Wreck Racing League: Formula H20 – Underwater Scooter Racing


From 2012 -2017 this was the official website for Formula H20 – Underwater Scooter Racing Sanctioned by the Wreck Racing League

Formula H2O is the exciting underwater sport which features scuba divers racing on diver propulsion vehicle’s (DPV) combined with specialized training and competitive underwater events created specifically for veterans who have been injured while serving in the United States armed forces.  

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2012 Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge

Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge

October 7th – 9th – Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

The Formula H2O® underwater racing league is coming to the first magnitude springs of the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park beginning October  7th – 9th in a race to benefit wounded veterans.

The Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge will be the  2011 Formula H2O® Racing circuit finale and it promises to be the largest, most thrilling, action-packed event to date.  The Formula H2O® underwater racing events and world famous mermaid shows will be staged in the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, one of Florida’s greatest natural resources.   The mermaids are a culturally significant part of Florida’s tourism industry and that they are truly an iconic symbol of the park.

Formula H2O® is the exciting underwater sport which features scuba divers racing on diver propulsion vehicle’s (DPV) combined with specialized training and competitive underwater events created specifically for veterans who have been injured while serving in the United States armed forces.  The International Association of Handicapped Divers will serve as the host agency providing specialized training and rehabilitation sessions using SCUBA diving to wounded veterans representing the following organizations: 9Line, Divers for Heroes, Freedom Divers, Hope For The Warriors® , Special Operations Forces Wounded Warriors.

Allen Sherrod of South Lake Divers will serve as the host dive shop for the event.  Sherrod recently broke the world record for the longest SCUBA dive in Lake David in Groveland Florida. Sherrod began his attempt at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2010, the precise 10-year anniversary of the first attack on America on 9-11.   As part of his record setting attempt he also collected donations which will be presented to the wounded veterans at the conclusion of the event to offset travel and food expenses.  

Formula H2O is pleased to partner with the National Association of Scuba Educators (NASE) to provide safety divers and support of the Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge.  NASE certified instructors will be on site  to provide dive planning  and support for all race activities. 

Beginning with this race DPV’s will be assigned into race classes using a system to measure the thrust before the race begins.  

Scuba West will be picking up empty tanks at 5 PM on Friday and Saturday and will return them before the next days days events.  The Weeki Wachee Spring State Park does not provide tank rental or air fills. Participants must provide all equipment if they are not part of wounded veteran program. Please click here to make reservations for tank fills

Racers: $55, Spectators $35,  Wounded Veterans & Team members free

All Formula H2O participants will be given two wrist bands for park admission.  Additional non-racer wristbands $25


Recreation Class (3 Laps)
1st       Kelly Friend- Torpedo 4:17
2nd      Terry Hattan- Seadoo  4:43
3rd      Nick Bradford- Torpedo 4:44


Expedition B Class
1st     Lisa Mongy- Pegasus Thruster 6:32
2nd    Terry Hattan- Silent Submerge N-19 7:15
3rd     Fred Sydney- Apollo 7:34


Expedition A Class
1st     Anthony Recine- Apollo 6:31
2nd    Marissa Wiganowske- Dual Pegasus Thrusters 6:45
3rd    Wayne Turner- Silent Submerge UB-18  7:15


Unlimited Class
1st     Michael Vivona- Modified Dive X Cuda 4:41
2nd    Wayne Turner- Silent Submerge Magnus 4:55
3rd    Terry Hatton- Silent Submerge Magnus 4:55.1


Michael Vivona wins the Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge in the Formula H2O 2011 season finale.

The Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge was the  2011 Formula H2O® Racing circuit finale was  the largest, most thrilling, action-packed event to date.  The Formula H2O® underwater racing events and world famous mermaid shows were staged in the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, one of Florida’s greatest natural resources.   The mermaids are a culturally significant part of Florida’s tourism industry and that they are truly an iconic symbol of the park.


