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Kayak diving

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Jan 9, 2003
I am seriously considering buying a sit- on- top kayak for diving(mostly freediving, but some scuba), and I've got a few questions for any of you who have done it. I'll primarily be diving in the Gulf of Mexico(with a buddy) on a couple of near shore(< 1 mile) sites and some springs with 'water only' access.

First of all, is this crazy?

If not, any help with the following questions is appreciated:

Are you using an anchor to secure the kayak? If so, what type and size?
If not, how is kayak to be secured?
None of the spots I have in mind have moorings.

What size dive flag is big enough, and how high should staff be above surface?

Is color a real concern for kayak visibility?

Are you using GPS and/or bottom finders? If so, what kind and are they handheld or mounted to the deck of the kayak?

Any additional safety, comfort advice welcome.

What is driving my interest in this is I have freedived on a couple of these sites, but they are too far from shore to swim, and my only choice was to pay a dive charter to get me there. The dive shop has offered for me to call to ask when they have a trip headed to one of these spots and paddle out and hook up with the boat. This will be a great way to work some of the bugs out, but I want to be able to do this without leaning on a boat full of indecisive divers, and we can get there early before the bubble blowers scare away the big fish.;)

Thanks in advance for any help!

No, this is not crazy, sounds like great reasoning to me. While it is slower traveling, there is great freedom in kayak diving and the distance you mention is not to far for a good kayak. There has been many times I've paddled that far or further, and it will be even easier freediving as the load will be lighter.
I use an anchor, 8 or 10 pounds. I've used an old weight belt in the past, but now I use a small boat anchor. Pay out plenty of line to allow for swell action and always check anchor on first dive to make sure its secure.
I use a small flag, about 12 inch square on a 3 foot pole. Ocean Kayak makes a flag holder that also has a loop to secure gear. A larger flag would probably be better, but harder to pack along.
Bright colored kayaks are a good idea for visibility, my yellow and lime green models show up very well.
I personally don't have either, but a GPS or hand held sounder are really good ideas. GPS are great for navigation and marking spots, sounder will help you find those pinnacles and cool terrain.
Don't scrimp on the seat, good back rest really important and buy a good paddle. They will be more money, but well worth it. Good luck and have fun!

Dale's correct- he and and I both use kayaks to get away from the crowds here in No Cal and to get to the less oft dove sites. You'll need to think like you're going to operating a small boat and rig accordingly- an 8 pound hook sounds like a bit much but take a look at the West Marine catalog and see about the smallest anchor they have in profile and weight. If you're just doing reefs, make your own out of some re-bar and you're stylin'. Figure a 150 foot line for the hook and that's done. One of the biggest things is to make real sure that the mounting points on the kayak are stout. No sense hanging off a 100 pound load on a rivet! :head An 12x12 flag is fine and again, make sure the pole is secure. You'll not be amazed at how boaters consider a flag an invitation to slalom by it.

Other than that, make real sure you get a good seat back, and cough up the ducats for a good set of paddles. Tie off lines with snaps go everywhere on the thing so you don't need to fumble with looking for a place to tie off that 50 grouper to.

GPS units are pretty much mandatory in your neck of the woods and we see them here occasionally. Both Garmin and Magellan make waterproof/resistant ones. Ocean Kayak is pretty much the going deal here, but give cjb here a ring, he's into it as well and has some takes on the models available there.

I like the heavy anchor 'cause I usually dive in a group and I always get anchoring duty. I'll anchor and the others clip to me. I've had 3 other 'yaks tied to me and one anchor. I've also dove in some pretty big swells, you know it well I'm sure. And I'm not to keen on having my kayak drift away. I've also lost my share of anchors, bigger one gets stuck easier. At end of dive, I try to pull it away from obstructions before I come up. For single kayak anchoring, 5 pounder is probably fine.
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Dude, you need to find a new group then!!:crutch But doing the tours and class thing, yeah I can see where that would happen. My crowd pretty much has the understanding that if they're on a board, they're responsible for hooking themselves up and under no way, shape or form except if shit happens, is it Kosher to daisy chain to tie up. Those same swells you and I know so well take the added drag of two or more boards and play hell with them. And with the Ocean Kayaks often having open hatches and loose bungies, that gets expensive real quick.

My anchor of choice is kelp, natch' but for those far forays like up at Russian Gulch, or out of Stillwater in Monterey, etc., I took a 4" piece of 1-1/2" stainless prop shaft, welded a couple of gentle "U" shaped 1/2" pieces of stainless rod to it, an eye at the other end, and I'm going nowhere. But like you said, it's handy to release it and place it where you can get it afterwards, though with the loading of the gear and all following a dive, sometimes staying hooked up is OK :blackeye

Before you load up Aubie, take a few paddles out and about, or oot and aboot for you Canadian types :t and get real used to the thing, especially lauching and coming back in. You'll learn that it looks cool to surf in, but that backing in whilst holding onto the nose like a drogue chute is easier on the wallet in terms of lost gear and the like. That and practice loading the thing in such a way that it goes in first and get's worn last and such. It looks big in the showroom, but the damn things never have enough room to pack it all the way you prefer.

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Dale and Sven

Thanks for the help!! You've eased my mind considerably. I've paddled a couple of models and worked on entry and exit, and have plans to do the same for the other models. Have a very helpful kayak shop close buy, very generous and cooperative! No substitute for that.

For those bubble-blowing dives I just hook on my wreck reel to the bow and tow it with me. The kayak tows easier than any flag and float that I have ever used.

