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4 Common Sense Rules You Can Apply to Wreck Diving

by: Joshua Norris:
wreck diving
As we all know, the scuba world is filled with many different types of diving. There are caves to explore, reefs to play on/near (don’t touch anything for God’s sake), diving in springs or a quarry to relax for a while, and almost anything else you can think of. Wreck diving has always been a popular activity. There are a few things to consider prior to entering a wreck in order to stay as safe as possible. However, this is not your normal “do” and “do not” list. These four discussion points are simply things to take into consideration. The ultimate decision is going to be left to you, the diver, and your buddies (if you have any). This brings us to our first discussion point:

  • – Personal responsibility

    The dive industry sometimes seems to be riddled with a lack of personal responsibility these days. When a dive pro is quick to take a picture of someone making a mistake, but never engages with the individual to perhaps shed some light on the problem, the entire industry looks petty and foolish. The old saying of “praise in public, and punish in private” has seemingly gone out the window. Instructors speaking poorly of other instructors, divers pushing their limits far beyond what is actually safe based on nothing more than something they read about on social media, and that feeling of “I forgot to bring X, but that will be no problem,” are situations that many need to do a better job of fixing.

    If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to dive down to a 150 feet on a wreck, but you have not been certified to that depth or given proper instruction on decompression procedures, should you continue with that dive? Well why not, right? Normal air is good to “180ish” feet and your buddy may just throw you an O2 tank and you can decompress at 20 feet until your computer clears itself. With that knowledge, what is the issue? You went out on a great dive, got an adrenaline rush because you broke the rules like a badass, and came home safe at the end of the day. No harm no foul… The issue with this is that the minute one little thing goes wrong your personal decision to go have a little bit of fun has successfully put the lives and jobs of both yourself and others at risk. Take some personal responsibility and explain to others your personal limits and perhaps you do not feel comfortable diving beyond that limit. Unlike prom night, you should not attempt to go as far as you can with everything in life.

  • – Forgot your computer, no big deal

    How many times have you forgotten your dive computer? For those of you who would never do such a thing and feel the need to explain with no less than 500 words how stupid someone must be to “forget” their computer, please feel free to do so in the comments section. To all of the others, like me, who have arrived at a site and discovered that they were missing something fairly important; this is for us. There is seldom a worse feeling than to be arriving at a dive site and realize that you have left something at the house. Now what do you do? You likely are not going to drive all the way back to retrieve it. You may be on a plane heading towards that vacation you have been waiting on all year. In any event, the fact remains that you have not properly packed your bag in some way. The best outcome for you is to admit defeat and find a suitable replacement for your missing item while conducting your dive(s). There is no reason to put yourself at risk simply because you do not want to rent a computer for an extra $20. If you happen to find yourself in a location that does not have that option, should you scrub your entire dive based on not having that particular item? I guess that just depends on what that the item is and what diving you would like to do. Again, as a diver you should do your best to take personal responsibility and remember that the safety of yourself and your dive buddies is paramount.

  • – It’s pretty much like cave diving in some ways

    Like many of you, I think I just heard all of the heads in Cave Country explode as a collective. Think about it though. If you are going to penetrate a wreck, it may be a great idea to carry extra gas, reels, lights, etc. This goes hand in hand with cave diving. The point is that if you don’t know what you are doing and are not fully prepared to enter the wreck; simply do not do it. Poke your head inside and look around if you like, but don’t go so far that you turn around and no longer realize just what you have done to yourself. There are a few videos online of folks lucking out and finding an exit. This is what we call, “one time learning”.

  • – Don’t over think it

    It happens all of the time. A group of new students will be standing, waist deep in the water, to do their very first open water dive. You and your buddy, a bit more experienced, see them in the water discussing their dive plan as you two are assembling and testing your gear. As you walk by them in the water, they continue to outline their plan in more detail than The Lord of the Rings. You conduct your 45 minute/1 hour dive and return to the entry point. What do you find? The same group of students discussing the same dive plan. Fast forward this into wreck diving and you will likely find some of the same attitudes, but perhaps in a different way. Meticulous planning of the wreck dive itself is not a bad thing at all. The problem comes when those who planned the dive with such great detail run into a situation for which they did not account. Perhaps the wreck moved since the last time you were there. Hurricanes have a tendency to blow things around a bit. Perhaps you had an equipment malfunction and did not plan for each and every thing to go wrong. From there, the horrible tradition of problems compounding themselves may begin. Just remember to plan your dive out, but also just go with it. Diving is not unlike other things in life in that curve balls will be thrown from time to time, and you must learn how to adapt quickly to potentially terrifying situations in an overhead environment. Educate yourself on how to deal with issues and practice until you can remain calm and take corrective measures when necessary.

These are some of the common sense approaches to take when preparing for a wreck dive. Things will go wrong, computers will fail, your buddies may call the dive leaving you in an awkward situation; just don’t be the diver that goes in and doesn’t come back simply because you rushed into it. I can guarantee that no one will care if you missed the wreck dive in five years. If you injure yourself or someone else though, that scar may never fade away.


– Joshua Norris, Air Hogs SCUBA

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