Snorkeling would be using a mask and snorkel; you may or may not have fins on. Normally snorklers stay on the surface and cruise around looking at the fish and corals underneath them. A lot of them will then want to dive under the water, and see the fish up close.
Those that break the surface and use fins would be considered free divers. Many are now taking this to some real extremes, with the record being over 80 meters! For most free divers, 6 to 20 meters is the normal range. If you are going to try to become a serious free diver, it is in your best interest to get some professional training for a couple of good reasons
1) To maximize your skill, which will make you more efficient and able you to go down longer and deeper. PADI, SSI and most dive certification agencies have specific courses for this.
2) Shallow Water Blackout, which can be deadly! Shallow Water Blackout is caused by the changing partial pressures of air at depth, which most only affects free divers and is why it is recommended to get some training, and why serious free divers always dive with a buddy that understands about Shallow Water Blackout, and what to do should it happen. It is standard operating procedure that one of the buddy pair is always on the surface, to help the other guy if there is a problem.
Fishing while free diving is a whole separate sport and quite an exciting one, as you are looking for the fish, then you need to hit it with some sort of spear, and then you have to take the fish and yourself to the surface. In Hawaii it has been taken to a art form as they latch onto fish in the 20 kilo and larger size, and they can have a real man vs. nature battle that is quite intense, as the fish will do their best to escape, which means that you have something fighting against you, trying to keep you from going to the surface when you need a breath of air right now! Besides wrestling bears or boxing kangaroos I can’t think of a fairer fight. Hunting fish with scuba diving gear is illegal in most places, and is considered in all sportsmen’s eyes as unethical.
Scuba Diving would be using mask, fins and a tank of air, usually they will have a scuba jacket attached to the tank called a “BCD” also attached to the scuba take would be a set of regulators, in diver lingo referred to as “regs” or “octo’s” which will have normally 2 hoses with regulators, and a low pressure hose or 2, as well as a information package containing 1, 2 or 3 different pressure and depth gauges, compass and computers. Scuba divers will also have some other equipment like weights and knives (for freeing themselves from underwater entanglements) lights, underwater cameras and underwater video cameras are common accouterments to see on scuba divers. We hope to see you soon underwater, no matter how you get there!
Fred Tittle has lived and worked in holiday vacation resorts his entire life, from Lake Geneva’s Playboy Club, as a rock jock for KSPN FM in Aspen Colorado, he became a PADI Pro Scuba Diver in Hawaii, diving on Maui, Kauai, Kona on the big island, and Waikiki on Oahu. He now owns EcoSea Dive in Sihanoukville Cambodia where he teaches SSI and PADI scuba diving courses and runs liveaboards in the gulf of Thailand and Asia adventure tours.