Water Depth and Safe Diving

Diver steps onto the springboard

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Not every pool is the same. The depth of the water is critical for safety when diving. This may seem fairly obvious, but it is an important aspect for every diver to be aware of each time they dive in a new pool, natatorium, or diving well.

Official Guidelines

All pools must follow strict guidelines set forth by FINA, regarding the depth of the water when a diving board and stand is installed. At a minimum, a pool with a one-meter springboard must be 11.5 feet deep at a point directly underneath the tip of the diving board. For a three-meter springboard or five-meter platform, the water depth must be 12.5 feet (4 meters) deep, and 16 feet (5 meters) deep for a 10-meter platform. These pool depths are always listed either on the pool deck or on the side of the pool.

The diving well for Olympic diving must be at least five meters deep. This allows it to be used for the 10-meter platform diving competition and the 3-meter springboard competition.

Checking Pool Depth

Those are the minimums, but not every pool is the same. Some may be 15 feet deep, others 18 feet. The point is that when a diver trains in a pool that is 15 feet deep and then trains or competes at a pool with only 12 feet of water, the bottom will come much quicker than what they are used to. It can be quick enough that if the diver does not make adjustments such a strong somersault save, they may find themselves unprepared for the possibility of sustaining an injury.

Each time you head to a new pool, check the water depth under the diving board and make the necessary adjustments for safe diving.

Diving Safety

The standards are set taking into account that when diving from a ten-meter platform, a diver in a streamlined position will come to a stop at a depth of between 4.5 and 5 meters. Typically, competition divers roll in the direction of the dive's rotation as they enter the water and come to a stop at about 2.5 meters below the surface of the water.

Hitting the water flat in a belly flop from 10 meters would be very painful and could result in injury, but would result in a stop about one foot under the surface.

A lawsuit stemming from a 1993 injury from a springboard installed on a residential pool resulted in a $6.6 million award to the plaintiff against the National Spa and Pool Institute for their inadequate standard of a minimum depth of 7 feet, 6 inches (2.29 meters). Great caution should be taken when using a springboard in a residential pool built before 2001 following those standards. The plaintiff became a tetraplegic after diving with his hands at his sides.

Most diving tragedies occur when people dive from rocks, bridges, and hillsides into natural bodies of water rather than from diving boards and platforms into commercially-built pools. They do not know the depth of the water or understand that 16 feet (5 meters) should be the minimum for any high dive.