For freediiving I just drop a folding canoe anchor over the side attached to the same wreck reel. I tie off the reel to my bow. I also have my reel line marked every 10' with a small knot and a black marker stain. This way I know how deep the water is when I drop anchor and also know how much line I want to let out.

I have a small GPS I use to find the shipwrecks that we dive on out in Lake Michigan. Sorry, no kelp around here for a handy tie-off.;)

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Just the kind of stuff I'm lookin' to learn. I'll probably use a lighter anchoring system when I freedive than with scuba.

I've found some info on the Humminbird Piranha 1 and 4 portable fish finders. Any body have any reviews on either?
Let me just repeat a couple things that others have said.

First, you need to get a good back rest. It makes all of the difference in the world in how much you will enjoy your kayak.

Second, make some straps and clips to tie off all of your gear. I have some short lengths of line with brass clips on the end of them that are clipped off to my kayak. When I get on site I start clipping things off and tossing them overboard. This makes more room to get dressed and makes sure that I don't loose anything in the procces.:duh

I use a Scrambler for my scuba diving. They didn't have the XT when I bought mny boat and that seemed to be the best bet for what I was doing.

Since then, I have purchased a Futura surfski, with a hatch, to use for freediving. It is much faster since it is made out of fiberglass and has a rudder. I would be worried about trashing it in any really rocky areas, so I use my Scrambler for those. My Scrambler could fall off a cliff and still work just fine.:D

My dive buddy and I have just found out about some semi-private lakes in Wisconsin that only have one public access to them- and that is a flight of stairs!!:head

Scuba divers don't go there because the stairs enter into a shallow muddy bay, but once you get past that bay you find yourself on one of the prettiest lakes in the area. Dive kayaks allow us to exploit these "rich people havens" to our own miserly advantage.:cool:

We may never live in one of those houses, or even be invited to one of their parties, but we can certainly spear their fish in front of their own million dollar house.;)

when in Rome...

Originally posted by Jon
I have just found out about some semi-private lakes in Wisconsin that only have one public access to them- and that is a sewer outfall! Jon

You da man Jon! :p

Sewer outfall eh? Well, my spoiled, nor-cal amigo...if it came down to that, we would still do it :p. You should have seen the move I pulled on the last outing. I dropped my weightbelt into the fluff on the lake bottom and had to plunge 5 feet into muck to retrieve it. Vis went to 0, and when I pulled out of the muck with my 18 pound belt, I experience a couple creepy seconds. I was sure that I was heading north, but still couldn't see any light. When I let out a few bubbles to orient myself and didn't see them, I figured it out.....wipe off the mask dummy :duh.

Ted :D
Take a look at this beautiful lake Svenster.

Not everything is a sewer outflow.;)

When the ice goes out we have plenty of nice, clean, places to dive.

The last two times I was in Southern California La Jolla Cove was closed because of sewer run-off. :( So I know you have your bad days out there too. ;)

We all just do what we need to in order to get our hypoxic fix.:friday

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How about this lake?

Thisis a nice, clean, non-sewer connected lake that we dive all the time.

Boy, have I got some work to do on my poor reputation.:head

When I was in L.A. for my instructor class people wanted to know which cornfield I dove in back in Wisconsin. I guess they never looked at a map and relized that we are sitting on 24% of the world's fresh water supply up here!:duh

BTW: that means we don't have to rinse our gear when we're done diving.;)

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Tasty stuff Jon, but tell that guy in the first photo to mix in a little tan whilst he finishes stringing that fish that rolled over dead laughing. rofl


Ever since I caught hell for my latently effeminate comments in the 'winter spearfishing' thread, I've done a pretty good job of laying off the granny pitches. So, if you're gonna hand the guy ammunition, please make sure the gun is pointed at you next time :duh. Not my most flattering moment :eek:.

Hey guys, hate to break up the party but back to the subject of the original post...

You should consider a folding kayak.
Klepper and Folbot (www.folbot.com) make a wide, open cockpit kayak that can be dissassembled and packed into two bags. These have two advantages over sit-on-tops:
1) you can take it on a plane
2) you can easily store enough gear (inluding water) to be gone for a week.

Check out my web site describing my trip to Las Perlas (in Panama) in a folding kayak:
new to me

Hey Bryan,

Very interesting crafts. This is the first I've ever seen of those! What kind of beating can those take? I assume that they aren't delicate flowers, but how tough are they, say, compared to an ocean kayak? Additonally, what is their stability like compared to a sit-on-top? Would you recommend a folding kayak to someone who does not travel often, or do you think the plastic sit-on-tops are still the better option for local paddling?


I'd love to get a folding kayak, but your forgetting to mention the difference in COST !

You can get a nice plastic sit-on-top for a few hundered bucks while all of the folding kayaks that I have looked at will cost a few THOUSAND.

I know that they are pretty tough and that people have paddeled them through the Arctic and across oceans, but I still could buy myself a nice used Zodiac for that kind of coin.


Next time I'll keep all of your photos to the underwater variety.;)

Originally posted by Jon
Next time I'll keep all of your photos to the underwear variety.;)

Uh...thanks I guess. :yack

But back to the subject :hmm ... while those Folboats and packable kayaks seem to be the ticket they're just too delicate and rely on the bulkheads to keep them "open" and as such when you take them into the open ocea, er, wind-whipped lakes they flex like hell. And true, the cost mightily. An Ocean kayak at the local sports supermondo store is under $300 with paddles and for that, you can toss it every few years or hand it down to the gremmie. Very good Karma.

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