All About the PADI Wreck Diver Course

Learning to Safely and Effectively Explore Sunken Wrecks as a Recreational Diver

Wreck diving? Count us in!

Whether sunk on purpose or as the result of a mishap, it’s a breathtaking experience to be able to visit a sunken wreck while scuba diving.

Joey Hovering Near The Saganaga Shipwreck on Bell Island, Newfoundland, Canadian Splash
 

What is Wreck Diving?

Wreck diving is a thrilling and adventurous type of scuba diving that involves exploring large sunken objects, such as a ship or airplane, underwater.

Most divers find wreck diving irresistible because not only do you get to explore a little piece of the past, but it opens up new and exciting avenues of discovery. On top of being able to dive into history, wrecks are also artificial reefs teeming with life. Aquatic creatures thrive in the nooks and crannies made available by the sunken vessel.
 

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The PADI Wreck Diving Course

The PADI wreck diver course is an interesting course that teaches recreational divers all about the safety and responsibility that goes hand in hand with wreck diving. It opens up a whole new world of diving that allows people to not just research and tour the outside of a wreck, but also learn how to safely perform limited penetration in an enclosed environment.

Joey Using His Flashlight And Diving The Hilma Hooker Shipwreck On The South Of Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean
 

What does the PADI Wreck Diver course teach you?

As with any course to further your scuba diving knowledge, here is what topics you will cover during the PADI Wreck Diver certification:

  • How to get background info on wrecks
  • What equipment is required for wreck diving
  • Safety consideration with regards to wreck diving
  • How to prepare for a wreck dive
  • How to perform limited penetration on the wreck with penetration lines and reels
  • Surveying and mapping a wreck
  • Techniques for minimal disturbance to the surrounding site
  • Limited-visibility diving techniques and emergency procedures

The Inside Cockpit Of A Sunken Airplane In Vobster Quay, England, United Kingdom
 

Wreck Diver Course Prerequisites

In order to join a PADI Wreck Diver course, participants must meet the following requirements:

  1. Be at least 15 years old
  2. Have your PADI Open Water or equivalent Adventure Diver certification rating
  3. Have a dive light and backup light
  4. Have a compass
  5. Have a line and reel for wreck penetration

As always it is important to double check with your local dive shop if you meet all the prerequisites prior to enrolling in the course.

Joey Looking Through The Porthole Of A Shipwreck While Scuba Diving In Brockville, Ontario For Canadian Splash
 

A Synopsis of the Wreck Diver Course

The Wreck Diver course is one of 31 PADI Specialty courses encouraging divers to enjoy and explore the underwater world in new ways.

Wreck Diver Theory and Knowledge

The first part of the PADI Wreck Diver course is the theoretical section that happens in the classroom as there is no E-learning option available. Overall we spent two three-hour evenings of classroom time.

In the classroom, prospective wreck divers will review and analyze the textbook material which covers everything from how to research and learn the history of a shipwreck to how to safely perform a limited penetration.

For our course, the instructor opted to give us more wreck diving information and covered a whole section on line handling: types of lines, types of reels, how to lay lines, tie-off points, directional markers, and dive team procedures. We did multiple dry-land practice simulations where our team would “head underwater and perform a limited penetration on a wreck”. It was an interesting and neat experience because we each, in turn, lead a dive, tying and following a maze of lines on land.

The PADI Wreck Diver Course Theory And Dry Land Training
 

In-Water Wreck Diver Skills Application

A couple of weeks after our in-depth theoretical section it was time to apply our new skills underwater. We had prearranged to do this part of the course in Newfoundland, on the famous Bell Island shipwrecks.

Bell Island Newfoundland Shipwreck Scuba Diving, Canadian Scuba Locations

Curious about diving the only collection of World War II shipwrecks in Canada?
Bell Island, Newfoundland is a cold water dive destination that will let you experience some of the best shipwrecks and scuba diving opportunities on the Canadian east coast.

Ice cold and perfectly preserved at depth, Newfoundland was the trip of a lifetime for us. Over the course of a 5-day 2-dive wreck diving expedition, we dedicated 4 dives to completing the PADI Wreck Diver course.

Joey Exploring The Rose Castle In Newfoundland, Scuba Diving Canada

The first course dive was a basic orientation dive where we got used to diving with our extra pony bottles, toured the outside of a ship and watched our instructor deploy a penetration line. It gave us a chance to get used to the new (and very cold environment), witness the mammoth-sized shipwreck for the first time and watch an underwater demo of how to use a dive reel.

On the second dive, we had the opportunity to practice and improve deploying a Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB) and tying the buoy off to the shipwreck. This dive was done at a shallow shore whaler wreck as opposed to the deep Bell Island wrecks so that we could surface empty the bag, tweak our technique and re-deploy the DSMB multiple times.
 

