Interview with Underwater Treasure Hunter and Detectorist Steve Zazulyk
When it comes to underwater treasure hunting Steve Zazulyk is one of the first metal detectorists that comes to mind. An Ontario, Canada resident, he travels globally, scuba diving, doing recoveries, and treasure exploration.
Steve has an impressive resume. He has done over 500 ring recoveries and is a Minelab Detexpert. He has been featured on past and upcoming documentaries and shows, most notably the first season of the History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. He found the first confirmed discovery and the most significant artifact known as the “Swamp Pirate Coin”. Steve is also an accomplished writer, authoring the book The Ring Finder, and a new book, Dive Detecting, to be released via Minelab in November 2021. Additionally, he is a columnist for one of the popular US-based metal detecting magazines.
As someone who also grew up in Canada and detects both in the US and Canada, I understand the challenges of diving in scuba diving in cold fresh and saltwater. I was pretty excited to interview Steve. Below are my questions and his answers.
Are you still a brand ambassador for Minelab and noted as a Minelab Detexpert? For readers who don’t know what a brand ambassador and a Minelab Detexpert are, can you explain what it means and what perks come with it? Do any other brands sponsor you?
Steve: I am a Minelab Detexpert and a brand ambassador currently working on a new Minelab supported book due out in November 2021 on Dive Detecting. The book is an extremely exciting project that will be completely focused on underwater detecting, treasure hunting, and my many stories from around the world. I love the Minelab Detexpert program because it connects pros like myself with the community and other detectorists to teach and support the product and this amazing hobby.
Have you had any notable appearances besides being on the first season of The Curse of Oak Island?
Steve: I was fortunate to be involved with Season 1 of The Curse of Oak Island and feel very proud about my involvement in launching the series. Since then, I have been featured in multiple podcasts and had my own column called Below the Surface in the United States magazine called American Digger. I’ve been featured in a documentary in Norway and travel to detecting events in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Recently my detecting partner Ryan Fazekas and myself were featured on PBS which followed us on a current hunt we are on searching for the buried treasure of the notorious 1930s gangster Dutch Schultz’s called Gangsters Gold. I am also involved in a few projects being shot this summer for Discovery Channel.
As a Canadian, I understand some of the obstacles and limitations of diving in cold fresh and saltwater. What is the most northern spot you have been diving, and what were you searching for?
Steve: As a Professional Ring Finder, I am hired by private clients to find lost family heirlooms and sentimental items of value they have lost in the water. This service which I talk about in my book “The Ring Finder” has taken me to Italy, Germany, Austria, the Caribbean, and the Northern parts of Canada. Using chainsaws to cut through the ice, I have dove into deep, dark, freezing water to locate these treasures, including a hunt in a tributary off of Canada’s James Bay for a $100,000 diamond ring.
Do you use a drysuit or wetsuit? Can you give us some tips for purchasing dry suits or wet suits, what to look at, what to avoid, and what manufacturers you would recommend?
Steve: When purchasing any equipment, especially wet suits and dry suits, it’s far more important to buy something that works for you specifically rather than rushing to a popular brand. A common mistake because brands act and fit differently. I’m 6 feet tall and over 190 lbs, and it’s imperative my equipment is comfortable and reliable. Nothing worse than finding out in the middle of your ice dive, your drysuit is leaking freezing water down your leg. I personally use a Cressi ICE man semi-dry suit.
Besides finding the Pirate Coin, which is very cool by the way, do you have any other interesting events of finds that happened at Oak Island while you were there on or off-camera?
Steve: Oak Island was one of the strangest treasure hunts I had ever been on. During my time that I spent traversing the entire Island off-camera by myself, I discovered much more than what was seen by the public on-air and was truly something I’ll never forget. I personally know there is a huge super spiritual element to the island and for obvious reasons, the owners keep a lot of information and secrets about the Island to themselves. Only a very small circle of people myself included have been fortunate enough to see and experience it. That being said I do have personal footage I took while I was there locating other finds and possible clues to the location of the treasure.
I understand Covid makes travel difficult, however as travel restrictions ease, where can travelers find the laws surrounding metal detecting for specific bodies of water or beaches.
Steve: As far as getting permission or finding out where and when you can dive, it is really up to the local authorities and laws in that region you plan to dive. It is imperative for each person who is water detecting or dive detecting to find out what they are before you enter the water. I have dive detected, and water hunted on five continents and have found countries that don’t have a problem with people detecting in their water. However, I have also been in countries where the local police were called to arrest me as soon as I surfaced from the water machine guns in hand. Trust me, you want to do your homework before you enter any body of water. As far as Canada is concerned, most areas in the water are free to detect however, what you find can get you into an issue if it is considered historical or indigenous antiquity. I also tell people to stick to the beach, avoid destroying any marine life at all costs and report any historical find to the local authorities.
Readers of Focus Speed have sent me private messages on social media asking me: What’s the best way to airline travel with metal detectors? Do you have any tips for those traveling with a detector? Carry on, or check-in? What have you found with specific airlines? I admit I travel from Southern California to Northern Canada, specifically British Columbia, using WestJet and only have experience with that airline and clearing customs in Vancouver with a metal detector.
Steve: As far as traveling or flying with my detector I haven’t had much of a problem after I realized your equipment is going to be thrown around very brutally in the process. I suggest buying a Pelican Air case which is made of high-strength polymer designed to protect your equipment from even the most brutal airport handlers. As far as airlines are concerned, I have found good and bad in all of them but prefer to travel by good ole Air Canada. They have been very accommodating with my diving equipment and detectors, and I find their economy and 1st class service are better than other airlines. Mostly with only three crashes out of 4.75 million flights, the odds are in my favor.
There are tons of beginner tips on the internet. Can you give us tips for advanced to seasoned detectorists regarding water hunting?
Steve: Tips: Here’s some real tips I wish I would have known when I first started
- Buy an aftermarket Dive Shaft for your detector! I personally use the under over from Anderson! Your coil should always be within reach of your hand. You can always tell a newbie when they are using the long shaft which should only be used on land and walking in water.
- A detecting pouch made specifically for dive detecting will ensure you won’t lose your finds. Trust me you won’t regret this! They fit around the waist and sit in the perfect position on the front of a diver. Easy to open with 2 separate areas for good and bad finds! Anderson again has a small carabiner for rings that zip up inside to ensure you won’t lose your rings.
- Use a larger carabiner for your rings on your B.C (Buoyancy Compensator Device). We always use a twist lock carabiner attached to the chest area of our B.C to ensure you don’t lose them on your dive.
- Bonus tip: One on One off rule! More importantly under water than on land keep one earphone on and the other slightly off the other ear so you can hear oncoming boats and jet skis. It may save your life!
For those who would like to buy your book and keep up with your metal detecting and treasure hunting adventures, where is the best place to purchase it and follow you?
Steve: My new book Dive Detecting comes out in November 2021. Readers can buy my book The Ring Finder on Amazon, and you can catch me on Tik Tok and Instagram by searching Dive Detecting.
Joanna Jana Laznicka, a Czech-Canadian residing in Southern California, is passionate about all things associated with metal detecting. She mainly detects on the West Coast, from Southern California to Northern British Columbia. As the founder of Focus Speed, her goal is to bring quality content to metal detectorists.