How to Safely Deploy an SMB (Surface Marker Buoy)

By: Alan Koenigsberg


Imagine if you will, that you have completed a drift dive in a swift current and as you ascend to the surface after your safety stop, you realize that you cannot see or locate any other divers or the dive boat…

* How do you effectively raise or elevate your silhouette of your head and possibly shoulders wearing dark scuba gear that is approximately 9” above the surface of the water?

* What if there are 2-3’ waves out on the sea while you’re floating at the surface?

* Can anyone see you during the day or at night?

* How will you notify and visually call for help?

* If a scuba diver is fatigued, how do they signal they need assistance or are ready to be picked up? (The answer is not relying on your dive buddy to swim you back to the boat or shore)

Answer: A scuba diver with their SMB equipment and proper training is more likely to be seen and rescued versus the diver failing to have the required equipment and knowledge.

What is an SMB or Surface Marker Buoy?

An SMB or Surface Marker Buoy is a required piece of scuba diving equipment that must be carried on every open water dive from either shore or boat. These devices are often referred to as “Safety Sausages” because of their shape. The SMB is a diver-deployable visual safety floatation device used to mark a divers location while in the water that allows boats, rescue helicopters, lifeguards, other divers, or rescue teams a way to locate you more easily than just floating on the surface in your dive gear. The bright colors of the SMB provide enough contrast for you and your buddy to be located from various angles either at the water level or overhead from the air or lookout tower. SMB’s come in different colors and sizes and are inflated with air to identify your location in the event of an emergency or for boat recovery in fast-moving currents of the ocean.

Your SMB can be orally inflated by mouth or you can utilize your alternate air source. Once inflated, the SMB orients itself vertically along the top of the water and extends in height from around 4’ to 10’, and makes use of highly visible colors such as Blaze Orange and or Fluorescent Yellow. The SMB typically weighs around 3-4 ounces, and it greatly enhances your visibility from a long distance and at night.

Please note – SMB’s are not to be shared between divers! Each person must have their own SMB device on every dive.


A typical SMB costs ~ $30, and are available at Dayo Scuba.

Note: Always utilize the dive buddy that has more air in their tank to deploy the SMB so the team does not run the risk of an “Out of Air” situation under the water.

Consistently monitor your air gauge throughout your dive.