2012 Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge

The 2nd annual Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge closed out the the 2012 season finale on September 21st-23rd at the first magnitude Springs of the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

Race Results:

Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge – All Warrior Race

1st. Nathan Cruz     2nd. Sammy Lugo      3rd. Anthony Radetic

Modified Class:

1st. Michael Vivona   2nd Wayne Turner

Expedition A Class

1st.  Anthony Recine           2nd. Nathan Cruz           3rd. Gabor Cseplits

Expedition B Class

1st. Lisa Mongy             2nd. Brian Bohne    3rd. Dave Reid

Recreational Class:

1st. Kelly Friend        2nd. Vicki Ramirez        3rd. Dennis Ballard

The three-day event was dedicated to providing SCUBA dive training to wounded veterans and their families kicked off with the dedication of a Blue Star memorial byway marker at the Weeki Wachee Springs State park in recognition for the parks service to wounded veterans.  The Florida Federation of Garden Club recognizes significant highways, military bases and other significant locations with Blue Star Memorial markers as a tribute to all service men and women of our armed services.

The Formula H2O® underwater racing events and world famous mermaid shows were staged in the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, one of Florida’s greatest natural resources.   The mermaids are a culturally significant part of Florida’s tourism industry and that they are truly an iconic symbol of the park.

Formula H2O® is the exciting underwater sport which features scuba divers racing on diver propulsion vehicle’s (DPV). The Weeki Wachee Warrior Challenge will combines this thrilling new sport with specialized SCUBA training and competitive underwater events created specifically for veterans who have been injured while serving in the United States armed forces.

Formula H2O race events continued throughout the weekend with the culmination with four underwater races pitting SCUBA divers racing diver propulsion vehicles in four classes in the magnificent 1st magnitude Springs of the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.  Divers and non-divers watched the races and the regularly schedule mermaid shows from the unique underwater theater that provides an amazing view into the crystal clear water of the springs.



Tips for Racers

Tips for Racers

            There is a lot more to being a fast pilot than just hanging on and holding the trigger. You must set up your gear correctly:  have good buoyancy, good trim, and good body position while making clean turns. Here are some tips to get you on your way.

Gear Setup

To start,  you want to make sure that anything hanging off of you gets tucked away. This is to help reduce drag, but also to prevent these items from getting sucked into your propeller or the propeller of a racer beside you. Minimal gear configurations and small body stature all helpful to reduce drag, which becomes more of a factor as speeds increase in the higher thrust divisions. Some of the easiest and most overlooked ways of reducing your drag is to ensure that you are not over-weighted and that you are neutrally buoyant. If you can remain neutrally buoyant at safety stop depth with 500 psi in your tank, you have enough weight. Any additional weight will equate to more air needed in your BCD while racing, which equates to more drag. Combined with your DPV, you should be neutrally buoyant for the race. Buoyancy in either direction from neutral will require that you use some of your forward thrust to either stay at depth or stay off the bottom. Ideally you will fly with your DPV horizontal at all times; flying with it at an angle is wasted thrust and speed.

Riding Technique

Along with making your DPV as efficient as possible, you also want to do the same with your body position. Think of flying as jumping into a pool and trying to go as deep as you can. The position of a “dive” cuts through the water far better than that of a “belly flop”.

Now that you are making the most of your thrust and the least of your drag, it’s important to stay out of the propeller wash. All of your DPV thrust is due to its propeller pushing against the water. But, is all of that force going behind you or is some of it pushing against you? Everything that doesn’t push on you will pull you through the water. However, everything that does push on you is pushing you in the wrong direction. This not only wastes the thrust, but also forces you to exert yourself by hanging on harder. Your body from your head to your knees should be horizontal in the water, and all of your body should be out of the way of the DPV’s propeller wash. How you are trimmed while not in motion, may not be the same as while flying, or while flying and kicking.

