Diving Rules & Regulations

As with all sports, diving has a detailed list of rules and regulations. Although the details vary with gender, age and type of competition, the general rules apply to all diving competitions.

Most divers compete in several events: 1-meter springboard, 3-meter springboard, and platform, which include the 5-meter, 7.5-meter and 10-meter events. At the Olympic Games and World Championships, divers only compete on the 3-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform.

Dive Lists

Prior to competition, divers must submit dive lists (also called a dive-sheet) to the meet director. These lists typically consist of five to eleven dives, depending on the competition. Some competitions will have divers perform voluntary and optional dives. Some will only require optional routines. Once the dive sheet is submitted, divers may not make changes to their list, unless otherwise specified by the meet director.

Voluntary & Optional Dives

On the sheet, divers list “voluntary” and “optional” dives. Each dive is assigned a degree of difficulty (DD) that ranges from 1.2 for a forward dive tuck to 4.8 for a reverse 4½ somersault pike.

Voluntary dives, also known as required dives, are the first five dives on a divers list. These dives must have a combined DD that adds up to no more than 9.5 for springboard and no more than 7.6 for platform. The limit on the degree of difficulty forces divers to demonstrate that they can perform the fundamental skills of the sport, as well as the flashy skills that they are likely to demonstrate with their optional dives.

The next five or six dives on a diver’s list are the optional dives. Optional dives are harder to perform, have a higher degree of difficulty, and do not have a maximum limit on the combined DD. However in senior competitions, the optional dives have a minimum DD requirement that varies depending on gender and the event.

Optionals are often the dives shown on television, since they incorporate multiple flips and twists and are more exciting to the typical viewer. These dives generally make the difference between the medalists and the non-medalists in high-level competitions.

Groups of Dives

Each dive on a diver’s list is assigned a number from 1-5 that corresponds to the direction the dive will be executed. In both the required and the optional lists, divers must perform a dive from each of the five groups: Forward, backward, reverse, inward, and twisting.

Platform diving also includes the arm-stand, but only men are required to have it on their list.

General Scoring

Diving meets usually have five to seven judges. In international competition (including the Olympic Games), there must be seven judges to score each dive performed. The scores range from zero (failed dive) to 10 for a perfect dive. The scores increase by half-point increments. After each dive, the judges submit a score.

The value of the score is as follows:

  • 0: Failed
  • ½ – 2: Insufficient
  • 2 ½ – 4 ½: Not good
  • 5 – 6 ½ : Satisfactory
  • 7- 8: Good
  • 8 ½ – 9 ½: Exceptional
  • 10: Perfect

At the Olympics and similar competitions with seven judges, the highest and lowest scores are hrown out, with the remaining five added and then multiplied by 0.6. That score is multiplied by the dive’s degree of difficulty. The resulting number is a diver’s score for that dive.

At competitions with only five judges, the highest and lowest scores are thrown out. The remainingthree scores are added together and multiplied by the dive’s degree of difficulty.

How the Judges Score

While there are five parts to a dive (starting position, approach, takeoff, flight, and entry), judges generally use three points to score the approach and takeoff, three point for a diver’s flight, and three points for the entry. One extra point is used to give the judges some flexibility in the scoring process.

Although all parts of a dive are important, there is an emphasis on the entry and judges look, in particular, for a dive with little to no splash. An entry with no splash is known as a “rip entry,” because of the sound it makes when a diver enters the water.


Divers are expected to stand steady with the body and arms straight, even if they are using a handstand. In a forward approach, divers must take at least three steps, with a hurdle at the last step. On a backward approach, the arm movements used to gain momentum, along with the rocking of the board, must be smooth. For a handstand, the length and quality of the hold is judged and the body must be tight and vertical.

If a diver starts an approach and then stops (this is called a balk), the announcer will deduct two points from each of the judges final scores. If a diver balks a second time on the same dive, it is considered a failed dive, for which the diver receives zero points.


In flight, divers should have pointed toes with their legs together at all times. A diver’s body must be correctly aligned—neither too far from nor too close to the board—and in the proper tuck, pike, straight or free position. Judges are also looking for dives that successfully launch straight in front of the board or platform without veering to the left or right.


At the moment of entry, a diver’s body should be straight and vertical, or at least nearly vertical. For feet-first entries, arms must be straight against the body. On head-first entries, arms must be extended overhead and in-line with the body. The goal is to enter the water cleanly, without a lot of splash.

Synchronized Diving

For Olympic synchronized diving, there is a panel of nine judges—four judge the divers’ execution and five judge their synchronization. The synchronized judges must always be aligned in the same vertical position with three on one side and two on the opposite side of the pool. The high and low scores of the four judges of execution, as well as the high and low of the five judges of synchronization, are thrown out. The remaining scores are added, multiplied by o.6, and then multiplied by the DD to reach the final composite score.

The final scores of each individual dive are added together, and at the end of competition, the team with the most points is the winner.

How the Judges Score

In synchronized diving, judges evaluate both divers’ execution based on the same criteria listed above for individual dives. In addition, the judges are looking to see that the pair is synchronized in height and distance from the board/platform, rotation, timing, and angle of entry.

More Resources

The above text offers a general summary of diving rules. Remember, the details can vary according to the governing body for a particular meet. For more specific diving rules, see the links below.

USA Diving Rulebook
FINA Diving Rules & Regulations
FINA Masters Diving Rules

Share the knowledge