How Deep Can You Scuba Dive?


Scuba diving is one of the most popular recreational sports in the world. The allure of exploring the deep, dark abyss has been capturing the imaginations of people for centuries. 

But how deep can you dive? 

You have come to the right place to find out. In this post, we will dive deep into the world of scuba diving. We’ll provide you with everything you need to start. We will also cover topics such as what equipment you need, the dangers of deep diving, and what to do if something goes wrong. 

So, whether you are a first-time diver or an experienced pro, this article has something for everyone!

What Is Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving
Scuba diving

Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving where the diver uses a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to breathe. This allows the diver to stay underwater for extended periods and explore depths that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The word “scuba” is an acronym that stands for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” The first scuba diving systems were developed in the early 1930s and were used for military purposes. 

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that scuba diving became popularized as a recreational diving activity. 

In fact, it was French naval officer and author Jaques-Yves Cousteau who invented the SCUBA equipment to facilitate safer and deeper dives. Before that, divers used diving bells and helmeted diving suits, both of which were expensive, heavy, and difficult to manage. 

Types of Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is typically categorized into two main types:

  1. Open water diving: This is what most people think of when they think of scuba diving. It is what you would see in movies or on TV, where the divers are exploring coral reefs or shipwrecks. Open water diving can be done anywhere there is a body of water, including lakes, rivers, and even swimming pools.
  2. Technical diving: Also known as tec or tech diving, technical diving is a more advanced form of scuba diving. It exceeds the depth and length of the usual recreational diving and involves greater risks. Technical divers often explore caves, wrecks, or other areas that are more difficult to access. They may also use specialized equipment, such as rebreathers, which recycle the air they breathe, and other gas mixtures. Because of the increased risks involved, technical diving requires more training and experience than open-water diving.

What Equipment Do You Need to Scuba Dive?

Scuba gears
Scuba gears

Having the proper equipment is essential for a safe and enjoyable diving experience. You can rent most of the equipment you need for scuba diving from a dive shop. However, you can also buy your own. The following is a list of the seven pieces of equipment you need for scuba diving:

1. Mask

The mask protects your eyes from salt water and allows you to see underwater. There can be a surprising diversity of mask styles and subtle variations. 

Having a mask that you’re comfortable with and that fits your preferences can make or break a scuba dive experience. When purchasing, consider “low-volume” options that can allow greater visibility. 

Ultimately, ask the scuba dive equipment provider how to test that a mask fits well and makes a comfortable seal against your face.

2. Snorkel 

The snorkel allows you to breathe while swimming on the surface.  Some more sophisticated models involve purge valves for clearing water and latches that stop water from entering the tube when submerged. 

Especially while scuba diving, many divers prefer a simpler, shorter tube, or if surface swimming is unlikely, to skip out bringing one entirely. Doing tech diving, the term “dorkel” can definitely be affectionately applied to people with unused snorkel tubes attached to their heads when surface swimming seems unnecessary.

3. Fins

Fins propel you through the water more effortlessly than with bare feet and represent an important safety precaution. Currents are not always predictable, and the extra power can become essential.  

There are a variety of different designs, including split fins that can maximize flexibility, shorter stiffened fins geared towards power, and even extra long fins typically used for free diving that are often referred to as “blades.”

4. Regulator

The regulator helps you control the flow of air from the tank to your mouth. A reliable regulator that has been serviced regularly (at least once a year) represents probably the most important piece of safety equipment. Some divers choose to buy and travel with their own to ensure high safety standards.

5. BCD

The BCD (buoyancy control device) is used to help you float on the surface and control your depth underwater. Typical models used in rentals are bulkier due to integrated weights that are slipped into clipped pockets. 

Other more technical and research diving-oriented models can be more minimalistic or have a hard metal back plate and often have more D-rings for clipping equipment to the front.

6. Tank 

The tank is used to store air for you to breathe. They can vary in size and material, with many factors to consider in terms of which may best suit your needs. 

It can be worth asking about tank options, even for rentals, as a larger tank may allow you to spend more time at depth if you consume air at a faster rate than those with whom you are diving.

7. Wetsuit 

The wetsuit is used to keep you warm. The “right” wetsuit for you will balance local conditions and water temperature and may vary with the time of year with comfort and fit. The thicker the wetsuit, the warmer you may be, but the more weight you must also carry.

By having the proper equipment, you will be able to enjoy your diving experience and explore the underwater world safely.

So, How Deep Can You Scuba Dive?

How deep you can dive
How deep you can dive

The deepest recreational scuba divers are certified to dive is 130 feet or 40 meters under sea level. However, keep in mind that this will not be allowed with all and any diving certifications. In addition, most recreational diving operations will insist upon a more conservative maximum depth for your safety. 

Open Water Diving

Typically, PADI divers who hold the Scuba Diver Certification can dive to a maximum depth of 40 feet or 12 meters under the supervision of a certified PADI professional.

