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Wreck Diver Specialty: This Is How You Become One

wreck scuba divers - window - buceador de pecios

A wreck diver visits shipwrecks to view historically significant sites, artifacts, and marine life. They enjoy an environment full of beauty and mystery looking for:

– living shipwreck diving adventures,

– being witness of historical backgrounds visiting Second World War sunken planes, for example,

– discovering land vehicles’ mysteries which lay at the sea bottom.

Yes, yes, you have read right. Trucks, motorcycles, and cars are also waiting to be discovered by the most daring wreck divers.

As if this were not enough, natural erosion, especially in marine environments, turns wrecks into artificial reefs with a rich ecosystem.

Nevertheless, the inherent conditions of these dives require the wreck diver acquire concrete abilities for enjoying them with all the guarantees of security.

Do you want to become a wreck diver? Then read on.

wreck diver - main

1. Wreck Diver Skills

This is the place.

And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair

streams black, the merman in his armored body.

We circle silently

about the wreck

we dive into the hold.

I am she: I am he

It is an excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving into the Wreck. For us it is a metaphor to describe the transcending of human limitations through scuba diving. It comes up because that is exactly what we talk about: surpassing limitations, acquiring new skills and becoming a wreck diver.

Some wrecks were sunk to offer exciting appeal to divers. Others have a story to tell. All of them are magnets to recreational divers who are looking for new horizons to explore.

However, future wreck divers must keep in mind that we are talking about dives in an unnatural environment, where they will advance among wooden or iron structures, so their buoyancy control should be excellent.

As there are sediments and silt inside of these underwater treasures, a wreck diver should learn how to move forward without losing visibility. So, they should know how to fin properly. Besides, they will scuba dive responsibly thanks to this skill. We cannot forget that a wreck is part of history that we should not alter.

On the other hand, a wreck diver must understand that he or she will lack a direct exit to the outside inside a sunken ship. Above his or her head, there is a structure that must be overcome before ascending. Knowing how to use lines and reels is essential to move safely in a shipwreck’s visibility conditions.

Often, a wreck can be at different depths, and you should know this before jumping into the water, as well as the rule of thirds for air consumption. Do you know what it is?

If after reading all these skills you feel you should improve on any of them to become a wreck diver, our advice is to take the SDI or PADI Wreck Diver course.

2. Wreck Diving Certification

It is necessary to complete the Wreck Diver Specialty with the agency of your choice to achieve the certification. At Dressel Divers, we work with SDI and PADI. Both are excellent training methods and are accepted internationally. For that reason, we have them in our catalog. Although, there are a few differences between the one and the other wreck diving certification that we will review below.

3. SDI Wreck Diver Vs PADI Wreck Diver

3.1. Rescue Diver Requirements

SDI Wreck Diver Requirements PADI Wreck Diver Requirements
–        SDI Open Water Scuba Diver, or equivalent.

–        Have a deep diver specialty certification or proof of 18 m/60 ft experience.

–        Minimum age 18, 15 for limited penetration course with parental consent.

–        Minimum age 10 with parental consent for a non-penetration course.


–        PADI Open Water Scuba Diver Certification or equivalent.

–        Have completed PADI Adventure Diver.

–        15 years old.

–        Medical certificate.

3.2. How Long Does It Take to Do a Wreck Diving Certification?

In both agencies, wreck diver certification has a practical part that requires several dives. These dives require at least two-three days. There is also an e-learning part the student can study from home and at their own pace.


3.3. Wreck Diver Training

The wreck diving course content with both certifying agencies is divided into two parts. However, SDI allows instructors to structure the wreck diver specialty in accordance withs students’ skills and levels. They can return to those issues more difficult to understand for the student.

Wreck Diver Certification for recreational diving has a theory section and other practicals.

You can log on to our e-learning website from the comfort of your home for the theoretical section.

The practical part consists of 4 dives in the two agencies.

In the first dive the students will be able to familiarize themselves with the area and do the basic cartography of the wreck.

During the second dive the student practices anchoring techniques and the use of lines outside the wreck.

The third dive focused on wrecks with limited penetration and the use of lines inside the wreck.

