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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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July 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Go Where No Diver Has Gone Before

try diving from a kayak

from the July, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you’re a diver who complains about crowded sites and longs for tranquility, read on. On a kayak, you’re the captain, and you can steer it wherever you please. Many divers use kayaks to extend their range, and there are so many reasons why they’re worth the effort.

After launching a kayak from a beach or ramp, a diver can paddle to secluded sites or where shore access is restricted. Entry and exit through surf are generally easier. You can stay warmer and dryer before and after the dive. You’re more rested upon reaching the dive site. Kayaks can get through or into tight places. A kayak provides you a way to get out of the water and a platform to rest on between dives and converse with your buddy. You can tote your lunch. You can even take an extra tank or two. They have anchor lines to help your ascent and descent. They can carry sonar, GPS and radios or phones. They’re low maintenance; once you own one, it costs nothing to operate. However, kayaking skills are crucial. You must know how to right yourself if you capsize, as well as how to manage currents and rip tides.

For free diving or scuba diving, a sit-on-top kayak is preferred. Look for sealable hatches, which keep personal items dry (you’ll still need a dry sack) and contain them safely should you capsize. A stretchy leash will secure your paddle while you’re diving. An open stern will hold tanks and BCDs (secured by straps or bungees).

Some PADI and NAUI instructors offer kayak diving certifications. However, neither agency could supply Undercurrent with their locations or contact information, so you need to contact a local PADI or NAUI facility (search online at or to see if instruction is available. Most kayak diving instructors are based on the West Coast. One shop that offers PADI kayak diving certification is Aqua Safaris of Santa Cruz, CA (831-479-4386, offers an instructional CD-ROM for $15. At (, you’ll find articles for divers compiled from several sources (click on “Diving”). It also offers basic how-to guidelines and e-tails kayak diving accessories.

photo by Ric Miller

La Jolla near San Diego ( offer guided tours

La Jolla near San Diego (
offer guided tours.

Some dive shops such as Sub-Surface Progression in California’s Mendocino County ( rent dive kayaks (they don’t require a certification, by the way). Others, such as OEX Dive & Kayak Center in La Jolla near San Diego ( offer guided tours.

But many dive shops and resorts specifically forbid diving from rental kayaks. A few resorts, such as Blackbird Caye in Belize, allow guests to snorkel off kayaks but generally their boats are too small for scuba. Captain Don’s Habitat in Bonaire offers kayak scuba diving and certification. But few other tropical dive operators have picked up on the concept. That’s a shame, especially because many people believe that the lack of adventure in diving has caused the Gen Y twentysomethings to seek other sports. Kayak diving can provide that kind of adventure.

P.S.: Kayaks run from $600 to more than $1,400. Ocean Kayak makes several popular models; other brands include Necky, Hobie, Cobra and Native Watercraft. Do comparison shopping at outdoor gear retailers Clavey ( and Dive and Kayak ( You’ll also need a roof rack for your vehicle, or get a buddy with a rack that holds two kayaks.) Beach wheels that fold up and can be stored inside a hatch are helpful for schlepping the kayak from the parking lot. Finally, a very important tip: Get the best seat you can afford, because good back support makes a huge difference when paddling.

- - Larry Clinton

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