How to deploy an SMB
As a PADI Divemaster or Instructor, when leading dives, or teaching courses, being able to deploy a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) from depth is a very valuable skill. In a lot of areas, this is a safety precaution to signal to the surface your position, and that you are about to ascend.
This is a skill that we teach during the PADI Open Water course, but we only teach students to deploy an SMB on the surface. However, in some areas, you will need to deploy it from the bottom, before or during your safety stop (then called a Delayed SMB).
Doing this while dealing with divers can be a little challenging, but with practice, it becomes very easy!
Here are a few tips in order to successfully launch a DSMB:
- Ensure you have enough space so your line doesn’t get entangled in other divers.
- Make sure your reel and SMB are properly secured together. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a poor clip or a loose knot, and your SMB just floating away when you launch it.
- If you are in a current, make sure you turn your back to the current and deploy the SMB in front of you. This will ensure the line also goes in front of you and doesn’t get entangled in your equipment.
- Partially deflate your BCD so you are slightly negative. This will compensate for the SMB bringing you up as you inflate it.
- Once your reel is ready, use your alternate air source to slightly inflate the SMB. When ready, inflate it fully and let it go to the surface.
The purpose is to signal yourself to the surface. Therefore, ensure there is some tension on the line and that the SMB is fully inflated and standing vertical in the water when it reaches the top.
When ascending, slowly reel the line in so the SMB stays right above you and your divers. As you reach the surface, if your boat is not in sight, keep the SMB straight up so you can signal yourself.
Teach your students to carry an SMB and make sure you use one yourself!