When should I use a reef hook?

Umm, how about never?

Reef hooks… Such a pet peeve of mine…

It’s hard to agree with the general idea of reef hooks in the first place if you are concerned about the health of a reef, but some people swear by it!

How strong the current is, is the wrong question

Any sign of a strong current and divers start to bring out their reef hooks. Sigh…

I think that’s the wrong question though, not all current is strong enough that you need to hook onto a reef.

Where are you going, is the correct question

It’s more important to have an idea of why you are staying in place and not drifting with the current.

Some sites, like shark watching or manta cleaning stations, require you to stay in one position while you’re watching the show, so that you don’t drift forward and interrupt the animals.

However, I think that’s putting a band-aid on the symptom and not solving the real problem of why people can’t hold their position in the water.

Is it any wonder that Makassar Reef in Komodo (mantas) and Monad Shoal near Malapascua (thresher sharks) are full of coral rubble, and there’s barely a reef left?

Kick you must, or drift you shall

In places like these, I’ve found that the current is never strong enough that you can’t really kick against it.

If the current was really that strong, the animals wouldn’t be able to stop and hover at the cleaning stations either.

Learning to kick efficiently and maintaining a streamlined trim position is the correct solution.

Rather than relying on tools like reef hooks and pointers to hold your position.

Patience you must have, my young padawan

As divers, we should be patient when at these cleaning stations.

Observe what we came to observe, and leave when the time is right.

After all, how long do you really need to see a manta be cleaned?

Be like the water, and flow

In certain cases, sure, the current can be stronger than you can handle.

In those situations, I would recommend just putting a finger down on a rock or the sand.

It’s much less intrusive and damaging than a piece of metal that doesn’t have any feelings.

You’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen a reef hook dragging through a reef like a plow through wet mud.

I’ve even seen a metal pointer get broken in half because it was stabbed hard on a rock.

I shudder to think how many other corals died along the way.

Once it’s time to go, then be like the water, and flow.

Drift on, my friend…

Leon Boey is a GUE, HSA and PADI instructor based in Singapore and Bali. He runs the dive education centre Livingseas in Singapore, Bali and Jakarta. Diving since 2005, he first fell in love with wrecks. He enjoys all sorts of diving, and loves being surrounded by fish.

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