A no-stop/no-decompression dive, often referred to simply as a “no-deco” dive, is a scuba dive conducted within the depth limits that do not require mandatory decompression stops during the ascent. In essence, it is a dive from which a diver can ascend directly to the surface without stopping for decompression.

Decompression Theory

To understand the concept of no-stop/no-decompression diving, one must first grasp the fundamentals of decompression theory. When a diver descends, the increased pressure causes more nitrogen to dissolve in the body’s tissues. This is generally a harmless process as long as the diver remains at depth. However, ascending too quickly can cause this dissolved nitrogen to form bubbles in the body, leading to decompression sickness, also known as “the bends.”

A decompression stop is a pause during ascent that allows some of the dissolved nitrogen to be gradually released from the body. These stops become necessary when a diver has spent a significant amount of time at depth, or when the dive was particularly deep. However, if the dive is within certain limits – the “no-decompression” limits – these decompression stops are not required.

No-Decompression Limits

The no-decompression limit (NDL) for a dive is determined by the depth and duration of the dive. As a diver descends deeper or stays underwater longer, more nitrogen is absorbed, and the NDL decreases. If the diver exceeds these limits, decompression stops are required to safely ascend.

NDLs are typically calculated using decompression tables or dive computers, which are based on decompression models. These models take into account factors such as depth, time, previous dives, surface intervals, and sometimes even water temperature and exertion levels.

Planning and Executing a No-Decompression Dive

Successful planning of a no-decompression dive involves understanding and applying the principles of dive planning. Primarily, divers must calculate their NDL using a decompression table or dive computer. They should also plan their dive profile, taking into account factors such as depth, bottom time, gas supply, and potential emergencies.

During the dive, divers should monitor their depth and time to ensure they stay within their NDL. While it’s possible to ascend directly to the surface from a no-decompression dive, a safety stop of 3 minutes at 3-5 meters/10-15 feet is generally recommended. This helps further reduce the small amount of nitrogen absorbed during the dive.

Risks and Considerations

While no-decompression dives are designed to be within the safe limits of nitrogen absorption, they are not risk-free. Divers still absorb nitrogen, and factors such as cold water, strenuous exercise, or a fast ascent rate can increase the risk of decompression sickness.

Furthermore, even with careful planning, divers can inadvertently exceed their NDL. This can occur due to a variety of factors, such as stronger than expected currents, poor visibility, or equipment issues. If the NDL is exceeded, it becomes necessary to perform decompression stops during the ascent.

Emergency Procedures in No-Decompression Dives

Despite careful planning, emergencies can occur during no-decompression dives, including exceeding the NDL. In such situations, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the necessary procedures.

If a diver finds themselves beyond their NDL, the first course of action should be to ascend slowly to a depth of 3 meters (10 feet) and stay there for a minimum of 3 minutes. If the diver has exceeded the NDL by a large margin, longer decompression stops might be required.

In the event of decompression sickness symptoms after a dive, the affected diver should breathe 100% oxygen if available, hydrate with non-alcoholic fluids, and seek immediate medical attention.

Advanced No-Decompression Dives

While no-decompression dives are generally considered less complex than decompression dives, they can be made more challenging and engaging through various techniques. These include multilevel diving, where divers spend time at various depths to maximize their bottom time; and diving with nitrox, a breathing gas with a higher percentage of oxygen and less nitrogen, which can extend NDLs.

Training and Certification

Although no-decompression diving is within the reach of recreational divers, proper training is essential. Various scuba certification agencies, such as PADI, SSI, and NAUI, provide courses on dive planning and execution, including no-decompression dives.

These courses typically involve academic sessions, confined water dives, and open water dives, where divers learn and practice skills such as buoyancy control, navigation, and emergency procedures. They also teach divers how to use decompression tables and dive computers.

Role of No-Decompression Dives in Scuba Diving

No-decompression diving plays a central role in recreational scuba diving. Most recreational dives are no-decompression dives, as they offer a balance between underwater exploration and safety. They allow divers to explore the underwater world without the additional complexity and risk of mandatory decompression stops.

No-decompression dives also provide a foundation for more advanced diving. Understanding the principles of no-decompression diving is a prerequisite for learning decompression diving, technical diving, and cave diving.

In conclusion, no-stop/no-decompression dives represent an essential aspect of recreational scuba diving. They combine the thrill of underwater exploration with a high standard of safety, given that divers adhere strictly to their dive plan, monitor their depth and time underwater, and take appropriate action in the event of an emergency.


A no-stop/no-decompression dive is a type of scuba dive that falls within certain limits of depth and time, such that mandatory decompression stops are not required during ascent. However, this does not mean the dive is without risks. Proper understanding of decompression theory, careful dive planning, diligent monitoring during the dive, and respect for the underwater environment are crucial to execute a no-decompression dive safely and enjoyably.