer.
Skin diving is also referred to as free diving,
breath-hold diving or sometimes snorkeling. A skin
diver uses a face mask to see underwater, fins for
propulsion and a snorkel.
OF THE DEEP: A North
Carolina Aquariums SCUBA diver shows young visitors
what its like to be underwater.
The snorkel is a tube that is attached to the strap of
the mask which allows the diver to breathe without raising
his or her head completely out of the water. When using
a snorkel, skin divers can float almost effortlessly on
the surface of the water or they can dive down underneath
the surface and swim until they need to come up for air.
Several techniques can be used to clear the water out of
the snorkel so that the diver can breathe through it without
getting a mouthful of water. With a little practice, anyone
who is a confident swimmer can master these techniques.
While SCUBA divers also use masks, fins and snorkels, they
also carry tanks of compressed air on their backs. This
allows the diver to stay underwater much longer than the
skin diver who is just holding his or her breath.
SCUBA stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
A complete SCUBA unit consists not only of the air tanks,
but a regulator and a buoyancy compensator as well. The
air in the tank is supplied to the diver through the regulator,
which reduces the high pressure inside the tank to that
of the surrounding underwater pressure. That makes the air
in the tank breathable. Attached to the regulator is a submersible
pressure gauge and a depth gauge. The pressure gauge indicates
the amount of air in the tank while the depth gauge charts
the divers depth. The buoyancy compensator is a vest-like
device that helps the SCUBA diver float effortlessly through
the water without sinking or floating to the surface. SCUBA
divers also wear weight belts which compensate for their
own natural buoyancy and help them stay underwater. Skin
divers sometimes will use weights as well.
Youve probably seen pictures of SCUBA divers who
are wearing snorkels attached to their masks, despite the
fact are carrying air tanks. SCUBA divers use snorkels when
they are on the 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 on the surface of the water.
SCUBA divers must understand the effects of pressure on
the body and how to deal with them in order to dive safely.
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 wouldnt 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 creatures that live in it.