In a perfect world scuba divers would hop into the water, do their dive, surface a few feet from the boat and climb back in. Life would be grand and we wouldn’t need to think twice about boat traffic, excessive swells or underwater emergencies.
But the reality is accidents happen, and when they do, time is most often of the essence. When you surface after a dive it’s important to be seen.
A surface marker buoy (or SMB) is a simple air filled device that floats on top of the water. It is used to attract attention and mark your place while submerged.
A surface marker can take many different shapes and forms, each one dependant on where they are being used and what they are required for. For scuba diving, there are two different different types of surface marker buoys; a permanent surface marker buoy and a delayed surface marker buoy.
A permanent surface marker buoy, is a buoy that is inflated at the beginning of the dive and remains on the surface of the water during the entire scuba adventure. While you are scuba diving, the buoy gets towed along the surface marking your position underwater and keeping boats away.
Permanent surface markers are typically red and white to stand out against the water and to match the diver down flag colour. The marker can be round or torpedo shaped, often with a ballast section that can hold some water to maintain stability.
A delayed surface marker, is a marker that divers take with them underwater on their dive. Attached to the marker is a reel or spool from which scuba divers can deploy the marker, during the ascent, to indicate their positioning at the surface. Delayed surface markers are long and tube like in appearance and come in a variety of bright, flashy colours such as orange, red, yellow.
Unplanned issues can occur on any dive and when they do, it’s important to be seen at the surface. Whether you use a delayed surface marker buoy or a permanent surface marker, both are very practical because they;
It’s one thing to have a surface marker on hand, it’s another to know how to properly inflate and use it. If your lucky, during one of your scuba diving courses, your instructor will have taken the time to teach you how to use and deploy a surface marker.
As easy as it is to read about how to deploy a surface marker both from the surface and while at depth, nothing compares to actually getting out in the water and actually trying it out. Remember practice makes perfect.
Having at least a rolled up delayed surface marker in your BCD pocket is a good thing for every diver to have, however there are some circumstances where having a surface marker just simply isn’t feasible.
For example, having a surface marker while diving in an overhead environment is not very practical. Cave diving or ice diving both typically have scuba divers enter and exit from a single spot, and more often than not there are no boats involved. In these instances, having a surface marker is counter intuitive and sometimes more of a hazard.
Use your common sense, when it comes to deciding whether to dive with a surface marker. Consider things like: What if a problem arises and you need to come up earlier than expected? What if the current picks you up and you are too far away from the boat? And above all, make sure you’re not compromising your safety by diving with a surface marker.
Surface markers are not the be all end all of scuba diving, but sometimes a dive just doesn’t go according to plan, and having a surface marker can be the difference between ending things unscathed or winding up on the 5 o’clock news.
Dive safe everyone!
Nova Scotia has seen a few strange things over the years, but never has a 360 kg leatherback turtle washed up dead and frozen in a Cape Breton lake.
Beneath the waters of the Gulf of Naples are the remains of an ancient Roman civilization lost to the sands of time and guess what? You can dive it!
Sometimes a dive doesn’t go according to plan and when that happens, it’s important to be seen. Learn all about surface markers and why you should have one.
Find out how a couple of scuba divers made a gigantic snow sculpture to try and turn the tides on plastic use in the city of North Bay.
Submerging into the cold waters of Deer Island is one of the best ways to appreciate the vibrant array of colour the Bay of Fundy hides beneath her surface.
It's not easy being green in a day and age where everything is plastic and waste. Let sustainability lead the way as you explore the underwater world.
With the civil unrest a recent memory, few places in the world lay claim to unexplored waters off its coastline. Let Albania help you become an underwater explorer.
There are many scuba diving agencies that play a role in training divers. Here is a look at PADI, NAUI and SSI, the top scuba agencies in the world.
Nova Scotia is filled with cold water diving opportunities, particularly around shores of Halifax.
A brief glimpse of some of the marine fauna and stunning snorkeling opportunities on Croatia's Dalmatian coast.