How Deep Can You Scuba Dive?

Last Updated: February 3, 2023

Diving in the depths of the ocean can bring a sense of serenity. But it is not a walk in the park. Just like any other adventure sport, scuba diving also has a lot of dos and don’ts that are to be kept in mind. These limitations are set aside for our own safety, and following them is essential to enjoy the sport we love.

Read on to find out the different norms to be followed while going deep in the ocean and have a safe yet memorable adventure.

How Deep Can You Dive?

how deep can scuba divers go

Deep-sea diving doesn’t mean that you can go to the ocean floor. The atmospheric pressure will be so harsh that you will get crushed underneath it. A lot of variables come into play while determining the depth limits for a dive.

You need to consider physical, personal, as well as, physiological considerations before you set the diving limit. The answer to the question of how deep you can scuba dive is totally diver specific. The diving limit is determined by a diver’s personal limitations and the training acquired.

Setting diving limits, even though a decision is made at a personal level, forms a major part of the safety assessment. Your training helps you set your diving limits. It doesn’t matter if you are a certified diver.

A certificate gives you the ability to dive as per the training you have received. It does not open the entire ocean for you to explore. You can definitely upgrade your skillset with more intense training. But till then, sticking to your limits is a safe and sensible option.

Getting under peer pressure to dive deeper for exploring a wreck or cave can be a highly risky call. Such decisions are the prime reason for several scuba diving accidents that take place. Keeping your personal limits at bay with your training can help you have a safe and trouble-free experience.

How Deep Can a Human Dive Without Scuba Gear

The standard depth for deep diving starts at 18 meters, which is roughly 60 feet. The lower limit of the dive is not as easy to determine. This is because it depends on multiple factors like the diver’s level of training and expertise coupled with the supply of air. These two things have a prominent role to play while deciding the diving depth.

If wrong estimates are done with improper training, it can have a significant impact on the body. One of the common ill-effects of deep sea diving is decompression sickness. Apart from that there are a few other serious risks that one can expose the body to without proper training.

If you are diving in deep water without the use of breathing equipment, it’s called freediving. A free diver goes underwater on a single breath of air to achieve great depths. It requires a high level of concentration as well as relaxation. Attempting to free dive without training can be paralyzing or even fatal.

Diving without scuba gear is like welcoming your own demise with open arms. There are expert divers who have reached levels as deep as 200 meters without scuba gear. But they have the expertise to do that quickly and come out of the water with minimum damage to the body. For a beginner or even advanced certified diver, it is advisable to jump in the water with gear for a risk free experience.


Depth for Recreational Diving

Some divers have made world records in recreational diving as well. But in general, recreation diving can only be done to a certain depth. The diving institution has set some basic depth levels depending on the training and expertise of a diver.

  • 12 meters – for adults who haven’t received any training can go as deep as 40 feet. The same limit has been set for children even if they have diving certification.
  • 18 meters – adults who have received a basic open water certification can go as deep as 60 feet.
  • 21 meters – teenagers with an advanced certification in diving as permitted to go as deep as 70 feet.
  • 40 meters – for adults who are advanced diver training can go as deep as 130 feet.

Depth for Commercial Divers

Apart from recreational diving, some commercial divers can go underwater for a different occupational purpose. Depending on the purpose of the dive, the depth is decided.

Divers who have to go underwater to laying down cables or pipelines can go up to a depth of 200 meters or 600 feet. They are required to have long deco stops to prevent having any decompression sickness symptoms. They can spend more than 12 hours underwater.

Other commercial activities for which divers go underwater within the same depth limits (200 meters) are:

  • Offshore diving for the maintenance and construction of gas and oil rigs.
  • HAZMAT diving for the repair of filters of underwater equipment to prevent them from contamination damage. This can be harmful to sea creatures as well as humans.
  • Shipwreck salvation for profit.

Deepest Dives

Scuba Dive

The record for scuba diving is known as the great wall dive. Ahmed Gabr, an Egyptian scientist and diver broke this record by just 15 meters with an end result of 332 meters. The actual attempt has taken place in Dahab, Egypt.

Free Dive

The world record holder for free diving is Herbert Nitsch of Austria. He managed to reach a depth of 702 feet (214.26 meters) on a single breath in April 2007.

Impacts of Deep Diving on Body

Not everyone is unlucky to have a bad diving experience. It is a great way of exploring the hidden territories of the earth. All you need to do is be a bit cautious. If you become careless about the safety measures, you might give an open invitation to a lot of risks associated with deep-sea diving.

Decompression sickness

When you go scuba diving, the deeper you go underwater, the more you compress nitrogen in your body. This compressed nitrogen needs to be decompressed before reaching the surface of the water. The decompression process has to be done slowly, or else you might end up with decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness is characterized by joint pains caused by nitrogen bends (that is why it’s also known as bends). Due to the sudden dispel of nitrogen from the body, you are left with a lot of pain. This can spoil the entire experience and turn a beautiful memory into a painful one.

Therefore, for divers who go beyond 6 feet, taking decompression breaks becomes a necessity. This means, the deeper you go, the slower your ascent gets. The deepest recreational depth for diving has been estimated to be around 130 feet. The exploration time reduces only to about 10 minutes as the ascent is very slow for proper nitrogen decompression.

Effect of water pressure or weight

As you go deeper underwater, the pressure on the body starts to increase. This pressure compresses the lungs and crushes the regular intake of air in the lungs. The heart rate becomes very weak, almost diminishing, and there are strong chances of the bursting of blood vessels.

As it can be seen, deep diving is not all about fun and frolic. You need to be very careful at every step so that you can reduce the maximum amount of stress on your body. one single dive can put a lot of strain on a scuba diver, especially when you are in the learning phase. The fitness level of your body matter to avoid any lasting damage to the body and body organs.

Nitrogen narcosis

As mentioned earlier, the deeper you dive, the more you encourage the compression of nitrogen in the body. This compressed air has a laxative effect on the diver. This creates a great feeling of floating, which every diver lives for. But if you are unable to regain control and return to the surface, this might be the end of your recreation.

Nitrogen narcosis starts having an effect after 100 meters of depth. Since the pressure on the lungs is increasing, you will start taking in more air to breathe. This, in turn, increases the intake of compressed nitrogen in the body. The deeper you go, the more you are putting yourself at risk of nitrogen narcosis.

The absorption rate of nitrogen is quite fast into the body tissues. It can reach your brain and other organs of the nervous system very quickly. It will eventually cause drowsiness,  and you can also become unconscious. Even though there a standard depth of 100 meters for nitrogen narcosis to begin, some divers can get to the depth at a faster pace and experience the same at 60 meters itself.

It is therefore advised to start the ascent if the diver begins to feel drowsy. The laxative effect will start to wear off, and by the time you reach the surface of the water, you will be back to normal.

Final Thoughts

Scuba diving is your window to explore the unexplored territories of the world. It is the most aesthetic sport that can bring to you an experience worth a lifetime. However, it is not one without the risk.

Just like any adventure sport, you are putting your life at risk in scuba diving as well. Following the set rules and listening to the guidelines and training given by the instructor can help you avoid a lot of risky situations.

Just appreciate the limits set for your level of expertise and go with the flow of your training. You will be able to have the experience of your lifetime.

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