When the currents are strong, using a reef hook can be an exhilarating way to enjoy them. Here’s how you can get hooked.
By Joseph Tepper
Using a reef hook to lock into a rock in the midst of a massive current while dozens of pelagic animals drift by is an ethereal experience: Close your eyes and the passing rush of water gives the sensation of skydiving.
Reef hooks are a necessary tool for diving current- ridden destinations such as Sipadan in Malaysia, Komodo in Indonesia, Palau in Oceania, and Donsol in the Philippines. But if you’ve never used one before, deploying a reef hook in current-coddled conditions can be a bit challenging.
WHAT IS A REEF HOOK?
Dive lore has it that the reef hook has humble beginnings in the Micronesian nation of Palau. Dive guides were looking for a way to decrease exertion and increase safety on the famed Blue Corner dive site, which features a seemingly endless rush of water. They began using hook-shaped scraps of steel attached to a rope to secure divers to a non-living part of the reef.
The modern-day reef hook remains essentially unchanged. At one end you have a hook: This can vary in form from a single hook to multiple curved fingers. This is attached to a line ranging in length from an arm’s length to several feet. Finally, a clip at the other end easily attaches the hook and line to a D-ring of the diver’s buoyancy control device (BCD). Some models come with a self-containing pouch or retraction option, but keeping your reef hook stored in a BCD pocket is perfectly acceptable.
WHEN SHOULD YOU USE A REEF HOOK?
Essentially, the reef hook is designed to keep the diver in one place with minimal kicking effort – if any. For this to work, there are two conditions that must be met. First, there should be enough constant current on the dive so that there is tension in the rope between where the hook is in place and the diver. If the current is slight or strong but constantly changing directions, then it’s best to rely on your fin kicks to keep in place.
Second, you’ll need a place to “hook in” safely and responsibly. A reef hook will do you no good in an open water dive without rocks or reef. Even if there is a reef, it’s important that you only use your hook in a spot that doesn’t have any living coral. In many destinations, there are designated spots to hook in and watch the action unfold. If you’re questioning whether or not to use a hook on a dive, make sure to ask your dive guide.
Reef hooks also make photography much more manageable in crazy currents. Rather than having to grasp at a rock, your hands will be free to operate a camera and capture amazing images of the dive.
HOW TO USE A REEF HOOK
When used properly, a reef hook allows the diver to stay in one place without having to constantly kick or grab onto the reef with their hands – a danger to both the diver and the environment. However, if you’ve never used a reef hook before, we suggest bringing it on a dive with minimal or no current to get accustomed to its operation. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to deploy your reef hook without having to take your concentration off the dive.
There are a variety of methods to prepare your reef hook before the dive, but here is one approach used by experienced divers. Begin by “daisy-chaining” your reef hook: This will shorten the length of the line so that it’s more compact. When you’ve completed your daisy chain, “lock” it in place by threading one of the last loops through the clip and securing the clip on your BCD’s central D-ring. Tuck the hook itself into the pocket prior to the dive.
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