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 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:
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