Turns are a hard thing to master and it’s common to see new pilots approach a turn and suddenly aim the entire propeller wash into their outside arm and shoulder. Some even roll so that they are directly behind their propeller. Try banking your turns so that you keep the DPV on the outside of the turn and point the propeller wash away from your body rather than into it. As for the race itself, I don’t have any great advice, other than trying to find the shortest path around the course as possible while keeping out of other racers propeller wash.

Good technique will not only make you faster, it actually will make your DPV perform better. The cleaner you move through the water, the less work your motor will have to do, that means that it will place lesser demands upon your battery. Placing less work on your motor ensures that it can reach the highest RPM’s while using the least energy. Placing lesser demand upon your battery ensures that its voltage (power) will drop slowly so that its performance does not deteriorate as rapidly. Good technique can not only add speed, it can add noticeably to your battery life each dive.

Technical Stuff

Batteries and Chargers

Regardless of how much or how little you have paid for your DPV you want to make sure you get the most out of it. Most entry level DPV’s will use “Sealed Lead Acid” batteries or “SLA” for short. Not all batteries are of the same quality, nor are all battery chargers. Saving money on these items will often have detrimental effects on performance. SLA batteries start to drop in voltage as soon as you start to use them, then level off for a long while then will continue to drop again until too low to be of use. If you let a battery rest for a few minutes, its voltage will recover somewhat and it will benefit from another short-lived increase in performance.  Try to avoid completely killing your battery and try to charge as soon as you can after use. Both will extend your battery’s performance and longevity. Spare batteries may not be very expensive and can be a huge advantage; especially if there will be a lot of flying during the same day.

Understand that starting with a fully charged battery and not using it much before the race will improve performance. Also, the official pull test will happen after the race, so the amount of thrust your DPV produces after running for five minutes and resting for five minutes is a better predictor than from a fresh battery. Know your charger. Many cheap chargers may put less than a full charge into a battery, charge very slowly, damage the battery’s performance over time, or reflect that the battery is charged long before it finished. Know your batteries as well; performance changes over the life of a battery, and how you maintain them will have a profound effect on how they perform and how long they last.

There are newer battery technologies than SLA, but they will cost you considerably. Some of their advantages are larger capacity, faster charging, and flatter voltage discharge patterns. The primary down side to them is cost but they also tend to go dead when they are out of power without warning during the dive, while SLA batteries keep slowing down, giving you plenty of warning.

Variable Speed Adjustments

There are two ways to control the thrust and speed of a DPV, the first is to vary how quickly the propeller turns and the second is to vary the pitch of the propeller. Every DPV that I know of with variable speed does so with one or both of these methods.

You may wish to modify your DPV to produce more or less thrust. This can help move your speed up without going over the thrust limit for your division, or allow you to lower your thrust to compete in a lower thrust division.

Changing the Pitch

The pitch on a propeller is kind of like gears in a car, the higher the pitch, the more top end speed, but the less torque and the harder the motor has to work. You might think that a lot of pitch is great for racing, but that depends upon if your motor and battery can keep up with the demand for the entire race. High pitch settings combined with overcharged batteries allow some manufacturers to claim fast top speeds, but they cannot be maintained for very long as the voltage quickly drops and soon the motor cannot maintain its RPMs. Some DPV’s can keep up with a high pitch for a whole race, but you should experiment a bit to find the best results for your DPV. I’d also advise caution when trying to modify a DPV for more pitch, by doing so you could increase the work load to the point that the amperage draw can cause damage. You may also create so much heat that the DPV shuts off during the race when a thermal safety circuit trips, if your DPV has such a failsafe.

I’ve noticed that on many of my DPV’s with variable pitch, that once voltage starts to drop it cannot maintain full RPM at full pitch, but can do so just a little below it. So the question becomes, do you get better performance with less pitch and higher RPMs? If you find that on your Mako that you get best results two clicks from full pitch, that may be the best position for racing even though your pull test must be performed at the maximum thrust. If you wish to drop a division, most variable pitch propellers can be shimmed or have a spacer put into them to limit the adjustment to a desired setting. You can also sometimes remove some material to allow for a slightly greater or lesser range of selection.

