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Best Kayak for Diving?

Discussion in 'Inflatables, RIB's, Dinghy's and Kayaks' started by rsingler, Sep 8, 2020.

  1. rsingler

    rsingler Scuba Instructor, Tinkerer in Brass Staff Member ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Napa, California
    No worries, my friend. Thanks for thinking of me.
  2. uwxplorer

    uwxplorer Rebreather Pilot

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Los Angeles
    Don't forget to take a harpoon:
  3. icechip

    icechip ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Maine
    My neighbor is a dealer for Jackson Kayaks. Been looking at the Yupik for scuba. Might pull the trigger...if negotiations with the wife go well...
    (YuPIK 2021)
  4. Brett Hatch

    Brett Hatch ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Monterey, CA
    OK, so, I have been busy with work and moving down to Monterey, and just life in general getting in the way. But I did finally get a chance to take my Scupper Pro TW kayaks out this weekend. It went really well.

    Since we hadn't taken these vessels out yet, and neither one of us had been on a kayak in open water much, we decided to start with a dry-run. So we parked at the breakwater yesterday afternoon around 4pm. Most of the boats and divers had packed it up, so we were able to park my truck right by the Pig Wizard / Out To Sea. Kayak entry on the boat ramp is super easy -- it's much less steep than the one at Pt Lobos, not nearly as slippery, and of course the wakes are only a few inches to a foot.

    We paddled around the breakwater, turned left, and headed North to the little kelp patch just below Monterey Bay Inn. Probably a little over a half-mile total distance, including going around the breakwater, which takes 15 minutes or so when we were neither dawdling nor going unsustainably fast. There were 20 or so otters hanging out in the kelp bed, including a few babies. Pretty cute little buggers. We had a goal to try out both the kelp anchor and the reel anchor, so decided to stop there, deploy both, and hang out there for a while to see if we drifted at all. Wished we packed a beer, that would have been nice. After taking some pictures of the otters and satisfying ourselves that the anchors worked, it was starting to get windy and chilly, so we headed back in. Re-entry was uneventful, we returned just as the last bit of sun was leaving the breakwater parking lot, and the wind had picked up. If we were out there much longer, it would have been pretty cold. We packed up and left just before 6pm, almost twilight.

    Today we went for it and tried diving off of the kayaks. Had some errands to run and ended up getting a late start again, but found similarly-good parking at the breakwater around 2pm. We pulled the kayaks off my truck, set them on the ground in the next parking space (place wasn't too busy since it was a Sunday), and set up our scuba rigs and exposure gear. It was hot. We decided to try out bundling the gear into the kayaks at the truck and then schlepping it as a unit down to the ramp. Which sucked -- those things were super heavy, and very awkward. With one guy in the front and one in the rear, we had to stop to take quick break both times. I imagine that over time we'll get stronger, but I won't be trying that again soon. Next time I would rather bring the boats out first and then go back for the dive rigs (or vice versa), then get it all bundled up on the boat ramp. Or maybe invest in one of those little kayak caddy thingies I see people using, which would make it much easier to move everything at once.

    The boats were noticeably slower with the scuba rigs on them, but we were still substantially faster than every person who appeared to be in a rental, both tandem and singles. Those babies just move, and the 15' length goes right across the big wakes that speeding boats kick up. Even when they came at us from the side, they weren't too bad.

    We decided to just paddle out to the same spot as the day before, the kelp patch between San Carlos Beach and the "hidden" beach, below the hotels. Again we clipped on boat off to the kelp, the other boat tossed off a reeled anchor, and we clipped the boats together, and deployed a diver-down flag. Setting up and donning gear took awhile, we were quite out of our element doing it in mid-water. Still, the kayaks were stable enough, and eventually we were ready to go. We took a NNW heading a little to the right of the radio tower thing at McAbee beach: 330 degrees, and then dropped down into 20 feet of water.

    We first verified that the anchor was in a safe, sandy place, which it was. My dive buddy decided to remove his blinky tank light and attach it to the anchor line, in order to make it easier to see on the return. As it happens, we didn't end up navigating back close enough for it to help, but was a nice idea.