Meanwhile, the Open Water Diver Certification allows recreational diving with a dive professional or a certified buddy to a maximum depth of 60 feet or 18 meters. 

Technical Diving

If you are an avid scuba diver who would like to go deeper than that, the deep diver specialty may be for you, and the deep diving courses will be available at select locations.

Explore the Advanced Open Water Course and the Deep Diver Certification. It’ll teach you the basics of deep diving, such as how to improve your buoyancy, manage your gas supply, identify nitrogen narcosis and deal with it, and more.  

Most advanced courses allow you to choose from a variety of specialties, including advanced navigation, search techniques, underwater photography, night diving, and underwater naturalist skills.

Beyond these, divers who plan to continue scuba as a lifelong hobby may want to consider taking a Rescue Diver Course early in their career. These courses will not only deepen your knowledge of your equipment and human dive physiology but also prepare you to self-rescue or be of service to someone else in an emergency.

How deep can you scuba dive then? Some experienced divers feel comfortable diving deeper than 130 feet. The average maximum depth for technical divers ranges between 130 and 330 feet or 30-100 meters. 

Keep in mind that the recreational diving limit can differ by country. For example, recreational diving agencies in some European countries may have a maximum depth limit of 165-195 feet or 50-60 meters.

What Are the Dangers of Deep Diving?

Deep diving
Deep diving

The deeper you dive, the greater the risk of serious injury or death. This is because the pressure of the water increases as you dive deeper.

For every 33ft (~10.1 meters), the atmosphere relative to the surface roughly doubles. Therefore at 100ft  (~30 meters), the pressure is three times greater at the surface. 

At depth, because of your equipment regulating the pressure, the air feels just as easy to breathe, which can be deceptive. However, for a mammal to add air to its lungs at depth rather than just hold their breath is quite unnatural. So, complex interactions between your body and the gasses being exchanged can occur.

Possible Health Issues Linked to Deep Diving

A variety of health problems can result from irresponsible diving practices at death or the interaction with poor health conditions with deep diving. 

In rare cases, health problems can arise even after a responsibly planned dive by a healthy individual because of the natural variability in our individual physiologies. This can lead to several serious health problems, such as:

1. Nitrogen Narcosis

Known as depth intoxication, nitrogen narcosis changes your consciousness and neuromuscular function from breathing compressed air at depth. The increased pressure causes nitrogen to accumulate in greater richness and affects your brain and behavior. 

Mild forms of nitrogen narcosis, often called “getting narked,” can create some disorientation, amusement, and even mild euphoria. However, more extreme cases can create confusion, occasionally resulting in dangerously poor judgment.

Proper training and effective communication with your dive buddy are the best antidotes to this challenge which, handled properly, can be a source of amusement rather than severe danger.

2. Decompression Sickness 

Decompression sickness, also known as DSC or “the bends,” is what you feel when you ascend too quickly without taking regular stops.  

It is a complex catch-all for a number of challenges often associated with uncontrolled ascent. However, it commonly results from nitrogen bubbles forming in blood vessels and creating a variety of harmful outcomes. 

In extreme cases, left untreated, decompression sickness can be fatal. When the diverse symptoms of the bends are identified, often patients can be taken to a decompression chamber and given medical treatment that simulates returning to depth and more slowly resolving the complications. 

Many countries with scuba dive tourism have at least one decompression chamber. However, especially when considering excessively deep or repeated dives to death, it is worth checking to see if a decompression chamber would be available in case of an emergency.

It can be more hazardous to fly to a decompression chamber out of the country because of the change in air pressure in planes at significant altitudes.

Importance of using complete gear when scuba diving
Importance of using complete gear when scuba diving

3. Pulmonary Barotrauma

This rarer complication can occur when the air sacs called alveoli in the lungs, where gas exchange occurs, can rupture due to changes in pressure in your lungs. 

This can occur, for instance, if one ascends while holding their breath and the gas inside the lung expands within that finite set of containers. The risk of this condition represents just one of many reasons in life to stay calm and just keep breathing!

4. Oxygen Toxicity 

Oxygen toxicity occurs when your oxygen concentration is too high for diving conditions and depth. You may feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous. 

Appropriate training and gas mixtures combined with responsible dive profiles and plans can mostly eliminate this risk. Don’t forget it’s always a good idea to plan your dives and dive your plans! And if that sounds like too much trouble or above your training (don’t forget you can take a refresher course), then make sure to sign up with a responsible dive operator who can take care of that bit for you.

5. Central Nervous System Damage

The effects of deep diving on both human and animal physiology remain a complex and evolving field of research. Humans have not been diving very deep for very long. So, many questions remain about how our bodies respond. 

