Captain Kayuba’s Kayak Dive Guide
Loading your Kayak
Launching your Kayak
At the Dive Site
Putting on the BC on board
Putting on the BC in the water
Short video examples 300-700k AVI files (Right
While you can dive from almost any kayak, here are some boats we have personal experience with:
Ocean Kayak Scrambler XT
Large and small hatches.
Very good tracking.
Good handling in rough surf.
Ocean Kayak Drifter
Very large front hatch.
Very good tracking.
Good handling in rough surf.
Difficult to do two-tank dive with large
Very good stability.
Very good tracking.
Good handling in rough surf.
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
Very good stability.
Very good tracking.
Difficult handling in rough surf.
Large and small hatches.
Good handling in rough surf.
Difficult to do two-tank dive with large tanks.
Ocean Kayak Frenzy
Small hatch only.
Very good handling in rough surf.
1. Paddles – There are numerous types of paddles available.
Our members most commonly use the basic aluminum paddle with plastic concave blades. These cost approximately $75.00. There are less expensive paddles that have flat blades. These work fine but don’t seem to give quite as much thrust for your effort. There are also composite paddles available that
are very light. These are extremely expensive and not necessary. They are designed for long distance paddling and are normally used for professional racing.
A paddle lanyard is must!
- A backrest and/or a seat are a must to help relieve back strain. Backrests often give as good support as seats but do not provide cushion for your rear. Many seats also provide additional storage for lanyards, sun block, water, etc. Backrests take up less space if this is a concern.
Most backrests/seats come with lower and upper straps/anchors that allow for better back support.
However, if you put your BC/tanks on while seated in your kayak, you should remove the lower (rear) straps to allow the seat to slide under you. Seats are normally more expensive than the backrests.
3. Equipment bags/containers-
A. Waterproof bags and containers are a must.
You will need these for your safety equipment, identification,
fishing license, communication equipment, Global Positioning System
(GPS) receivers, etc.
B. Mesh bags-Good for holding your loose dive gear (mask, fins,
snorkel, gloves, booties, etc.).
These keep your gear from going overboard or from sliding
out of reach if stowed inside your kayak.
4. Lanyards and straps-A MUST!!!
Everything on your kayak should have a primary and a secondary strap/lanyard. Keep your lanyards six feet long our shorter depending on their purpose. They should be no longer than is necessary for their purpose and should be pulled to the side away from you while paddling. They can be secured together with ties or bungies to keep them more organized. This also helps avoid tangling straps together, with other equipment, and/or with you. Getting tangled can cause a serious safety hazard such as being immobilized or even drowning. Elastic or rubber straps can be fed through the scupper holes.
This allows you to feed spear guns, snares, and/or other equipment through these to anchor them to the exterior of your kayak.
Your kayak is legally considered a boat in the state of Florida.
Because of this, you are required to have the following safety equipment on board.
1. Life preserver for everyone on board.
2. Throw cushion.
3. Visual signaling device such as signaling flares, signaling mirror, signaling light.
4. Whistle or other audible signaling device.
5. Light when operating at night.
A single white light is all that is needed for vessels 18 feet and under. Anything larger than this requires the bow red/green light as well as the stern white light. Simple light rigs are available at boating shopsÂ that are powered by battery. These allow you to have a light with a 360-degree illumination.
They can be purchased at boating supply stores for approximately $25.00. For an added light, you can place a dive flashlight in the bow of your kayak. This will illuminate your kayak making it more visible.
In addition to the above listed safety equipment, we hope you will consider, and we highly recommend the following equipment!!!
1. Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.
An excellent tool for locating dive sites and for your safety.
If you need to call for assistance, you can give your exact location and general heading.
These are also effective tools for boat charters in case of emergency. They take up little space and even small hand-held models are very accurate. Most of our members utilize the Magellan Models #310, 315,
and 320. These are also convenient while on your boat charters. You can use these to mark dive locations.
You should check with your boat captain, as some donâ€™t like you to mark their dive sites.
2. Marine radios are also a very good safety device.
They are the quickest, easiest, and most direct way to call for assistance. Many radios also allow you to check and listen to weather reports. Once you get used to listening to them as well as identifying the channels usually used by dive boats, weather advisory, and emergency personnel, you will quickly realize their importance. They also take up very little space and are effective tools to carry on boat
charters in case of emergency. Research by a member of our club revealed that the Standard
Model HX350S has features that are extremely attractive for use on kayaks. This radio is submersible, has a large, back-lit screen, emergency and weather quick access keys, rechargeable long-life battery and a battery pack, and high and low out-put transmission levels.