Finally, a fourth dive, the student makes a penetration without decompression as previously determined.

wreck divers - instructor - buceador de pecios

3.4. Wreck Diver Certification Content

SDI Wreck Diver Certification Content PADI Wreck Diver Certification Content

1. Motivating statements

A. Why wreck dive

B. Potential benefits

C. Beauty

D. Mysteriousness

E. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

F. It’s fun


2. Down lines and surface supports

A. Size

B. Material

C. Surface supports

I. Communications, when and if necessary

II. Back-up procedures


3. The buddy system


4. Buddy contact

A. Contact with varied visibility

B. Buddy lines

C. Line signals

D. Buddy positioning in close proximity


5. Navigation/charting

A. Usage of the slate

I. Larger than normal

II. Pre-dive marking

B. Pre-planning the dive using charts, other information

C. Directional determination


6. Disorientation

A. With/without buddy

B. Lost buddy

C. Light failure

D. Emergency procedures


7. Special equipment

A. Lights

I. Primary and backup

II. Size

III. Burn time

Iv. Usage

B. Knives and cutting devices


8. Limited visibility diving

A. Silt-out

B. Psychological considerations.


9. Light usage

A. Importance of light and backup

B. Dark vision, don’t shine light in buddy’s eyes


10. Life lines and reels

A. Type of line

B. Tie-offs

C. Directional markers

D. Line handling and reeling must be practiced on land prior to

Performing this skill underwater


11. Special emergency procedures

A. Safe wreck

I. As normal, but with considerations for lack of free access to the surface in some cases

B. Hazardous or otherwise unsafe wrecks

I. Must avoid

II. Don’t enter doors blocked

III. Entrance restrictions


12. Mapping the wreck

A. Vertical

B. Horizontal

C. Feature identification



–                Survey a wreck

–                Safety considerations for navigating and exploring wrecks.

–                Surveying and mapping a wreck.

–                Using penetration lines and reels to guide exploration.

Techniques to avoid kicking up silt or disturbing the wreck and its inhabitants.

wreck diver - mama viña - buceador de pecios

3.5. Shipwreck Diving Equipment

To take the course to become a wreck diver, in addition to the traditional diving equipment, you will need a compass, a line, a reel, and, of course, a dive light with both certification agencies.

4. Diving the Wreck

Some key skills learned during the shipwreck diving course are things as simple as throwing the safety line to descend since the anchor is useless because it usually lands far from the wreck. So, wreck divers use weighted lines.

Also, you find out how to avoid potential hazards outside the wreck, such as fishing nets. Yes, often diving on the wreck, we find hooked nets. The fishing boats know wrecks are full of fish, so they pass the fishing nets over them and often have to cut them when they get stuck.

5. Inside Shipwrecks

Inside shipwrecks there are also dangers, especially if they are wrecks that have sunk naturally and have not been conditioned previously. Edges, doors, remains, and narrow passageways are aspects to consider diving inside shipwrecks.

Another interesting point are spoils. Allowing divers access to wrecks and ensuring these sites are not damaged is important.

Wrecks have cultural heritage values, and diving can impact in unwanted ways on these historical treasures:  anchor damage from ships, alteration and removal of artifacts, and accidental and deliberate contact by divers with wrecks are behaviors to avoid. Therefore, allowing divers access to wrecks and ensuring that these fragile sites are not damaged is a fundamental challenge for some countries and the diving industry.

wreck scuba divers - window - buceador de pecios

6. Is the Wreck Diver Course Hard?

Wreck Diver Specialty is interesting and entertaining as it brings together two specialties; deep and wreck diving.

Please note that most wrecks are below 30 meters/98 feet. Therefore, wreck diving aims to safely discover wrecks at great depths, when recreational diving.

There are Advanced wreck diver courses that require the skills of technical diving. But that is a subject for another article.

Besides increasing your skills as a diver, by taking the Wreck Diving Certification you’ll be closer to becoming an Advanced Open Water Diver since the first dive of the course can be credited as an Adventure Dive.

Do you want to know more about the wreck diver course? Ask us.


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