Calculating Degree of Difficulty for Dives

DD Formula in Springboard and Platform Diving

British Diver Thomas Daley
British Diver Thomas Daley. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

When watching a diving meet, it seems obvious that a forward 3 ½ in the tuck position is more difficult than a forward dive pike. But you may ask, how much more difficult?

The degree of difficulty of a dive often referred to as the "D.D.," is one of two elements used to calculate the score of a dive with the other being the judges' scores for the dive. The judges' scores, after the high and low scores are dropped, are multiplied with the degree of difficulty and this creates the total score for each dive. The diver’s scores for each dive performed are added together for a final total and one diver is the winner!

What Determines the Degree of Difficulty for Each Dive

The answer to that question lies in a formula developed by the international governing body for the sport of diving, Fédération Internationale de Natation - more commonly known as FINA. The formula was developed to create a standardized way to rank dives. It is based on the addition of values that are assigned to elements that make up a dive. Sound confusing? You're not alone.

Elements of a Dive

Each dive has elements to it that make it more or less difficult than another dive. These elements include:

The formula and tables that assign values to these elements are a bit more complicated than this, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Degree of Difficulty Range

The degree of Difficulties (D.D.) range from 1.2 for a forward dive in tuck position performed on the one-meter springboard, to 4.8 for a reverse 4 ½ somersaults in pike performed on the three-meter springboard. Whether or not a dive is included in the D.D. table, it can be used in competition, as long as its D.D. can be calculated using the formula.

As the sport develops and more difficult dives are learned, dives are added to the degree of difficulty table. Who knows, a dive with a degree of difficulty of 5.0 could be just around the corner.

Changes To Benefit the Sport

So now that you understand how to calculate the D.D. of a dive, here is a new wrinkle. Not all of the dives follow the formula!

What ... but you just said.

I know, I know, but there comes a time when changes must be made, and those changes are made in many instances to better the sport. The D.D. table is one of those instances.

FINA, and the technical committee that oversees the rules dealing with the degree of difficulty table will at times upgrade or downgrade a dive to promote its use or discourage it.

This happened as recently as 2009 with dives such as triple or quadruple twisting 1 1/2 somersaults which saw a D.D. increase. The reasoning was that twisting dives were getting sloppy when included with multiple somersaults and the D.D. increase would encourage divers to do these dives and develop better twisting fundamentals!

I know this sounds a bit like bait and switch, telling you one thing and changing the rules before your eyes, but whoever said officials were fair! So if the degree of difficulty formula is a little overwhelming, just remember that a forward 3 ½ in the tuck position is more difficult than a forward dive pike.