The One Scuba Accessory I Never Dive Without…

The one scuba accessory you should NEVER dive without 

As a scuba diver, being prepared for any situation that can arise is the most important consideration. A surface marker buoy is a crucial piece of scuba equipment because it prepares a diver for numerous potential safety events. This could include anything from being separated from a group due to a strong current, or simply wanting to mark your position to alert marine traffic to your presence as you dive. Here’s why this seemingly simple and inexpensive piece of gear is one that nobody should ever dive without. 

What is a surface marker buoy? 

A surface marker buoy is a buoy that is used to mark your position in the water and alert boats and other marine traffic to your presence. They can also help you to be identified quickly in an emergency. The two types include: 

  • Surface marker buoy (SMB)
  • Delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB)

These essentially do the same job and look the same. For example, they are both essentially inflatable tubes made of Cordura Nylon that come in neon, attention-grabbing colors like yellow, pink, orange, and red. Both SMBs and DSMBs are available in five, six, and ten-foot lengths. 

However, there are some subtle differences between the two that are important to understand to decide which is the right choice for the type of diving that you do: 

  • DSMBs have the ability to be inflated under the water and sent to the surface attached to a reel to mark your position. The Dive Alert Surface Marker Buoy is a great, high-quality option. 
  • SMBs are not designed to be launched from under the water. Rather, you get to the surface and inflate it when you need it. 

Both marker buoys have the option to inflate orally through a dedicated valve, as well as an opening that enables you to fill it with an alternate air source at the bottom, send to the surface, and mark your position. Much like a buoyancy compensator, both also have overpressurization valves that will pop open to save a buoy from becoming overexpanded when being filled. 

Six reasons to always bring a surface marker buoy on your dive

  1. It can save your life. 
  2. They are inexpensive. So inexpensive, in fact, you can own one in every color!
  3. They are not always easy to rent. Don’t rely on a dive center to provide one for you, you have to have your own. 
  4. They can double as redundant buoyancy. If one of the valves on your BCD fails, a surface marker buoy can double as a floatation aid. 
  5. You can’t expect boat traffic to look for your bubbles or even know that you are there. 
  6. You can wave it around and attract attention. If you surface even a short distance from your boat, you can pop your SMB out and wave it to get the captain’s attention. Other helpful instances include if you are having a muscle cramp, fatigue, or need any other type of assistance.

Scuba equipment is an area of great innovation, but sometimes the simplest gear is the most crucial. Regardless of what kind of diving you do, or which surface marker buoy you decide to opt for, it is one of the most important pieces of equipment to bring on every dive. 




See our specific products used in the links above, and for a full list of the gear James keep in his dive bag, see his Gear List.
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Meet James Blackman

With a career in diving spanning twenty years, James has seen a thing or two in the dive industry. James grew up on the Southwest coast of Britain and learned to dive in the frigid waters of the English Channel. If your first dives were like being placed in a cocktail shaker full of cabbage soup and you come away with a love for the sport, then you know it’s going to be a life-long pursuit.

James spent his twenties in the British merchant marine which afforded him the opportunity to travel to and dive in far flung locales… 177 countries and counting. Between stints onboard a variety of vessels, James used his shore leaves to level up his scuba training… Rescue diver in Tanzania, DM in Indonesia, Instructor in Honduras, Tec Instructor in the French West Indies.

His last ship before moving to a shore-based life style was an expedition ship where he notched up some of his most impressive dives, including briefly holding the world record for most northerly scuba dive… 82 degrees north in the Russian arctic; diving the Amazon river; the Antarctic; and virgin reef systems in Papua New Guinea and Melanesia.

Moving ashore in his early thirties, James took on the role of General Manager for a luxury dive operator in St Martin and never had a dull moment! Hollywood visited the island and called upon James’ underwater skills for on-set safety. When Cat-3 hurricane Gonzalo devastated the area, James switched hats to salvage and public safety diver to help with the recovery.

Scuba Diving has given so much to James in his life… and first on that list is his brilliant wife Karina whom he met whilst teaching her AOW class! Yes, that old cliché! James and Karina are also business partners and co-owners of two power-house scuba brands. Miami Technical Diving has become the premiere scuba training facility in South Florida. Tired of seeing other dive shops compete in a ‘race to the bottom,’ James decided his model for teaching scuba would focus on keeping the quality as high as possible; using the best gear possible; teaching beyond the minimum standards on a 1-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio. The fullness of the MTD training calendar shows that people – student divers – prefer to receive premium, quality tuition, as opposed to cheap and fast.

James is the personality and knowledge broker behind ‘Divers Ready!’ a super influential Scuba Diving YouTube channelwebsite and brand. In just a year, Divers Ready! has become the fastest growing You Tube channel in the Scuba Diving niche, with 1000s of new divers joining every month. Their weekly videos range from Mouthpiece Mondays – where James shares his insider knowledge and opinions about controversial topics in the dive industry – to practical ‘hints & tutorial’ style videos, all with one simple goal in mind – to make you a better diver!

James and Karina started small group luxury dive trips for the Divers Ready! audience.

James and Karina live in Miami, FL with their rambunctious dogs; Ziggy The Husky and Bonham the Mutt, and their Maine Coon cat Foxy, who remains unimpressed.