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What to Know About PADI's Wreck Diver Certification

Learn the skills you need to safely enter shipwrecks.
By Travis Marshall | Updated On November 23, 2021
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What to Know About PADI's Wreck Diver Certification

Divers with Kittiwake shipwreck

Wrecks are a world of their own.


Wreck diving is unlike any other experience underwater. Maybe it’s watching a hulking shadow emerge from the blue as you descend the mooring line, or maybe it’s the delight of finning down corridors where sailors once walked, peering into holds filled with long-lost cargo. Whatever it is, exploring the skeletons of sunken watercraft can be both riveting and thrilling, but it also presents unique risks. You may encounter strong currents, sharp metal and the dangers of diving in overhead environments. That’s why any diver interested in exploring shipwrecks should enroll in the PADI Wreck Diver specialty course for an introduction to the ins and outs (literally) of wreck diving.


The PADI Wreck Diver specialty will teach you to safely navigate the outside of a shipwreck, as well as the interior sections of a wreck that are within the “sunlight zone” and appropriate depth limits. These skills will ensure you’re prepared for the wrecks you’ll find in many dive destinations, from artificial reefs like the Spiegel Grove in Key Largo to the historic shipwrecks of North Carolina’s Graveyard of the Atlantic, and even world-famous wreck dives like the Thistlegorm in Egypt or the Rhone in the British Virgin Islands.

However, the PADI Wreck Diver specialty is not a comprehensive technical wreck-diving class. Diving deeper into wreck penetration—exploring a ship’s interior beyond the sunlight zone—introduces additional risks and requires technical training and specialized equipment for overhead environments.

What You'll Learn

The PADI Wreck Diver specialty starts with knowledge reviews and classroom sessions that cover the special considerations for wreck diving, including how to deal with currents, overhead environments and limited visibility. The course will also introduce you to some of the specialized equipment used for wreck diving: everything from dive lights and cutting tools to redundant air supplies and penetration lines and reels.

Along the way, you’ll learn to plan, map and navigate a wreck site. You’ll also practice specialized skills such as descending, ascending and making safety stops using a mooring or anchor line. You’ll continue perfecting neutral buoyancy and trim, which are especially important for wreck diving, as well as different finning techniques—such as the frog kick—to avoid kicking up silt that could limit visibility inside a wreck.

To complete the certification, divers will make four open-water wreck dives with an instructor. Divers must be 15 years or older to take the PADI Wreck Diver specialty, and a PADI Adventure Diver (or equivalent) certification is a prerequisite.