When the cur­rents are strong, us­ing a reef hook can be an ex­hil­a­rat­ing way to en­joy them. Here’s how you can get hooked

Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Contents - 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 cur­ren­trid­den 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.


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.


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.


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.

ABOVE A diver is hooked in at Palau’s Blue Cor­ner dive, which makes watching all of the amaz­ing pelagic ac­tion less stren­u­ous

LEFT Proper use of a reef hook frees up the diver’s arms for tasks such as un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy

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