If you are looking for the scuba diving depth for beginners, then you’ve come to the right place! Here we will look at the official PADI Discover Scuba Diving depth limit, other agency limits for beginners, and additional limits for the most popular scuba diving courses.

DISCOVER SCUBA DIVING DEPTH LIMIT

Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) is the first level in PADI’s scuba diving training. This is the equivalent of the SSI Try Scuba Diving (TSD) beginner course. These ‘try dives’ are not a certification, but the chance to learn some basic underwater skills and ‘try a dive.’ This will sometimes take place in a swimming pool, or straight out into the ocean. You will need to learn the skills in ‘confined waters’ which means pool-like conditions, where it is safe and contained. The depth for the training should be in water that you can stand up in. Once the basic training is complete, you will then progress to deeper water. The PADI DSD and the SSI TSD scuba diving depth for beginners is 12 meters or 40 feet.

If you are comfortable and want to continue exploring the underwater world, then we would also recommend you try the Open Water course. The Open Water diving course is not hard at all, and this is your full certification or licence to dive around the world. The best part about this certification is that it never runs out! You will need to dive regularly to keep up your skills, but if you haven’t dived for a while, then you can always undertake a ‘Refresher’ course. This is generally a few hours where you just practice and run through most of the skills. You won’t believe how fast you pick it up again!

SCUBA DIVING DEPTH FOR BEGINNERS

The Open Water course from PADI and SSI is a mixture of theory, a swim and float test, confined dives, and open water dives (usually in the ocean). You will run through basic and more advanced skills, along with practicing skills for unlikely events. At the end of the course, you will understand the theory behind diving, what are the best and safe practices as a scuba diver, how to use a dive computer, how to set up and check your own equipment, and best of all, learn about your buoyancy underwater! The scuba diving depth for Open Water beginners is 18 meters or 60 feet.

There are many other scuba diving organizations around the world. While PADI and SSI are arguably the most known, BSAC, RAID and NAUI and others are also scuba diving organisations that have their own Open Water equivalent and depth limits.

  • BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) Ocean Diver limit is 20 meters or 65 feet.
  • RAID Open Water 20 limit is 20 meters or 65 feet.
  • NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) is 18 meters or 60 feet.
  • CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques) 1 Star Diver limit is 20 meters or 65 feet.
  • SDI (Scuba Diving International) Open Water Scuba Diver limit is 18 meters or 60 feet.

WHY IS DEPTH IMPORTANT?

Restrictions are placed in scuba diving as there are risks involved, and these risks are minimised by diving within your training limits. Scuba diving is a very safe sport when following the rules. (That’s why I do it everyday!) But when you go past your physical and mental limits, this is when problems can arise.

In scuba diving, depth is important as the deeper you go the more factors you will need to consider. These include but are not limited to:

  • The deeper you go, the more air you will use
  • Because you are using more air, your air will run out more quickly
  • As you go deeper, you will be absorbing more nitrogen in your body and tissues
  • You will need to be more mindful of your No Decompression Limits (NDL) as the times will be shorter due to your deeper depth
  • Beyond 25 meters or 80 feet, you have a high chance of experiencing gas narcosis
  • Your buoyancy will change as you go deeper, your wetsuit will be less buoyant so you will need to compensate for this
  • The visibility can dramatically change in deeper water, usually for the worse
  • You may find it harder to breathe at deeper depths, this is because there is more pressure and your regulator will be impacted by this

HOW CAN I GO DEEPER?

Personally, I love going deeper underwater. The sensation is similar to what I imagine as going into space. So after your Open Water course, your option for going deeper is taking the next certification course. 

  • PADI Advanced Open Water Diver limit is 30 meters or 100 feet.
  • SSI Advanced Adventurer Diver limit is 30 meters or 100 feet.
  • BSAC Advanced Ocean Diver is 30 meters or 100 feet.
  • RAID Explorer 30 limit is 30 meters or 100 feet.
  • NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver limit is 40 meters or 131 feet.
  • CMAS 2 Star Diver is 40 meters or 131 feet.
  • SDI Advanced Adventure Diver is 30 meters or 100 feet.

Please note, some organizations will require a certain amount of logged dives before you can proceed with your Advanced course.

WHAT ARE THE SCUBA DIVING DEPTH LIMITS FOR CHILDREN?

Check with each organisation but most will allow children from the age of 10 to participate in an Open Water certification. There will be different depth limitations however.

For PADI, 10 to 11 year olds will have a maximum depth limit of 12 meters. This will increase to 18 meters after the age of 12. For their Advanced Open Water course, the limit will be 21 meters from the ages of 12 to 14 years old. This will increase to 30 meters when the child turns 15 years old.

WHAT PREVENTS SCUBA DIVERS FROM GOING DEEPER THAN 40 METERS?

Physically, there is nothing stopping you from going past your certification limits. However, as mentioned before, this is when you may not be trained for certain scenarios or situations.

The industry limit for recreational scuba divers is 40 meters or 130 feet.

This is because any deeper than this, and you will need to consider taking more tanks (due to how much faster air consumption), and also the toxic effects of oxygen at a deeper depth. This is when you enter the very cool realm of ‘technical diving.’

BUT MY INSTRUCTOR IN [RANDOM COUNTRY] ALLOWED ME TO GO DEEPER THAN MY AGENCY LIMIT

Sadly, as current working instructors, we hear this A LOT. We know the main culprits (we won’t mention it here) where the instructors are quite ‘relaxed’ with the depth limits. I would never, ever condone this, as I’ve heard many horror stories of accidents and instructors or dive shops losing their licences over such a silly, and avoidable situation.

CONCLUSION

Scuba diving is an amazing adventure that is accessible to most people. However, like with anything, there are rules and limits to follow. The scuba diving depth for beginners who are taking their Open Water certification course or equivalent is generally 18 meters or 60 feet, to 20 meters or 65 feet. Whereas the Discover Scuba Diving depth limit or Try Dive is 12 meters or 40 feet. Always check with the dive agency that you are diving with, and make sure that the instructors sticks to this limit!

Emma was terrified of the ocean but dove into her Open Water 7 years ago and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.

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