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Open Water Depth Limits: Everything You Should Know

Why is PADI Open Water depth limit so controversial?

It may surprise you, but it is common to read in the dive forums how certified and experienced divers still express doubts about the PADI Open Water depth limits.

In this article, we will: 1) Review the PADI Open Water depth limits. 2) See how the diver’s experience affects the maximum depth to dive, 3) Remind you of the depth limits for all recreational diving levels. 4) Analyze the reasons for this limitation. Are you ready?

PADI Open Water Depth Limits

According to the PADI certifying agency, if you are doing your Open Water course and you are over 12 years old, you can dive to 18 meters/60 feet depth. If you are still a junior (from 10 to 12 years old), the maximum depth is 12 meters/40 feet.

It seems clear what the maximum depth limits are for PADI Open Water course, doesn´t it? So, why do so many people express doubts about them?

The truth is that these depth limits during courses are self-regulated by the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC). This association sets the quality standards for dive training all over the world and sets minimums for each certification.

For that reason, no diver may exceed 18 meters/60 feet while taking the PADI Open Water Course. The diving centers that teach them are committed to this rule as a form of civil responsibility.

What happens when the diver has finished the course? At that time, he starts to gain experience. If a certified diver jumps into the water with a more experienced and knowledgeable diver, for example, a Divemaster or an Instructor; he could overpass the PADI Open Water depth limits.  So, a novice diver gains skills and can gradually increase the depth.

PADI open water depth - turtle

However, gaining enough experience takes time and many dives. If you want to speed up the process to overpass the PADI Open Water depth limit, your best option is to get trained. Accept our advice and take the Advanced Open Water course. In it, you will acquire the necessary knowledge to descend to 30 meters/100 feet.

On the other hand, you should know that recreational divers are not allowed to go deeper than 40 meters/ 130 feet, and they must take a course that provides them the necessary skills to do that. We are talking about the PADI Deep Diver Specialty.

Why is 40 meters / 131 ft the recreational PADI Open Water depth limit?

The main reason why the recreational diving depth limit is 40 meters/130 feet is safety. Yes, you can exceed this point, but you need technical diving skills to do that. Beyond 40 meters/130 feet, it is necessary to make decompression stops and even use different gas mixtures, depending on the depth you reached.

Beyond the recreational depth limit, there is a high risk of nitrogen narcosis and, especially if you make several dives in a day, the possibility of decompression sickness also increases.

Now you know the PADI Open Water depth limit, but tell us, how deep did you scuba dive?


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