This radio costs approximately $250.00.
3. Hand operated bilge pumps are necessary if excess water gets inside your hull.
If this occurs, your kayak will lose stability to the point that you are unable to board it and paddle.
Do not take this lightly! If your kayak becomes flooded, you will not be able to navigate with it. These can
save you a long surface swim towing your kayak and other gear or even the loss of the same.
Again, they take up little space and can be found at boating supply and hardware stores for pproximately $15.00 to $20.00.
4. Fish finder/depth gauges are also a great tool for helping to locate dive/fishing sites when used in conjunction with a GPS receiver. Units are available that display a numerical readout of the depth directly below you, as well as portable, battery powered devices that show you a visual picture of the bottom terrain, as well as units with fish finders. These units allow you quickly identify dive locations, especially locations that are difficult to find and/or new dive locations.
Loading Your Kayak
When loading your kayak, you should plan ahead. All gear should have itâ€™s own place or area on the kayak.
Again, all gear should be strapped or attached using a primary and a secondary anchor point.
This helps to ensure you will not lose gear if your kayak is overturned due to heavy surf or clumsiness.
Lanyards and straps should be as short as possible and should be pulled to the side away from you.
They can be secured together with ties or bungies to keep them more organized. This is to avoid tangling straps together, with other equipment, and/or with you. You must take getting tangled very seriously!
It can cause you to be immobilized or even drown. Spear guns should have the spear pointing away from you and your equipment and should not be exposed to swimmers or other divers by hanging over the edge of your kayak. This will help to prevent accidental injuries. If you carry a second tank, it should be secured to the bow (front) of the kayak to balance the weight.
If the anchors on your kayak become lose or weak, you should repair or replace them as soon as possible.
Launching Your Kayak
Prior to launching your kayak, double check your gear and ensure that everything is secured and in itâ€™s
place. Take care when launching your kayak when there are swimmers/surfers in the area. Your kayak
is extremely buoyant and a small surge or wave can pull/push your kayak from your control. Do
not stand inland from your kayak for this same reason. Your kayak and equipment can be pushed with great force and cause serious injury. Paddle out from the beach briskly to get away from populated areas and from heavier surf as quickly as possible. If there is surf, head strait into it perpendicular to the
waves. Paddle briskly through the waves to avoid being pushed backwards.
If waves are breaking just as they reach you, paddle briskly until just before the wave reaches your kayak. Quickly rotate the paddle blade in your strong hand forward towards your feet (the bow), and the paddle blade in your weak hand behind you towards the rear (stern), of the kayak.
Keep the paddle low along the line of the kayak pulling it in towards your side and pushing downward and lay forward with your head near your knees. With practice, you will learn to do this quickly and efficiently. Immediately after the wave passes over you, quickly sit up and begin paddling briskly to keep your momentum moving forward and perpendicular to the waves.
You can launch your kayak by pulling it out into the water, leading it away from the beach and then boarding. The sooner you board your kayak the better. You have much more control of your kayak if you are seated and paddling. You can straddle your kayak while it is on the beach and push/pull it into
the surf. This allows you to get control of your kayak quickly.
However, in heavy surf and with frequent wave sets, this can make it difficult to get away from the beach.
You can also board your kayak on shore at the point that the water meets the sand with your paddle in your hand. Next scoot forward and your kayak should move forward slowly until it becomes buoyant and you can begin paddling. This can also be difficult in surf that breaks close to the beach and in close wave sets.
No matter which of these you select. It is important to gain control of your kayak as soon as possible.
As mentioned above, when you are paddling out from the beach in the area of swimmers, paddle briskly. If your kayak is pushed by waves or surf, it can move with a great amount of force.
This can cause injury to you or others. Paddle directly into and perpendicular to the waves.
While paddling to your dive site, do so at a relaxed pace. You should hold your paddle firmly in your hands but not too tightly. This will help to prevent you from getting cramps in your forearms and hands,
as well as blisters. If you are getting blisters on the top of your thumbs, you are likely gripping your paddle too tightly.
Again, relax and enjoy!
At The Dive Location
Before you remove any gear, you should anchor or tie off to a buoy. This will make it easier to locate any gear that is dropped overboard. All movement should be planned first and should be slow and deliberate.
