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How to properly use a Reef Hook

Discussion in 'The Pacific Islands' started by charlesml3, Jun 13, 2008.

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  1. charlesml3

    charlesml3 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC

    There's a 50 page thread on a death in Palau (2003) that involved (in at least some way) a reef hook. You can read the whole thing here:


    There is a lot of bad information there about what a reef hook is and how they're used. The purpose of this thread is to discuss the proper use of a reef hook. If you want to add on yet another "My condolences to the family" post, please do that here:


    So here's the deal :

    -The reef hook was developed in Palau to dive the Blue Corner, Peleliu Express, Uulong Channel and a couple of other sites in this area.

    -Proper weighting, bouancy control, weighting will NOT SUBSTITUTE for a reef hook on these sites.

    -Reef hooks are safe, but you need to think about what you're doing. It's a change to your normal dive setup so you have to make adjustments.

    Reef hook : The Reef Hook Experience


    Let's talk about the Blue Corner. I've dove it several times and know the site fairly well. You come in on the deep side of the wall below the current. When the DM gives you the hook signal, get your hook out and have it ready. You want to pop up over the top of the wall negatively bouyant. This will keep you out of the current while you find a proper place to hook. Look around for a rock or dead coral and hook in there.

    Add some air to your BC. The idea is to kite yourself over the reef staying high enough that your fins aren't kicking the reef.

    Looks like this : http://home.swipnet.se/~w-42581/palau99_pics/reefhook2_b.jpg

    When it's time to go, vent your BC. You want to get back down close to the reef so the current is reduced. It's very easy to reel yourself towards the hook once you're close to the bottom. Unhook, stow the hook, and move up a few feet. The current will quickly wash you off the point and into the blue.

    Some misconceptions from the other thread:

    -You can never reel yourself back in if the current is strong. You can. You have to vent your BC first and get close to the reef. The current drops dramatically there.

    -Reef hooks are destroying the reef. It's possible, but not if you hook properly. Find a dead spot. I've always managed to find one there.

    -A reef hook dive is a drift dive. Not true at all. During a drift dive, you fully expect and even want to travel down the reef in the current. In a hook dive, you want to stay in one spot and wait for things to come to you.

    -"I could just hold the rope or use a T-handle." Not for very long. I'm not going to even try to estimate the current at Blue Corner but it's heavy and it surges. It's strong enough that you hear the roar in your ears. One may be able to hold a rope or handle for a few minutes.

    The bottom line is hook diving is different. If you're going to engage in the activity, you need to make changes to the way you do the dive. Think about the process, visualize what's going to happen on the way out, as you hook, as you unhook and as you head towards your safety stop. It's not inherently dangerous, or at least no more inherently dangerous than diving is anyway.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 14, 2008
    baystr likes this.
  2. highdesert

    highdesert ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: SW USA
    Excellent post, charlesml3. I'm sure this thread is going to attract a lot of "to hook, or not to hook, that is the question." I'm not even gonna go there.

    For divers who choose to use a reef hook, certainly you want to give yourself the best odds of emergency release, if it comes to that. There's always the knife; I think anyone who's diving in places like you mention in your post should be packing a cutter of some kind.

    But what if the knife goes away, or you can't get to it, or whatever? Then it comes down to being able to release the connection to your BC, or that of another incapacitated diver. I personally think any type of typical bolt snap that has a "hook" of sorts in it can be dangerous in this situation. I prefer an attachment of this type:

    Trident Stainless Drift Reef hook with 50" line and easy release master clip from LeisurePro.com

    ... because it does not require you to get some slack in the line prior to releasing it. Even with heavy tension on it, you can give it a squeeze and it's free, yet it holds very well when you want it to.

    If you're hooking in a situation where the current is washing up over a corner, yes, you can hug the bottom to decrease the pressure on your line to release it. Two weeks ago in Cozumel, we were diving San Juan (this is north of town, not in the marine park, and hooking here is not against any rules). This is a good second dive, somewhat shallower than a lot. The bottom is covered with short growth, but is fairly flat and featureless in a lot of places. The current was RIPPING, and getting close to the bottom did not decrease it significantly. With effort, I could haul myself in and create some slack, freeing myself. But I was also able, with full tension on the line, to release it from my BC (good idea to hold on to the clip here, or it's bye-bye to your hook).

    Anyway, point is, cover all the bases and give yourself the best chance of self-rescue, or of helping someone else!
  3. Boxcar Overkill

    Boxcar Overkill Barracuda

    The most common reef hook mistake is when the diver forgets to deflate their BC prior to releasing the hook, and consequently goes shooting to the surface.
    billt4sf likes this.
  4. Diver Dennis

    Diver Dennis Solo Diver

    The current at Blue Corner can be strong but it depends on the time of day. I've done solo dives there with absolutly no current.

    Sam's sells reef hooks with handles for safety reasons and they are not hard to hold on to even in a heavy current, although I always hook mine to my BC because I'm taking photos. Divers not experienced in using lines attached to them in current should start out with one that has a handle.

    There is a large area right at Blue Corner that has plenty of hook in areas as it is live coral free and as you mention, lots of hook in points.

    Not to nit pick but that thread was started in 2003 so it was a while ago. (Just so no one starts a thread ...:D)


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