A Collection of Fishing Buoys in a Boat

Read more about scuba diving surface markers:
Sometimes a dive doesn’t go according to plan and when that happens, it’s important to be seen. Learn all about what are surface markers and why you should have one.

The third dive we were back on the Bell Island shipwrecks and practiced each, in turn, executing a primary tie-off, secondary tie-off and laying a penetration line across the open part of a ship. As easy as the instructor made it look during the demo, deploying a reel was a little tricky in the cold water, mainly because of the multi-layers of thermal protection on my hands.

Our fourth and final dive was very similar to the third dive, in that we were tasked with deploying a penetration line on the wreck only this time instead of it being out in the open, we actually had to do it in an enclosed overhead environment.

Each course dive had a specific wreck diving skill that was focused on. As a student, I found that focusing on one skill to plan and execute was a nice pace because when you are doing something at depth in cold water it can jeopardize safety if there is too much to cram in.

Back on the boat after every individual wreck course dive, our instructor would always lead a short debrief. These debriefs were necessary but also very useful in helping us advance our skills by making small changes to our dive routine.

Scuba Joey Peeking Through A Door Frame While Scuba Diving The Bell Island Shipwrecks In Newfoundland, Canada
 

PADI Wreck Diver Course Cost

The cost of taking your PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course varies from dive shop to dive shop and largely depends on boat charters and the ease of accessibility to a wreck. A reasonable estimate on the Wreck Diver course price is between $400.00 and $500.00 per person. This price should include the Wreck Dive Manual, classroom session, PADI certification card, and 4 chartered boat dives. Should there be wreck diving accessibility from shore, the price will likely be cheaper

If you are planning on doing your Wreck Diver Course, it is also important to budget for extra equipment that might not be part of your dive inventory. In some cases, you might be able to rent the equipment while in others you will need to have your own.

Additional equipment needed for the course includes a primary dive light, a backup dive light, primary wreck reel, a secondary wreck reel, dive slate, compass, and alternate air source, either a second tank or pony bottle (not mandatory but recommended).

Dad Scuba Diving In Bonaire And Thinking Of The Cost Of The PADI Wreck Diving Course
 

Wreck Diver Course Duration

The PADI Wreck Diving course is a 4-dive session done over at least a two-day span. During the 4 open water dives included in this course, students will learn information and techniques on land from their instructor and apply them in real-life situations in the water.

Joey Scuba Diving Under A Piece Of Shipwreck Debris In Newfoundland, Canada
 

Who Should take the Wreck Diver Course?

The PADI Wreck Diving certification is a good course for new divers looking to try their hand at wreck diving to determine if that style of diving is of interest to them. It’s a good way to further your knowledge and learn more with regards to underwater exploration of wrecks.

But unless you’re relatively new in the diving world, we wouldn’t recommend taking the course. As a seasoned diver who has already explored the outer proximity of various types of wrecks, we found the PADI Wreck Diver course a little lackluster.

Rebreather Diver Mike And Scuba Diver Joey On The Lord Strathcona Shipwreck In Bell Island, Newfoundland, Canada
 

Wrapping up the Wreck Diver Course

I’m not going to lie, Joey and I were a little disappointed about the PADI Wreck Diving course. While it covered a lot of material, we found that the course was limited in the new knowledge it provided to more experienced divers. Apart from learning about lines and reels, the information it provided to us was very basic.

Luckily, the shop with whom we did the certification has a very technical instructor who went above and beyond what the PADI course offered. As a testament to this, our Wreck Diver certification was a combination of the PADI Wreck Diver and SDI Wreck Diving material, making the course more comprehensive and challenging. I think this speaks to the difference between an average scuba instructor, who teaches the bare minimum, and a good scuba instructor, who wants to educate and inspire.

Joey Checking Out The Gear And Motor Of The Saganaga Shipwreck At Bell Island, Newfoundland, Canada

We are really happy that in taking the Wreck Diver Course, COJO Diving decided to teach more than the PADI certification scope!

During the modified course we learned about types of lines, types of reels, tie off points, directional markers, and line handling. We even had a couple of nights of dry-land practice where we got to create and follow a maze of lines on land.

All in all, am I glad I have my PADI Wreck Diving certification? Of course! Every diver at some point in their careers loves collecting cards. Would I recommend this PADI course to other people? Probably not. The course was way too basic and didn’t have nearly as much limited wreck penetration as I would have liked.

Our suggestion – if your dive shop offers the SDI Wreck Diver or an alternative wreck course, try that one instead!

The Duanes Crows Nest On The Shipwreck In Key Largo, Florida Keys, USA Diving

Have you ever taken a Wreck Diving course? Which institution did you use and what was your experience like? Would you recommend it to others?

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