An SMB, or surface marker buoy, is an extremely important piece of dive safety equipment. They are inflatable surface markers that are used to mark the location of a diver or group of divers, and they come in a few different shapes, colors, and sizes. They float on the surface above a diver, and are attached to a line that the divers drag along to mark their position to those on the surface.
When you deploy an SMB, always make sure that it is detached from your reel. There have been cases of divers getting caught up in a jammed SMB. If something like this happens, it is important to be able to let go of the reel to avoid a rapid ascent. Lots of people use rocks and other sea debris to attach the reel when they are underwater–this prevents them from being pulled up to the surface during a botched ascent.
A very important part of deploying an SMB is making sure that the reel doesn’t jam. A majority of reels on the market today are prone to jamming. Oftentimes, when you deploy a surface marker buoy, the simplest reels are the ones that jam the least. Try to get information from other divers to give you an idea of which ones work the best.
Tips for Best Use
SMBs should not be shared between buddy pairs. If you are going out as a team, it is perfectly acceptable to have one member deploy their SMB. If your pair gets separated, then it is acceptable for everyone to deploy their SMB. If only one member of the team deploys the SMB, then you always have a backup when problems arise. Practice deploying your SMB in a pool or shallow water; when you start getting good, try to do it with your eyes closed. This will help you in times of zero visibility.
Look after your SMB on a regular basis; regularly lubricating and rinsing the mechanism after use will extend the lifetime of your SMB. If you are diligent about winding up your reel after every use, then it’s less likely to get tangled during deployment. A hastily wound up reel increases the chance of jamming, which puts you in danger during your dive.
After every use, make sure to reel out your line. Leave one end attached to a fixed point and lay it out flat. Slowly reel the line in, and make sure that the line is neat and tight.
Images via drterdal, LeisurePro