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opinion: scuba is more dangerous than freediving

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Fred S.

New Member
Sep 22, 2001
Hi there,

As freediving is not well known in Holland (but scuba diving is), I get to see a lot of frightened faces when I tell scuba divers (and others) that I'm into freediving.

The discussion that follows is usually about the "incredible risks and dangers" of breath-hold diving.

My opinion is that scuba is far more dangerous than freediving.

Any comments ?

SCUBA Vs. Free

There may be more overall accidents associated with SCUBA diving but in my opinion, freediving is much less forgiving!

To my knowledge, recreational freediving (NOT spearfishing), is statistically much safer than scuba (i.e. fewer deaths per people practicing). However, spearfishing is another story, and a great many people die each year in Europe while freedive-spearfishing.

Further, competitive diving, with proper safety, is, in my opinion, much safer than scuba. I know of only one freediver who died with proper safety in place (and that was in a pool during dynamic apnea).

Thanks Eric,

That's exactly how I think about it.

In your answer you rightly write about the diffence between freediving and spearfishing. The problem in these forums is that the word freediving is used for spearfishing too.

Scuba more dangerous?

Hi Everyone,
While I agree that statistically scuba has more fatalities I believe that it's a pretty safe sport if all the safety parameters are followed. I don't think we should compare scuba as a over all subject if we are going to divide freediving into seperate catagories,i.e. recreational, competition, spearfishing. We're all freedivers, even "spearfishermen". Thats my reason for freediving. Just my humble opinion. Safe diving.
Public opinion is another thing we need to consider. Whilst it may be true that X sport is more dangerous the Y sport, the public don't see it that way no matter what you say. :head

I good one I heard the other week was about diving with Sharks:

"You have more chance of being killed by a falling coconut than by a shark"

Yet I don't see people flocking to the coast to jump in the water with sharks :D

Jay ~ I agree with you that you can't divide one sport into multiple categories and then compare it to just one other sport. Scuba has multiple categories as well.
Spearfishing vs. Freediving

Between the 2 activities (freediving & spearfishing) I agree with Eric F. that spearfishing is typically a much more dangerous sport than just plain freediving. The main reason for this, in my opinion, is lack of safety. Especially during spearfishing tournaments where it's either so much of a disadvantage to be safe that it's not even worth competing or it's just outright forbidden by tournament rules. On the other hand you have freediving, which is usually practiced in a much more controlled environment with a strong emphasis placed on safety. Especially during tournaments where safety is mandatory. So, I guess the bottom line is that it's us damn spearfishers who are giving freediving a bad name by dying all the time and not the safety conscious performance freedivers. Sorry guys! That's why I made my comment earlier about freediving (from a spearfishers point of view) being much less forgiving than SCUBA diving. Usually in SCUBA, most accidents can be fixed by a trip to the chamber (bends, embolism, ect.) but for freediving (spearfishing) an accident usually culminates in death.

Scott Turgeon
here we go again...

What is it that we have to seperate those who SCUBA from those that hold their breath, for whatever reason??! It's this very "we're better than you.." divisional crap that keeps us- the diving community, from going forward and being able to have a definitive say in access issues, game harvasting and insurance litigation.

That I or we don't blow bubbles doesn't make us any safer or more "in touch", and this claiming to be is nothing more than picking at a scab that won't heal for it.

Well Icarus Pacific, my post wasn't meant to pick on anyone. I'm a scuba-diver and a free-diver as well.
I just wanted to start an honest discussion about the risks of the both ways of diving. And I think that looking at those risks (which are very different to my opinion) in an impartial way, perhaps I'm more able to explain to scuba-divers that freediving isn't more risky than scuba.
The "we are all equal" crap :eek: doesn't really help this....

There is a difference between SCUBA and Freediving


Sorry to disillusion you, but in most other countries of the World where spearfishing occurs (Australia, S. Africa, New Zealand, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, and Costa Rica - just to name a few) spearfishing while on SCUBA is either illegal or considered so disgraceful it's not practiced. Even in the USA, there are places where it's banned (American Samoa).

To me, this is such a strange quote you made: "Why is it that we have to separate those who SCUBA from those that hold their breath, for whatever reason??! It's this very "we're better than you.." divisional crap that keeps us- the diving community, from going forward and being able to have a definitive say in access issues, game harvesting and insurance litigation."

I for one, do separate the two activities (as does most of the rest of the World) and am proud to say I don't shoot fish on SCUBA. I would personally be disgraced to be lumped in the same category as a SCUBA spearfisherman and feel that this activity is the #1 cause that keeps the diving community from moving foward on the issues you stated above (access, game harvesting, and insurance litigation).

Scott Turgeon
Originally posted by Stephan Whelan
Public opinion is another thing we need to consider. Whilst it may be true that X sport is more dangerous the Y sport, the public don't see it that way no matter what you say.

Fred and Scott- My opinion stands as pointed out with Stephan's correct recognition that the public doesn't make the distinction between SCUBA and free divers.
Who cares who's better? We're all just nuts...