Lay your paddle in the water on the same side of the kayak that it is attached. Next, attach all non-dive-related gear by a lanyard overboard on the same side as the paddle (i.e. game bag, dive flag, spear-gun, tickle stick, nets, snare, camera, second tank, etc.). When you are lowering your gear into the water, do so slowly and ensure the lanyard is fully extended. This will prevent excess wear on your anchor points and may prevent the anchor from being pulled from the kayak.
Remove one piece of equipment at a time. This is most important in rough surf. If you have several items loose on the deck of your kayak and you are pushed by a wave or overturned, you will have a better
chance of losing gear. If you are removing gear from a hatch, close the hatch after you retrieve each item. If you leave the hatch open, a wave could dump excess amounts of water into the hull. If you get too much water inside the hull, your kayak will lose its stability and could do so to the point that you canâ€™t even paddle. If your kayak is overturned, you will also increase your chances of loosing gear. Most
of our members put the bottom half of their wet suit on before they depart from the beach. If you put the upper half of your wet suit on before you depart from the beach, it can cause chaffing at and below your armpits. You can wait to put your wet suit on at your dive location as well, however, this can be difficult and awkward increasing your potential of overturning your kayak. After you put on your wet suit, booties, gloves, mask and snorkel, and fins, put on your weight belt.
Make sure you pull your mask down around your neck. If you leave it atop your head and you fall overboard, you could lose it. Your weight belt always goes on after your fins in case you fall overboard
or your kayak is overturned. This should allow you to swim back to your kayak. Always remember to dump your weight belt if necessary. After all of the above gear is on, check to ensure your air is turned on and your BC is at least 50% inflated. Before you start putting on your BC, check that your hatches are all closed and all gear that will stay onboard the kayak, including your second tank, are stowed and/or secured.
Also ensure no lanyards are stowed to avoid getting tangled.
Putting on BC While in Kayak
Remove all straps and lanyards securing your BC and tank and extend shoulder straps on your BC.
Reaching behind on your strong side grab the chest strap to your BC. While straddling your kayak, and after you ensure you have your balance, pull your BC chest strap over your shoulder and your BC fully into your back and roll your shoulders forward. Stop to ensure you still have your balance. Next, maneuver your other arm through the other strap of your BC. Tighten your shoulder straps and then fasten your waist belt. If you lose your balance while putting on your BC/tank, do not fight it. Just
roll off your kayak and try to maintain contact with your BC with one of your arms and avoiding to get tangled with other gear. REMEMBER, you have your weights on already.
Try to maintain contact with your kayak or stay as close to it as possible. If you have to choose between maintaining contact with your BC or the kayak, choose the kayak. If you lose contact with your BC, it should be easy to retrieve because it is inflated and you have your basic snorkeling gear on.
If you cannot maintain contact with your kayak, your BC should keep you buoyant. Be prepared to inflate your BC more. Be prepared to drop your weights if you have too. If you are wearing wet suit and are in salt water, this will probably not be a problem. The most important thing, Don’t Panic! After you gain control, retrieve and check all of your gear. Take your time. After your check your gear and catch your breath, proceed with the procedures Putting on BC While in Water listed below. If you do have to put your BC on in the water, remember to attach a lanyard to your BC before doing so.
Check your gear and hatches one last time and then check all of your lanyards. To enter the water, lay forward onto your stomach grasping both sides of the kayak. Check to make sure your legs will not get tangled with the lanyards already in the water. Next, rotate your legs around to the opposite side of the kayak that your paddle and gear are located and slide into the water. Always enter the water on the opposite side your paddle and gear are located to avoid getting tangled. Enter the water slowly maintaining contact with your kayak. Stow your paddle onto the top of your kayak securing it with
straps or lanyards. This helps to prevent your paddle from drifting away if it detaches from your kayak and makes it easier to tow your kayak during your dive. Next attach the rest of your gear to your BC (i.e. game bag, spear-gun, snare, camera, etc.). Now take control of your dive flag and begin your descent.
While in Water
Your BC is the last thing you lower into the water. Before you lower your BC, ensure it is approximately 50% inflated. Some divers like their lanyard attached to the top front of their BC and others like it attached to the bottom front. You may want to try both ways to see which you prefer. Ensure that wherever you attach your lanyard, it doesnâ€™t restrict your ability to put on your BC, that it will not cause
you to get tangled, and that it is easy to reach after your BC is on. Next, lower your BC in the water on the opposite side of the kayak that your paddle and other gear are. Again, ensure you lower your BC slowly so as not to cause undo strain on the anchor points on your kayak. Put on your mask and enter the water on the same side of the kayak that your BC is located on ensuring you donâ€™t get tangled with any of the lanyards or equipment. To enter the water, lay forward onto your stomach grasping both sides of the kayak. Next, rotate your legs around to the opposite side of the kayak that your paddle and gear are located and slide into the water. Enter the water slowly. REMEMBER, you have your weights on already so maintain contact with the kayak. Stay close to your kayak and know your weights.
