Seriously extreme diving – the High Diving record and the Deep Diving record

April 7, 2009

We stand corrected. We had previously said that Dana Kunze held the world high diving record at 172 ft (52.42 m). However, the world record is held by Oliver Favre who dived 177 ft (53.94 m)  into open water in 1987 in France.

He also holds the World Indoor High Dive record at 110 ft (33.52 m) at Earls Court 1997.

I cannot find any video on this spectacular dive and unbroken, to date, record, but here’s an entertaining video, posted by streetsailor , which makes it all look remarkably easy…

And for a dive of a different sort, Nuno Gomes, a South African scuba diver of Portuguese descent, is the current (2009) Deepest Dive world record holder – 318.25m or 1,044ft, that dive was documented on video – the “Beyond Blue” documentary, and here are the extracts from the film, with thanks to overseasmedia for posting it.

Look at that barrage of tanks on his back!

The total dive time was 12 hours and 20 minutes, but the descent only took 14 minutes!

Deep diving obviously has more consequences and dangers than basic open water diving.

The meaning of the term deep diving is a form of technical diving. It is defined by the level of the diver’s training, their equipment, breathing gas  and surface support.

The dangers are immense.

It is so dangerous and difficult that only eight (or possibly nine) persons are known to have ever dived below a depth of 800 feet (244 m) on self contained breathing apparatus recreationally.  That is fewer than the number of people who have walked on the surface of the moon!

Things that can go wrong:

Nitrogen narcosis, or the “narks” or “rapture of the deep”, starts with feelings of euphoria and over-confidence but then lead to numbness and memory impairment similar to alcohol intoxication.

Decompression sickness,  or the “bends”, is when the gas bubbles of nitrogen get caught in the joints on an ascent. Yet, the effects tend to be delayed until reaching the surface.

Bone degeneration  is caused by the bubbles forming inside the bones; most commonly the upper arm and the thighs.

Air embolism causes loss of consciousness  and speech and visual problems. This tends to be life threatening, but sometimes the symptoms resolve before the recompression chamber are needed.

All these are things that can go wrong when deep diving.

Amongst technical divers there are certain elite divers who participate in ultra-deep diving on SCUBA (using closed circuit rebreathers and heliox)  below 660 feet/200 metres.

Ultra-deep diving requires extraordinarily high levels of training, experience, fitness and surface support.

The Holy Grail of deep diving was the 1000 ft (304.8 m) mark, first achieved by John Bennett in 2001, and has only been achieved twice since.

Nuno Gomes and Pascal Bernabé have both achieved 1044 ft (318.25 m) and 1083 ft (330.09 m) respectively in 2008. However, the Guinness World Records  still recognises the 1,044 feet dive by Gomes  earlier in the same year as the current official world record, as Bernabé’s dive was not verified.



  1. Just one note … the bone degeneration noted in the article is generally considered to be a ramification of long-time exposure to the various gases used at depth. It’s been diagnosed amongst many commercial and military salvage/working divers.

    The entire realm (recreationally) of “deep” diving, which is essentially any diving conducted below 125 feet, is consider Technical (or Tech) Diving.

  2. After reading the article, I feel that I really need more info. Can you share some resources ?

  3. Browse the free archives at the rubicon foundation. I’ve read research papers on humans pressurized to 2,200 fsw equivalent in hyperbaric chambers.


    • Wow. Thanks Snoot – that sounds amazing. I’ll have a look.

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