You can similarly modify some adjustable triggers to limit how far down they can be depressed to slow the RPMs. If you are mechanical inclined, the possibilities for using PWM circuits or other means to fine tune this is limitless. Remember that whatever modifications you make cannot be adjustable by a racer in the water. If all you have to do is pull out a pin from under the trigger to go full speed, you will be tested with the pin removed. A good rule of thumb to use would be that it should require opening the DPV’s hull or require using tools to alter the modification.

Happy Racing,

Hope to see you behind me.

Mitch Herman



DPV Power Ranking

Pull Test Procedure for Determining Division Assignments:

Underwater thrust being measured on Gavin DPV

Intent and purpose for testing

            The purpose of the pull test is twofold, first is to allow to fairly set race divisions so that everyone who races has a fair competitive chance and the second is to provide a method for verifying divisions after each race.

Every DPV not being raced in the “Unlimited” division should be tested prior to racing and may be tested immediately after the race if they place.

Pull scales are used to measure the thrust of DPV's to determine their race class.

Reasoning behind using a pull test to set divisions

            Using a pull scale to determine how strongly a DPV can pull is a basic test that has been used to evaluate DPV performance for a very long time. Because this is a simple test that anyone can do with just a length of rope and a pull scale, like those commonly used by fishermen, this is both easy for us to do at the event, and easy for people to do themselves with  closely repeatable results.

The testing that maps thrust to overall diver speed, however, has only recently become available to the diving community and this is due to the dedicated group of divers who conduct the “Tahoe Benchmark”. These individuals have done extensive testing on a wide variety of DPV’s and published both their methods and findings for all to see.  From The Tahoe Benchmark we now know that thrust is a very reliable predictor of speed and we have a good understanding of what thrust levels will produce what range of speeds. Divisions are setup to keep racers’ DPV’s within about fifty feet per minute speed of each other. This is within a range that makes the racers’ performance a predominant factor in the outcome.

Another finding from the Tahoe Benchmark is that not all DPV’s of the same make and model will perform the same. Age, how they have been maintained, and battery performance all contribute to overall performance. By using this test each racer will compete in a division appropriate to the DPV and battery that they have, in the condition that it is in.

For the curious, it should be noted that although smaller people with less drag are faster than larger people, real world results, while wearing SCUBA gear, point to this equating to only ten to twenty feet per minute in the slower divisions and twenty to thirty feet per minute in the fastest one. Considering that a strong SCUBA diver can swim one hundred feet per minute or more, and that buoyancy, trim and riding technique can reduce forward speed by as much as half, there are no certain combinations of DPV and racer size to win.