    Viz was OK-to-bad, I'd say a gritty 15' in the good spots, down to 5' in the bad spots. So we went slow, and followed our 330 degree heading, more-or-less. There is some cool junk out there, including a few concrete moorings with lengths of gigantic chain still attached, I could fit my entire hand inside of each chain link! At the 30 minute mark, we decided to turn around, and tried to follow a roughly reverse path of 150 degrees, but ended up zigging and zagging some due to the low viz. At the 50 minute marek I remember thinking to myself, "that's a little weird, we're still at 35' depth, we should be getting shallower now," when we approached the Big Pipe, which was surprising since we hadn't seen it on the way out.

    We stopped, scratched our heads a little bit, and thought through where we must be and which way we should go. It seemed to me that we should follow the pipe shallower a bit until we arrived at 20', then head Northward a bit. Tried to communicate this to my buddy, but he seemed to have a different plan. In the end, we decided to surface where we were, since we knew we were pretty close. At the surface, we spotted our kayaks about 100-150 inland feet away, so we started kicking over. On the way, we went over the sign-language conversation we had just done below, and realized that we both were saying the same thing, but thought that the other one was saying the opposite -- d'oh!

    At the kayaks, I removed my BP/W, inflated the wing, and leashed it to the kayak. I swam belly-down aboard, then flipped over to my butt, then scooted around from there. I left my fins on while fiddling with and stashing my gear, which gave me a lot of stability. To get the rig out of the water, I sat with both feet in the water on the same side of the boat, grabbed onto the first stage and pulled it up. When I could reach it, I used my other hand to grab the bottom of the backplate. That gave me the leverage to haul the whole thing out of the water onto my belly. Once it was aboard and I had control of it, I could maneuver it into the tank well, and secure it with bungees. Overall, not too bad, and it worked on the first try.

    My buddy decided to try to push the rig up into the kayak from below. Which, while hilarious to watch, was completely hopeless, I would not recommend doing it this way at all. So he climbed up into the kayak, and pulled the rig up more-or-less how I did, and it worked just fine. We were both able to do it without help, which we really wanted to be sure that we could do, as a matter of safety. But now that we know we can do it single-handedly, next time maybe we'll try helping each other (one pulling from above, one pushing from below), and see if it ends up being more or less work overall.

    And that was that. We came back in pretty late again, arriving at the breakwater around 5:30. It's kinda funny how we spent three and a half hours achieving a mediocre dive that we could have done in half the time just kicking out from shore. But there was a lot of trial and error, and we learned a lot. I'm confident after that experience that similarly easy sites will go much more smoothly, and before long we'll be ready for the more challenging sites that we're aiming for. One dive at a time :)

    So I can't really speak to what the best kayak to use as a diving platform is, since I've done exactly 1 such dive. But I can say that the Scupper Pro TW's worked pretty good. The tank well in the rear was the perfect size for a single HP100 + a BP/W rig + a leashed weight belt. I would not recommend doubles, or planning to swap tanks mid-water -- it's probably possible, but a can of worms. The cargo bin in front is awesome -- it is seriously huge, you can put way more stuff in there than you could possibly need, and it seals up reasonably well. My kayaks each have a little cargo hole just in front of the crotch, where I've got a bag that stowed my keys, cell phone, sun screen, apples, a handful of extra leashes, and there was plenty of room for other such small bips and bops. Ends up that it isn't perfectly dry in there, so I might put my phone and keys inside a ziploc bag next time.

    @rsingler Have you found a kayak yet? I'd be happy to join you for a dive if you have. It'll be some time before I'm totally comfortable on these things, but it was really fun.
  5. rsingler

    rsingler Scuba Instructor, Tinkerer in Brass Staff Member ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Napa, California
    Wonderful report! Thank you!
    No kayak, yet. But it's on the list. Sounds a bit like what I'd heard - a lot of work in toto. But if that's what it takes to get out to the kelp beds I'm interested in off Cambria, it might be worth it.
    RayfromTX likes this.

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