Be prepared to drop your weights if you need to. Although this is contradictory to normal diving practices, it is much easier than putting your weights on after you put on your BC and other gear. Because you have your fins on, you should be able to maintain control with little effort. Stow your paddle onto the top of your kayak securing it with straps or lanyards. This helps to prevent your paddle from drifting away if it detaches from your kayak and makes it easier to tow your kayak during your dive.
DO NOT detach your BC from your kayak before you put it on. In a swift current or wind, you can be pushed a significant distance from your kayak before you finish putting it on. Next put on your BC and detach the lanyard from the kayak. Attach the rest of your gear to your BC (i.e. game bag, spear-gun,
snare, camera, etc.). If you are going to drift dive, you need to raise your anchor and stow it in or on your kayak. If you are tied off to a buoy, detach from it now. Take control of your flag and begin your decent.
Ensure you descend the same time as your dive buddy.
You can attach your flag to your kayak with a mounting device you can purchase or you can insert the weight into one of the scupper holes. If your chose to attach your flag to your kayak in any way, you are required by Florida law to display a 20 X 24 inch flag with a stiffener. What is believed by many to be a better way to display your flag is to attach at least a four foot lanyard to the bow of your kayak and then to the base of your flag buoy.
Next run a descent line from the base of your flag. Using this configuration helps reduce the lift force and
jarring caused by rough surf by creating a buffer. This is because the lift force of your dive flag buoy is much less than the lift force of your kayak. Try each of these to see which one you prefer.
During your dive, keep track of your dive buddy ensuring you do not cross flag lines or descent lines.
If you get tangled with your dive buddy in heavy surf, this can be extremely dangerous. If you get tangled, correct this problem immediately. If you wait, you could get tangled even worse. Your kayak is extremely buoyant. If a large swell pulls on yours or your buddyâ€™s line, it can cause a great amount of lift force. If you are in rough surf and are below or near a shelf or other underwater objects, you can be pulled into them, which could cause severe injury. Keep track of your heading and know your dive sites.
If you are anchoring your kayak, your anchor line should be 50% longer than your actual depth (i.e. 50 foot depth=75 foot anchor line). Attaching a length of chain to your anchor also helps to seat well. When you descend, check your anchor ensuring it is well seated on the bottom. Be cautious not to cause damage to coral formations. Even if you are doing small patterns, dive with a flag. If you get separated from your kayak or if your anchor looses its hold, boaters will have a much better chance of seeing you.
Tying to a Buoy
If you tie to a buoy, use two lanyards. Even if you are doing small patterns, dive with a flag. If you get separated from your kayak or if your kayak separates from the buoy, boaters will have a much better chance of seeing you.
Two of the most attractive things about kayak diving are the increased access to dive sites inaccessible
by beach diving and the relative ease of reaching these sites. Our members really enjoy this freedom to choose our dive sites, as well as the general feeling of exhilaration you feel by diving from a kayak. However, you must recognize the exposure to risk this also creates. You are now responsible for checking weather forecast reports as well as determining if it is safe for you to dive. You need to extra care in planning your dives. Although kayaking to dive sites within one to two miles can be done with relative ease by anyone of moderate fitness, you must take into account your level of fitness when deciding to dive each day. You should be well rested prior to your dive. If you feel tired or physically fatigued, you should not dive. If you notice weather changes during your dive, you should surface to determine
if you should end your dive. Factors you should consider are noticeable changes in sunlight, changes in current/wind direction, increased current surge, excessive pull on descent/flag line, etc.
Failure to recognize these factors could make returning to shore more difficult and/or place you at increased risk of exposure or injury.
On the water, you are a boat underway without power. Boats that are navigating under power are expected to give way to you or to maneuver around you. However, you have to take into consideration that you ride extremely low in the water and may be difficult to see. You must never trust the navigational skills and/or experience of other boaters or that they are being observant.
Get to know the locations in your area that are known for heavy boat traffic and avoid navigating in these areas whenever possible. You should also avoid diving in these areas. If you are drift diving close to these areas, be aware of the current and wind patterns. Your course may change during your dive pulling you closer to these areas. You must also take into account the time it takes to surface and stow
your gear. You can unintentionally place yourself near these areas exposing yourself to hazardous situations.