Pull Test Rules for Determining Division

  1. Divisions will be classified by the maximum allowed measured thrust for each division. At this time those divisions are:
    1. 15 pounds or less at the end of the race
    2. 30 pounds or less at the end of the race
    3. 55 pounds or less at the end of the race
    4. Unlimited
  2. Races will be conducted in order from the slowest to the fastest division, when possible, although multiple divisions may be run simultaneously.
  3. Divisions will be set in advance of each race event and published on the Wreck Racing Leagues web site prior to the race.
  4. The same scale will be used throughout the entire race event for same division testing whenever possible. Multiple scales may be used for different divisions, but all DPV’s competing within the same division, will be tested using the same scale. For example a one hundred pound scale may test all of the DPV’s competing in the 55lb division, but a second fifty pound scale may be used to test all of the DPV’s in the 30lb division and 15lb division.
  5. The scale will be of common variety and need not be calibrated or certified. Once the first test has been recorded, no alterations to the scale are allowed. The purpose of the scale is to provide a common standard that each DPV can be compared to, and does not need to match any other standard itself. It is understood that each division’s standard is the appropriate marking on the scale which is provided, and not any other measurement.
  6. All racers will be given the chance to have their DPV tested prior to racing, on the official race scale. Racers can choose to compete in any reasonable division they wish, but risk disqualification at the end of the race if their DPV exceeds the allowed limit for the division they have chosen. For example if a DPV tests at 31lbs that racer could choose to race in the 30lbs division, the 55lbs division or the unlimited division. They could not race in the 15lbs division, because that is unreasonable. Staff will try to allow racers to test their DPV’s several times if desired. Competing in the 30lbs division is reasonable, because many DPV’s slow down notably after just a few minutes of running. A wise racer would confirm this with a second test after several minutes of running and make an informed decision.
  7. WWL staff has the final say as to what is considered reasonable.
  8. All races must be validated upon completion, either through group acceptance or testing.
  9. If after a race, every single racer within that division and presiding WWL staff agree to validate the race without testing, no testing is required.
  10. If after a race, any racer within that division or a presiding WWL staff member wishes to have the race validated by testing, all placing racers will have their DPV’s tested immediately. The after race test is used to validate the race and all previous tests are considered void. It is important for racers to know their DPV’s and how they perform with different levels of battery charge and after use. If a placing racer exceeds the pull test limit for their division, they are disqualified from that division. If they exceed the division limit by five pounds or less, they are eligible to race in the next higher division or be considered for placement if both divisions ran simultaneously.
  11. When reasonable WWL staff will not start the next division’s race before the previous division’s race has been validated.


Pull Test Procedures

To a reasonable extent, the process of pull testing DPV’s will be made consistent, transparent and public. All test results will be publicly stated at the time of testing, recorded and made available for all racers to review while at the event.

  1. When possible, the same area will be used for testing throughout the event.
  2. When possible, the area will allow for at least five feet in front of, behind and to both sides of the DPV while testing.
  3. Each DPV will be attached to the pull rope by either its tow cord or a similarly attached bridle that allows an even pull away from the rope.
  4. WWL staff or the racer at the direction of WWL staff will hold the DPV at arm’s length perpendicular to the DPV and trigger it.
  5. All testing will be performed for maximum thrust possible. This will usually be the highest pitch of an adjustable propeller and maximum RPM.
  6. The DPV will be held far enough under the surface so as not to pull in air, but reasonably close to horizontal.
  7. A relaxed hold on the DPV will be used so as not to influence the results of the test or give the appearance of influencing the results of the test.
  8. Once the DPV is at full thrust and all slack is out of the rope, the person holding the DPV will announce “Full Thrust” to signal the person checking the scale to take a measurement.
  9. Once at “Full Thrust” a constant pull measurement will be noted. If a constant pull value is not obvious, official value will be measured at ten seconds from “Full Thrust” declaration.
  10. If a racer will be using multiple DPV’s not attached to each other, each unit will be measured independently and their sum used to determine division. If some or all of the DPV’s being raced are attached to each other in a rigid frame, and will remain attached during the race, those DPV’s can be tested as a single unit.


Race Rules and Regulations

The rules, regulations, procedures, and information set forth herein are designed to provide for the orderly conduct of all Formula H2O and Wreck Racing League events and to establish minimum acceptable safety requirements for such events. These rules shall govern the condition of all Formula H20 and Wreck Racing League events, and, by participating in these events: all participants and all others are deemed to have complied with these rules.

No expressed or implied warranty of safety shall result from the publications of, or the compliance with, these rules, regulations, or procedures. They are intended as a guide for the conduct of the sport and are in no way a guarantee against injury and/or death to participants, spectators, or all others.

Formula H20 and Wreck Racing League Officials shall be empowered to permit minor deviation from any specifications herein or impose any further restrictions. Any interpretation or deviation of these rules is left to the discretion of the Wreck Racing League Officials; their decisions are final.


Participants shall conduct themselves in a sportsman-like manner at all times before, during, and after an event, both on and off the course. Examples of unsportsmanlike conduct include, but are not limited to, deliberately hitting or kicking another participant, deliberately causing another participant to crash, reckless operation of equipment, showing blatant disregard for Formula H20/Wreck Racing League rules or officials, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while competing in an event.

