Everything you need to Know about Skin Diving

It is quite difficult to keep up with all the terms used to define jumping into the water because all the different disciplines seem to overlap in one way or the other.  Slight differences in the way you choose to enter the water and stay under can redefine what discipline you are using. After saying this, however, even those slight changes can make a huge difference in your dive, and how you experience the aquatic world and life beneath.

Everything you need to Know about Skin Diving

Below, we will discuss skin diving, free diving, scuba diving, and snorkeling. There are some variations in each; some clearly defined and some a little muddled. Because of these grey areas of definition, some divers might have a different idea of what the definitions should be. This is just a way to define the sport for those who are trying to get a basic understanding of it, without the overwhelming details and arguments.

How is Skin Diving Defined?

Skin diving is a form of experiencing the aquatic world while holding your breath for a period of time while you go observe marine life or reefs that you see underneath. It requires the diver to wear a snorkel at the surface of the water, breathe through the tube, and observe everything underneath, until they see something that sparks their interest.

When something that the diver wants to examine more closely has been spotted, a long-held breath dive is taken into the water closer to where the diver wants to be. Skin diving requires a lot of practice and stamina especially to be able to hold your breath for long periods of time.

Training to Skin Dive

As mentioned above, training to skin dive does require a bit of stamina and some training. You need enough strength to be able to propel your body into the water and be able to maneuver it for a period of time. This not only requires some sort of physical training but also a certain level of swimming skills. People who don’t know how to swim very well are better off snorkeling, rather than venturing under the surface of the water. Apart from strength and stamina, the diver needs to be trained to hold their breath over long periods of time to be able to stay underwater. The following are a few tips on how to prepare for the dive, and how to train yourself how to hold your breath for longer periods of time.

Before Taking the Dive

Before the actual dive, it is a good idea to get some training in. Yoga and stretching exercises can help improve your posture and flow. These exercises help you become more aware of your body’s movements, and make you more flexible, making your dive that much more comfortable. Along with yoga, some form of strength training is a good idea to gain core strength for posture and upper legs for maneuverability. Finally, it is also a good idea to add in some cardio for stamina.

The best form of cardio to do for dive training is either running or (for obvious reasons) swimming. The more you practice, the stronger a swimmer you will be, making your diving experience that much better.

Holding your Breath

Learning how to you hold your breath for long periods of time takes a lot of patience and practice. The number one rule when holding your breath is keeping your body completely relaxed; the more strain and tension it feels, the more energy it uses up, the harder it is to hold your breath.

Before actually holding your breath, you need to get your body used to inhale large amounts of air. Make deep breathing a part of your daily practice.

Make sure you pick a safe environment like lying down on your bed and start practicing holding your breath, increasing your time over the days. Finally, start practicing by floating face down in the water and calculating how long you can hold your breath for. Keep practicing in and out of the water until you can reach your goal time.

Pro Tip:

Splashing your face with cold water or submerging yourself in cold water slows down your heart, allowing you to hold your breath for longer.

What you need to know to skin dive

What is the Difference between Skin Diving and Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving, unlike the other three forms of diving, has very defined lines as to why it is called what it is. Scuba or SCUBA means Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

This clearly defines what the meaning of this form of diving is. If you are using an apparatus that carries air for you to breath underwater, you’re scuba diving. This equipment does not rely on surface air as a snorkeling tube does.  

Scuba diving allows you to stay underwater for long periods of time, depending on the amount of air you are carrying with you. It also allows for deeper dives, unlike in skin diving where you are relying on your lungs to carry your entire air supply.

The reason why skin diving is a popular activity even among scuba divers is that it poses a challenge for those who have been diving for a while; it challenges their stamina and also presents a new way to do what they are so used to doing. The more popular reason, however, is because holding your breath rather than using a breathing device allows you to get closer to marine life without scaring them away with massive bubbles that are produced while breathing through a device. 

Skin diving also requires a lot less equipment than scuba diving, making it a lot more accessible to people who want to experience marine life underwater but don’t want to go through the hassle of renting out too much equipment.

Finally, scuba diving requires proper training and certifications for a diver to be able to attempt it. For skin diving, you are just relying on your own abilities to hold your breath. Of course, you will go through some training, but it won’t be as in-depth as scuba.

Skin Diving vs. Free Diving – What are the differences?

This is where things get a little confusing. People often use these two words interchangeably. However, there are a few quintessential differences. 

Freediving is also a form of long breath-hold dives. It does not use any equipment like a snorkel to breathe at the surface. 

Skin divers remain on the surface, looking down, breathing through a snorkel, until they are ready to dive in and examine things more closely. With freediving, divers only return to the surface to take a breath and recuperate between dives. The rest of the time is spent submerged in the water.

