SMB – A Surface Marker Buoy should be part of every divers dive kit.
As like pretty much all modern day recreational dive equipment we use today, the SMB was first used by technical divers. After the working part of a decompression dive, we launch our SMB’s from depth this is done for several reasons. 1. Let the boat know we are fine after the working part of the dive is finished 2. Lets the boat track us (especially if there is currents) on a sometimes long decompression phase of the dive 3. To identify who is who(most techies write their name on the SMB). 4. It also makes your multiple decompression stops a lot easier to maintain your stop depth. Tech diver generally only use two different colour SMB’s, “Orange” meaning all is good, “Yellow” meaning Houston, we have a problem.
Of course like everything in the dive industry, recreational SMB’s come in a large assortment of colours and sizes. So when your choosing a SMB for yourself, consider the dive conditions your would normally dive in. SMB can range in length from 1 metre up to 3 metres, why such a big difference you may ask. Swells, surface swells can and do pop up quiet quickly and if you are surfacing some distance from your dive boat a small/short SMB can be very difficult to locate. Floating around in the ocean waiting for a dive boat to locate you is no fun. Learning how to deploy a SMB is now part of the Openwater diver course, unfortunately most instructors teach how to deploy at the surface……..wrong! This is the number one safety factor why using a SMB is important. Deploy at depth, at your safety stop 5 metres it lets boats know you are there and they can steer clear of your location. With dive sites getting crowded with more and more dive boats, speed boats etc, you need to let them know where you are before your final ascent to the surface. It may just save your life!
If you have never used a SMB before or deployed one from depth, do yourself a big favor and ask a dive professional to show you how its done. It is not overly difficult and with a little practice you’ll have that little sucker flying to the surface fully inflated in no time.
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