Have you ever wondered how deep a scuba diver can go? There is no single answer to this question; it all depends on each individual diver’s experience and certification level. If you’re curious about how deep a scuba diver can go, whether they’re an PADI Open Water Diver or PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, read on!

deep diver vs. advanced open water diver courses

Why Go Deep?

Anyone who has taken a scuba course knows that one of the first questions people ask you is, “How deep do you dive?” And, it’s natural for non-divers to be curious about what lies at the depths of the sea.

But for divers, it’s not so much about depth for the sake of going deep. It’s about what you see once you’re there. In fact, many of the best dive sites are quite shallow. But, there are some good reasons to head a little deeper.

Here are a few of the reasons why divers might want to go deeper:

  • To explore wrecks. Whether sunk because of a storm or war, or placed intentionally to make an artificial reef, wrecks are fascinating to explore. But many of them, especially larger ones, lie at greater depths.
  • To find unique marine life. Certain species live or feed deeper than others. As you go deeper, different types of wildlife become more common than at shallower depths.
  • To explore new dive sites. By increasing the depth you can dive to, you open up a whole new world of dive sites previously inaccessible.
  • To recover lost objects. Participating in search and recovery is exhilarating, but some lost objects may be at depths deeper thank 18 meters (60 feet). Enroll in the PADI Search and Recovery specialty course to learn more.

As you see, it’s really not a question of how deep can a scuba diver go, but rather how deep they have to go to accomplish their desired dive goals.

Deep Divers descending

How Deep Can an Open Water Diver Go? And, How Deep Can an Advanced Open Water Diver Go?

As you learn to dive, you build skills progressively, and it’s the same when it comes to depth. To go deeper, you need to learn new skills, like air management at depth, the risks of nitrogen narcosis, and deep dive planning.

That’s why after the first scuba diving certification course, as an Open Water Diver, you’re trained to dive up to 18 meters (60 feet), or to the depths you reached during your course, if shallower. At this level, you learn to practice good buoyancy control, safety protocols, and the principles of dive planning, among other skills.

The next step in your diving journey is the Advanced Open Water Diver course, which expands on your skills and knowledge. During this course, you will learn to dive deeper, as well as study navigation skills and other more specialist scuba subjects. Once certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver, you’ll be trained to dive to a maximum depth of up to 30 meters (100 feet). 

Certification LevelDepth in MetersDepth in Feet
Open Water Diver18 Meters60 Feet
Advanced Open Water Diver30 Meters100 Feet

Why Take the Advanced Open Water Diver Course?

The reason most people take the Advanced Open Water Diver course is because they want to dive deeper for one of the multitude of reasons explained above. However, the course teaches so much more than deep diving. While expanding your scuba skills and knowledge, you’ll get to test out fun adventures, like night diving, underwater photography or drift diving.

Whatever your motivations for taking the Advanced Open Water Diver course, the increase in depth is a big step up from the Open Water Diver certification levels. Keep in mind that your available bottom time for deeper dives will be considerably lower for two main reasons: nitrogen absorption and air consumption.

Take a look at a Recreational Dive Planner which shows no-decompression limits for recreational diving to calculate how long a scuba diver can stay at a given depth due to the increasing amount of nitrogen absorption that occurs with greater depth. You’ll see that at 18 meters (60 meters), your maximum bottom time is 56 minutes; whereas, for a dive to 30 meters (100 feet), it’s only 20 minutes.  Similarly, the deeper you go, the quicker you will breathe your available air thereby shortening your dive time.

That’s why deeper diving requires more safety protocols, awareness, and dive planning to know when it’s time to start ascending.

Sea Turtles at depth

Want to Go Even Deeper?

If you want to go beyond the 30 meter (100 feet) limit of your Advanced Open Water Diver certification, there are still plenty of courses available to take you to new depths.

The Deep Diver specialty course will teach you everything you need for dives down to 40 meters (130 feet). And beyond that depth, you may want to check out the Technical Diving courses. By progressing into the PADI TecRec courses, you’ll learn how to plan and execute technical dives to 40 meters (130 feet) and beyond, where you will  use special equipment and dive planning procedures as well as specialized gas mixtures to stay at these depths a bit longer.

Scuba divers descending down a line to a deep dive

No matter what your skill or experience level may be, make sure that you always dive within your limits and that you are trained and certified to dive at the depth and environment you wish to go to. That way, you can stay safe while you enjoy the wonders of the deep.

Whether you want to become an Open Water Diver, progress to get your Advanced Open Water Diver certification or complete the Deep Diver specialty course, get started now with PADI eLearning.

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