In rare cases, damage to the brain and spinal cord seems to occur sometimes acutely, sometimes chronically, as is particularly evident in some deep water technical, often-commercial divers. 

Improper ascents constitute the majority of cases with nervous system damage. Still, there may be more at play when diving to great depths for prolonged periods, even with a recommended dive profile.

In addition to the above, as with any diving, you may risk entrapment or entanglement, getting lost, running out of air, or having equipment malfunctions. 

The particular challenge of deep diving comes from the fact that such problems become much more dangerous more quickly at a great depth where a rapid ascent will likely have health consequences.

With all that in mind, it’s advisable to heed the depth limits set by your diving instructor or dive master. You should also always dive with a partner and have proper training before attempting any deep dive. Quality scuba gear can also improve reliability and overall safety. 

Benefits of Deep Diving

Under water deep diving
Under water deep diving

Though deep diving has its dangers, there are a few benefits that make it worth the risk for experienced scuba divers. These benefits include:

  • The chance to see rare and unusual marine life: Many unusual marine creatures are found only at depth. Moreover, some creatures that move between depths exhibit distinct behaviors in the deep. 
  • The feeling of weightlessness: Many deep divers say that they feel the greatest sense of weightlessness during their deepest dives. That said, with buoyancy mastered, one can technically be equally buoyant at any depth. Such an experience could be all sorts of things, including the effects of nitrogen narcosis or adrenaline!
  • The challenge: Deep diving is a challenge that many experienced divers enjoy. It can be the ultimate test of a diver’s skills, abilities, planning, and preparation. Small mistakes can more easily snowball into more serious challenges, which appeals to people that enjoy the thrill of a high-stakes game. Not to mention some divers seem to relish impressing others with how deep they’ve been and what challenging situations they’ve faced.

If you’d like to deep dive, it is important to make sure that you have proper training and high-quality equipment. This will ensure that you safely explore the depths of the underwater world.

Tips to Stay Safe when Deep Diving

Scuba training
Scuba training

Deep diving is a thrilling way to explore deep wrecks, exciting marine life, and one’s own limits. Here are a few tips that will help you stay safe when you deep dive:

  1. Get proper dive training: It is important to take an advanced open-water diver or a deep diver course before attempting any deep dives. Make sure to choose a reputable diving school.
  2. Use good-quality equipment: Make sure that you have the proper scuba gear. This includes a well-fit mask, fins, and a wet suit. While not a must, a dive computer can also come in handy. 
  3. Have an effective buddy: Always dive with an adequately trained buddy in solid health, ideally with experience in deep diving, and with whom you can communicate. 
  4. Heed depth limits: We know that it may feel intriguing to go deeper. However, make sure to heed the depth limits set by your instructor or dive master.
  5. Be prepared for the risks: Be aware of the risks you face when you deep dive and be prepared for them. A reputable course will prepare you for these, but only if you pay attention! The results of training are only as good as a diver’s willingness to implement and keep the learning fresh.

Frequently Asked Questions about Recreational Diving

Underwater marine life
Underwater marine life

What is the deepest dive ever made?

The Guinness world record of the deepest scuba dive belongs to an Egyptian named Ahmed Garb. In 2014, he reached just under 1,090 feet or 332.35 meters under sea level in the Red Sea. He took 15 minutes to descend and 13 hours and 35 minutes to ascend so that he could properly decompress. 

Although Ahmed Gabr achieved a world-record deep dive, it wasn’t an easy feat. It took him about a decade of taking very deep dives to prepare. 

Is 130 feet the only depth limit for scuba diving?

No. There are a few different depth limits for scuba diving, depending on the type of dive and the certification you hold. 

The recommended recreational diving limit is 130 feet or 40 meters. However, some experienced divers feel comfortable diving deeper than 130 feet. 

Suggested depth limits, of course, also vary based on other factors like personal health, previous dives, travel plans, altitude if alpine lake diving, gas mixtures, experience, and more!

What’s the world’s deepest freedive?

The deepest freedive ever taken was by an Austrian freediver Herbert Nitsch. He reached a depth of 702 feet or 214 meters. 

Herbert Nitsch holds over 30 world records and can hold his breath underwater for over 9 minutes. 

While extraordinarily impressive for a human, let’s not forget that the deepest freedive recorded so far was a group of beaked whales that dove a recorded 9,816 (2,992 meters) for 137 minutes. The ocean can be a humbling place!

Scuba Dive with WildVoice

Scuba diving is a thrilling sport that allows you to explore the exciting marine world. However, it is important to have adequate training and certifications, use the right gear, and dive with a skilled buddy or a reputable diving operator. 

Here at WildVoice, we highly value customer safety and satisfaction while making sure that our services are sustainable and do not harm the environment. 

We offer tours with experienced instructors and dive masters by reputable dive operators so that you can safely enjoy all that scuba diving has to offer. 

Book your scuba dive tour here


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