Free diving is seen more as a competitive sport rather than a recreational activity. Divers compete with others and themselves to be faster, spend more time underwater, and reach greater depths.

Freediving is used for many underwater sports other than just diving. These include the aquathlon, octopush (underwater hockey), synchronized swimming and competitive spearfishing just to name a few.

Freedivers wear wetsuits, unlike skin divers that can go into the water with no protective gear (depending on where they are) and might use no fins, or any kind of snorkeling or scuba diving fins. Free divers use longer fins that can help them with speed and depth. A mono-fin is one that mimics the shape of a fish’s anatomy, connecting both feet into a single fin; this is more often used by advanced divers and swimmers.

Skin Diving Essentials

Is Skin Diving Like Snorkeling on Steroids?

Snorkeling is something that the whole family can enjoy. It is not an activity that requires much skill or previous knowledge to be able to do it correctly and enjoy it.

For snorkeling, the person remains at the surface of the water for the entirety of the activity. They use a snorkel to breathe from the surface and a mask to see the wonderful sights below. With snorkeling, you never have to lift your head out of the water to breathe.

Snorkeling, unlike the rest of the dives, can include a floatation vest, so swimmers can comfortably stay on the surface of the water. Skin diving on the other hand sometimes uses weights to help divers go underwater, since holding their breath naturally makes their bodies want to float.

Gear used for snorkeling is extremely basic and easy to come by. A mask, a snorkel, soft fins and very rarely a wetsuit are needed for this activity. It does not require any prior training and can also be done by not-so-strong swimmers.

Skin diving, on the other hand, is snorkeling with a little extra kick. It starts off the same, with swimmers using snorkel on the surface of the water to see the views below.

When they spot something they really like and want to go below the surface, that is where skin diving comes into play. Stronger swimmers, with more stamina and a little bit of training, can take the breath-held dive into the water to observe their chosen creature or item.

What Equipment do you need for Skin Diving?

Skin diving can be done with much less equipment than something like scuba diving, but there is still some gear required in order to perform the dive.


A mask is a standard piece of equipment that is used for every type of dive; scuba, free dive or even snorkeling. This is what equips the diver to be able to see underwater with comfort and ease by providing a protecting layer between the eyes and nose and the water.

Masks can either be standard, with a silicon nose covering and a screen (tempered glass or polycarbonate) that cover half your face, or they can be the new popular full face masks. Full face masks provide a wider view, with no blockage of the peripheral vision. They also help with jaw fatigue that divers get from wearing a mouthpiece with their snorkel as they don’t require you to wear one. These are better suited for shorter dives and snorkeling and are not recommended for scuba diving.


A snorkel and mouthpiece are required to breathe at the surface. The silicone mouthpiece is connected to a tube that opens at the surface above the water allowing the user to breathe. The diver keeps their face submerged while swimming at the surface of the water without having to lift their face because air travels in and out of the tube freely.

Fun fact:

In ancient times, the first version on the snorkel was made out of a hollowed-out reed. The ancient swimmers submerged their entire bodies in the water and breathed through the plant. They could go as deep as the reed was long.


Fins can come in many different shapes and sizes, and also in the way they attach to your feet. Divers usually use fins that are slightly more rigid and long to get speed and agility in the water.

These fins act as an extension of the foot and attach through a strap at the ankle. Scuba diving fins aren’t soft like the ones used for snorkeling, nor do they slip on like a shoe covering the entire foot.

Weighted Belt

When you’re snorkeling you want to try to float on the water so you use a vest to help you do that. Whereas with skin diving, you want to stay underwater for as long as possible.

While holding your breath, the air in your body makes it act like a natural floatation device, so the weights are important to help keep you down. They will also help with holding your breath longer because you are struggling less, thus expelling less energy.

Unlike in scuba diving where the belt is worn at the waist, during breath-held dives weighted belts are worn at the hips to allow divers to take a deeper breath before the dive.

Skin Diving

Do you need a suit for skin diving?

With skin diving, a suit is not a necessity. Depending on the depth of dive, and the temperature of the water, divers will wear a wet suit if necessary. Other protective gear such as rash-guards can be worn to help protect divers from the elements.

Wetsuits protect divers in cooler water, and deeper dives usually do have cold water. However, it is extremely rare that a skin diver will wear a dry suit.

Final Thoughts 

At the end of the day, what you want to do is jump into the water and observe the beautiful world that exists below. Whether you choose to do that through snorkeling, free diving, scuba diving or skin diving – that’s your call. We hope this in-depth look at the differences of the sports, and the defining skin diving has helped make your decision a little easier. Happy diving!