Take a look at the original thread's opening line. And then give some genuine thought to the infighting between the various agencies with the ranks of SCUBA and freediving communities. These clowns can't even get together to come up with common standards to measure a freakin' downline! Is it any wonder that we, the WHOLE diving community is looked as at a fringe group of death-inviting wankers, filling the air with complaints of not being able to cross community property, to hold events that will better the sports' exposure and to enable that general public that looks askance at us, to experience that which we enjoy, safely. Safely because we, as an entire sport community have put away the "We're free divers and spearfishermen and we only take what we need, and we're safer 'cause we don't need that failure-prone equipment that the SCUBA guys do; we give the fish a chance..." or conversly, "Hey, we SCUBA divers are just as conservation minded as the free guys. And we do it safer too..." No one cares because we've yet to put aside this bullshit bickering and come together to foster understanding and education for both the general public AND more importantly, our own community, so we don't have to waste keyboard time with subtle and ignorant barbs as to other's experience and assertions that are without credible evidence.

I shoot fish both freediving and with tanks. I've done it all over the World, including Austrailia and the Med. When I needed to use tanks, I wasn' t the only one there doing it. I was with the locals. And I'll tell ya, I came up, and still do more often than not, without fish. And it's not because I don't do it competitively anymore, (I out grew it...) and lack the game, but that the fish I was interested in, didn't present themselves or the shot wasn't a sure thing.

I'm going to be in Monterey this July, Scott and I'll tell you flat out that the majority of the fish speared during this event wouldn't even come to my mind as desirable in size. I'd let them go on by. Regardless of what non-profit's truck the fish eventually end
in, the public's going to see a bunch of shot-up fish in one place, with diver's dressing in the street, pissing in the bushes, filling up garbage cans and tying up the traffic. This is notority that is in no way beneficial to the sport.

That's not an allusion, or an illusion. It's plain fact that I've actually seen. I've been with CenCAl and the USofA since 74, and little has changed, including the heirarchy.

Check my profile. Been there, done that.

Points Made


You made some good points. On the Nationals thing, I agree with you, both means of spearfishing have the potential to turn the general public off.

I'm surprised you've been able to hunt so many places in the World with tanks. I have friends from Italy, France, Spain, and Australia who have all told me it's either illegal or so frowned upon it's not done in those Countries. In S. Africa, they are so conservative that not only can you not lobster on SCUBA but it's illegal to even use a boat.

Scott Turgeon
Illegal in Oz


I don't really have the time to double check all the Countries I mentioned earlier but here's a quote I just found on an Australian freediving website: "Many of my scuba diving friends find it strange that I, who even own my own scuba gear, should go back to freediving. The reason I started was simply that it's illegal to spear fish while scuba diving in Australia".

Scott Turgeon
Guys, the question with which I started this thread was NOT about spearfishing.
Just a simple comparision between the risks of scuba-diving (no hunting) and freediving (no spearfishing). :duh

Fred S.
You're correct Fred.

I was addressing Scott's assertions of the rightness of freediving-only spearfishing and that it was seen as safer or seen in a better light.

Again, whether or not you, Scott, Anderson, Bill, Cliff or I freedive, use tanks, spearfish or shoot photos, unless we get our collective shit in gear and stop the bickering over who's better, safer, truer, or whatever, we will continue to see access reduced, our political/social clout lessened and ultimately be seen as a bunch of kids that can't play well with others. Again.


Scott, just a very polite suggestion and one I teach the kids in my communications classes... the time to check your info is before you commit to saying them. In 1982,87 and 88 the use of tanks was fine in Austrailia, specifically Dangerous Reef. I was riding herd for the locals with a bang stick, who were shooting fish in order to gather burley for later use in attracting Whites.

Again, it's a polite suggestion. :hmm

Spearing on Scuba legal in 1 part of OZ

Spearfishing in Australia is ilegal in all states of Australia except 1, WA. In WA it is legal to spear fish catch lobsters and whatever you like on Scuba.

It's because the WA coast is very big with only a small population and it hasn't been overfished like the rest of Australia....

Hey this whole debate is silly, I scuba dive and freedive. Both sports have their risks. Safety is dependant on the people you dive with and mostly yourself !

There is a risk in everything, there is a bigger risk that you will die in a car crash on your way to the coast, be it to freedive, scuba to sunbake on the beach, makes no difference.....
Come on guys, I think its about time for a group hug here;) We've beat both of these subjects to death on other threads. I won't go into the spearfishing thing or the free vs scuba diving. Pretty much if you do something that others can't or won't do you're either a nut or a god. The outside world probably doesn't differientiate between scuba or freedivers---we're all crazy to them:duh . Can't we all just get along?

last year, when i filled my insurance question form, there was a question about if i was doing a dangerous sport. In the list, along with racing and parachuting , was scuba. This year they add freediving. So both of them are as dangerous now if you refer to that insurance form.
My Point

The point that I was trying to make had nothing to do with one sport being better, safer, cooler, viewed in a better light, ect than the other. What I was trying to get across to everyone was that LEGALLY freedive spearfishing and SCUBA spearfishing are CURRENTLY (how's that Icarus) viewed very differently throughout much of the rest of the World as compared to here in the USA. I had hoped people might start to wonder why so many countries would choose banishment of one activity over the other as a marine resource management tool. But if that didn't happen, I at least wanted everyone to be aware that Internationally a difference (legal) does exist between the 2 activities.

Scott Turgeon
Re: Stats

efattah said:
I know of only one freediver who died with proper safety in place (and that was in a pool during dynamic apnea).

??? who was it ? and what happened ?
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