What does SCUBA stand for?

SCUBA diving has been around for nearly 80 years and was originally invented by Jacques Cousteau in 1946. However even in the early days of humanity people have been obsessed with exploration, underwater being no exception. Humans used to use reeds to snorkel and expand their ability to explore the underwater world. It would come as no surprise that humans would want to increase their abilities and go deeper for longer. As a result, they invented Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus Diving or more commonly known as SCUBA Diving. The development of SCUBA is what took mankind to the next level in underwater exploration. Since its inception SCUBA has grown rapidly, with multiple tanks, different air mixes, different mounting of the tanks, and the gear we use all changing to help SCUBA Divers get to new depths and new unexplored areas.

SCUBA is generally broken into two classes, there is open circuit and a closed circuit. The key difference between the two is the exhaust gas on an open circuit goes to the environment, where on the close it is contained to your gear as seen in a rebreather. Rebreather diving is an advanced skill, with its own benefits but with higher risks for asphyxiation and malfunction.

Knowing what SCUBA stands for also helps us understand what it is not, SCUBA is definitely not Hookah or SNUBA diving nor is it snorkel or free diving. Let’s take a quick look at each of these to explain the sometimes subtle differences.


Everyone knows snorkeling, a tube the protrudes from the water with no mechanical function. This would have been the original way that humans began their underwater adventures. This is a low-tech way to enjoy a day in the water. Snorkels are typically part of dive gear as they are a better way to move across the surface rather than using your tank air.

SNUBA (Hookah) Diving

SNUBA stands for Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus which is a system on the surface with a pump the pushes air down a hose to the diver. The laymen’s term would be Hooka diving, as it looks like a Hookah with a long hose for air rather than flavored teas and tobacco. These systems can be limiting as you are restrained to the length of the hose that connects you to the surface.


Freediving is done with no tank or breathing apparatus, it is the lowest-cost way to enter the diving world but requires more strength and stamina. Freedivers hold their breath and leverage their mammalian dive response to stay underwater for long periods. This is called free diving because you are free from any equipment or life support systems.

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