There will be no tolerance for alcohol or drugs consumed by any competitor, crew, or anyone else during any marine operations and/or loading and unloading of boats. Removal from event may be without warning and without a refund.

General Safety Rules:
1. All participants must read and sign the attached release waiver (Page 2 & 3) and other release forms as required by charter operators.

2. All SCUBA participants are responsible for monitoring their own air supply and must have at least 500 PSI at the conclusion of each dive.

3. All SCUBA participants must use a buoyancy compensator with a power inflator connected to at least 80 cubic feet of breathable air or nitrox mixture with quick release weights.

4. It is the sole responsibility of the participant’s using SCUBA with Nitrox or non-ambient air mixtures to inspect and determine if the mixture is safe for the diving event.

5. It is the sole responsibility of the participant to inspect and configure all equipment used by the participant.

6. All equipment used by participants is subject to the approval of Formula H2O and Wreck Racing League officials.

7. All freediving or snorkel participants or participants not using SCUBA must operate within safe limits and are responsible for their own safety.

8. All participants must take part in pre-dive briefings and must follow all instructions from the Boat Captain, Dive Master, Safety Officers and other staff and volunteers assigned to assist in the care and safety of all participants.

9. All participants may not make any intentional contact with other participants at any time during the submerged practice or race events.

10. Participants may not intentional block other participants on the course which could result in contact.



Featured Racer: Kelly Friend

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The fastest woman in the underwater scooter-racing world lives in the Florida Keys.

Kelly Friend, an exuberant blonde who recently set the world’s first underwater speed record for driving a driver propulsion vehicle, or underwater scooter, can chronicle her family’s history back to 1820 and Key West’s earliest days.

“The romance of the ocean is genetically imprinted within me,” she said. “I remember swimming and boating all the time as a kid — snorkeling and exploring the reef was simply what we did back then.”

In early October at Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Friend set the DPV speed record by propelling her underwater scooter at 2.58 mph. The following day, she was forced to defend it against a challenger who temporarily bested her. She trounced the challenger by reclaiming the record with an amazing top speed of 4.55 mph.

Friend’s first racing triumphs, however, were achieved on land. After high school in Key West and college in Texas, she took up motorcycle road racing in the early 1990s. She finished the 1995 season with a regional championship and a 12th-place ranking in the national finals.

In 2000, Friend rediscovered free diving and spearfishing as both competitive and contemplative sports. It wasn’t until 2009, however, that her talent for underwater scooter racing emerged.

That year, the 523-foot-long Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg was sunk as an artificial reef approximately seven miles south of Key West in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The former Air Force missile tracking ship was the second-largest vessel in the world ever scuttled to become an artificial reef.

The Vandenberg is so large that its hull rests on sand in about 150 feet of water, but its superstructure begins about 45 feet below the surface. That’s where Kelly Friend’s need for speed and love of the underwater world combined into an innovative adventure.

“I caught a segment on CNN about underwater scooter racing around the Vandenberg and immediately called the co-founder of the sanctioning body, the Wreck Racing League, who was my friend Joe Weatherby,” she explained. “I had finally found my true love — back on the race course and underwater!”

Last May, Friend participated in the Vandenberg Underwater Grand Prix, where divers using DPVs sped around the ship’s superstructure. Demonstrating both speed and style, she took top honors in the Wreck Racing League’s recreational class with two first-place victories and a third-place finish.

Founded to inspire greater awareness about artificial reefs, the Wreck Racing League also is the organization that recognized and recorded Kelly’s speed record at Weeki Wachee.

Despite earning the title of the fastest female DPV racer in the underwater world, Friend has no plans to rest on her laurels. Instead, she’ll continue to compete in her chosen sport.

“The spirit of competition and camaraderie of racers is a great mix,” she said, “both above and below the water line.”