Technical diving, sometimes referred to as “tech diving,” is a form of scuba diving that exceeds


the established limits – especially depth and bottom time – of recreational diving. Technical diving exposes the diver to higher risks than recreational diving, depending on the dive, and therefore requires extensive experience, advanced training, and specialized equipment. Technical diving typically involves breathing gases other than air or recreational nitrox with 40% oxygen or less.


The term technical diving was coined in 1991 by Michael Menduno, who was founder and editor-in-chief of the diving magazine “aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving (1990-1996). Though the definition varies slightly among organizations, generally technical diving is recognized as involving one or more of the following; diving beyond the defined “no-stop” recreational limits to depths down to 40 meters/130 feet, any dive requiring staged decompression where the diver cannot freely ascend to the surface, diving in an overhead environment such as a cave, shipwreck, or ice, and/or a dive involving the use of multiple gas mixtures in a single dive.

There is some professional disagreement as to what all technical diving encompasses. Until recently, nitrox diving was considered technical, but this is no longer the case. Some say that technical diving is any type of scuba diving that is considered higher risk than conventional recreational diving. However, some advocate that this should include penetration diving (as opposed to open-water diving), whereas others contend that penetrating overhead environments should be regarded as a separate type of diving. Others seek to define technical diving solely by reference to the use of decompression.

 Certain minority views contend that certain non-specific higher risk factors should cause diving to be classed as technical diving. Even those who agree on the broad definitions of technical diving may disagree on the precise boundaries between technical and recreational diving. One point upon which most scuba professionals generally agree[citation needed] is that any dive on which the parameters preclude the possibility of a safe and direct ascent to the surface should be considered technical diving of some sort, and must require specialized training and associated advanced certification. Such situations would include:

Decompression diving;
(where the absorption of nitrogen gas in the diver’s body tissues precludes a safe and direct ascent without decompression stops)

Cave, ice or wreck diving;
(where penetration inside the target venue (in a cave or wreck, or under sheet ice) precludes a direct ascent, because a horizontal path must first occur back to the point of penetration).

NAUIdefines technical diving as “Any diving beyond the limits of the defined recreational diving limits which is currently set at the following :
– diving to 40 meters/130 feet, use of nitrox above 36%, multiple mix gas diving, penetration diving past the daylight zone and any form of decompression diving).”

PADI, defines technical diving as “diving other than conventional commercial or recreational diving that takes divers beyond recreational diving limits. It is further defined as an activity that includes one or more of the following:
– diving beyond 40 meters/130 feet, required stage decompression, diving in an overhead environment beyond 130 linear feet from the surface, accelerated stage decompression and/or the use of multiple gas mixtures in a single dive.”

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) defines technical diving as “all diving methods that exceed the limits imposed on depth and/or immersion time for recreational scuba diving. Technical diving often involves the use of special gas mixtures (other than compressed air) for breathing. The type of gas mixture used is determined either by the maximum depth planned for the dive, or by the length of time that the diver intends to spend underwater. While the recommended maximum depth for conventional scuba diving is 130 ft, technical divers may work in the range of 170 ft to 350 ft, sometimes even deeper. Technical diving almost always requires one or more mandatory decompression ‘stops’ upon ascent, during which the diver may change breathing gas mixes at least once.” NOAA does not address issues relating to overhead environments in its definition. 

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