Using a delayed SMB is a skill many dive professionals take for granted – as they have used them so often. Many forget that first attempt at using one, which often doesn’t go as planned. Ask an instructor who teaches the Divemaster course regularly – they often see the struggles of that first try. There are also many options for using one. The chances are that if you ask ten dive professionals about their preferences for using/stowing a delayed SMB, you will get ten differing answers…
Firstly, let’s clear up the difference between an ‘SMB’ and a ‘dSMB’. ‘SMB’ stands for surface marker buoy, also commonly known as ‘the safety sausage’. The difference between the two is, basically, where they are inflated – an ‘SMB’ is inflated at the surface, or permanently inflated, whereas a ‘dSMB’ (delayed surface marker buoy) is inflated underwater towards the end of a dive. An SMB can either be towed for the whole dive, or just used at the surface to signalling the boat if you are a little further away than you thought.
Personally, I much prefer to use a dSMB at the end of every dive. I like to have a marker on the surface to keep boat traffic away as I ascend with my students, and am not fond of towing an SMB for the whole dive (I don’t dive in areas where this is required by law).
The PADI Delayed SMB Diver Distinctive Specialty is designed for instructors to teach their students how to safely master this skill. The aim is for us to talk through the different options and try a few different techniques, and the student can decide which they prefer. We can show them the different methods of inflation – alternate air source, oral, exhaled bubbles, LPI – and also the difference between a reel and a spool (and the different designs of both). We can also discuss and show the option for deploying a dSMB without a reel or line too, and the advantages of an orange line over a white one. I like to mark distances on my lines too so students can see their depth when reeling in and show them how that works. This is also useful in when teaching wreck or navigation dives/Specialties.
The students then get to practise this skill under controlled conditions with instructor supervision. We talk them through the different options during the knowledge development first, and could even do a confined water dive to practise first too. During the open water dives the students get to first try the skill in a stationary position, and then from mid-water on dive two. The more different options they can try, the better. Once deployed, the students then have to swim with the dSMB and make a controlled ascent, reeling the line in. After a safety stop, a final ascent to the surface is made, and the dSMB is stowed for the next dive once back on the boat.
The correct and safe use of a dSMB is an extremely valuable skill for every diver. It’s a great course to teach, and students get great satisfaction when they master the skill. As a dSMB Specialty Instructor you can also offer dive one of the Specialty as an Adventure Dive during your Advanced Open Water Courses – another reason for obtaining this Specialty Instructor rating. I would recommend adding it on to your PADI IDC course, or including it in your MSDT Prep programme…
If you’d like more information about this, or any other, PADI Specialty, feel free to send me an email and ask for further details…
Choosing where to take your PADI IDC can prove a little daunting at first – there are many places offering the PADI Instructor Development Course, so how exactly do you choose your PADI IDC ? Here’s a few things to consider and questions to ask…
One factor to consider is how experienced is the person who will be teaching your PADI IDC. But what is experience and how is it measured ? For some people it’s just a case of asking ‘how long have you been a Course Director ?’. But really, it goes a little deeper than this. Time is a consideration, but it’s also good to know in which locations the Course Director has worked before – have they only taught in one location, or do they have experience of conducting PADI courses and skills in different locations with different water conditions and logistics ? Have they taught in cold and warm water ? Have they taught skills on wall dives, or just shallow sandy sites ? Do they have any experience teaching in strong currents ? Did they fast-track their way to Course Director, just meeting the minimum requirements, or did they spend a few years teaching in different locations ? It might also be worth checking if the Course Director will be teaching the whole course, or using less experienced IDC Staff Instructors to do the teaching, and if the Course Director advertised on the website is the same one that will be running the course. You can also check if the Course Director has much recent experience teaching IDCs by having a look at the second quarter Undersea Journal for each year and seeing if their name is listed in the Frequent Trainer Awards as being a ‘Platinum’ Course Director.
Questions to ask:
How long has the Course Director been conducting PADI IDCs ?
When did the Course Director become a Divemaster and an Instructor ?
Does the Course Director have the ‘Platinum’ rating ?
Will the Course Director teach the whole IDC ?
Where has the Course Director worked before, both as a Course Director and as an Instructor ?
How many students has the Course Director certified – both at recreational and professional levels ? And can I see a copy of their Student Count Report ?
It’s important to know what facilities the dive centre that you are considering has. Do they have a comfortable, air-conditioned classroom ? Tropical destinations are very popular for PADI IDCs, and you want to make sure you will be comfortable in the classroom as that’s where the majority of course time is spent. You should also find out where the confined water and open water training will take place. Does the centre have a pool, and how suitable for training is it ? If, for example, the pool is too shallow it would be problematic to teach something like a hover, or 5 point descent without touching the bottom, where plenty of depth is required – a purpose built dive pool is ideal, with at least 3 metres depth. The pool should also be well-maintained – you don’t want an ear infection in the middle of your training. There should also be good equipment washing facilities, with different tanks for different pieces of equipment – washing wetsuits and regulators in the same water is not ideal. The water for rinsing equipment should be clean and changed frequently. You should look for a PADI Instructor Development Centre with a good reputation, and ask to see their facilities.
Questions to ask:
Do you have an air-conditioned classroom ?
How big is the classroom and how many candidates do you usually have per IDC ?
Do you have an on-site pool ?
How deep is the pool ?
Before you sign-up for an IDC, you should also make yourself aware of the time commitment required. In accordance with PADI standards, an IDC can be taught in as little as seven days. Many PADI IDC centres offer course over nine or ten days, however this usually translates to long days in the classroom – sometimes twelve hours. There is a lot of information to take in during an IDC, plus you need to prepare for the next day after finishing. It is possible to find extended, more relaxed PADI IDCs where your day will finish around 4pm – giving you plenty of time to prepare your presentations for the next day, eat a good meal and relax a little. A 12 – 14 day IDC programme is ideal – any longer and you are losing time that you could be certified and teaching your own students with. After a relaxed 12 day IDC, you arrive at the Instructor Examination feeling relaxed and confident rather than stressed and tired. These slightly longer IDC programmes typically include extra workshops (such as Confined Water Dive 1 workshops, neutral buoyancy teaching, how to teach hovering effectively) and extra presentation practice, rather than just hitting the minimum training requirements set out by PADI. Ask to have a look at the schedule…
Questions to ask:
How long is the IDC programme ?
Are there any extra workshops ?
Are any Specialty Instructor ratings included ?
Do you conduct a ‘Mock I.E.’ ?
How many teaching presentations will I deliver ?
What time does each day start and finish ?
The location is perhaps the least important of these factors to consider, but it’s still something to think about. Most of an IDC is spent in the classroom, but it is nice to be able to go diving before or after the IDC to relax underwater with some mantas or sharks. It is also nice to take the course in a relatively quiet location, free from distractions. Also, after the IDC has finished, you will need to wait a week or so for your paperwork to be processed before you can start teaching. This is the perfect time to take some Specialty Instructor Training and learn even more. If this is something you’re considering, think about which Specialties you would like to teach. If you want to become an AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty Instructor, you need to be somewhere that offers current, if you want to teach the Wreck Diver Specialty, you would need a location with a wreck. Also find out if the Course Director has written any Distinctive Specialities, or can offer any unique Specialty instructor training which will help your CV stand out when applying for jobs. Some places, such as Koh Lanta, are very fortunate in that they can offer conditions and dive sites conducive for teaching most Specialties. And if you are looking to gain these extra qualifications, find out if the Course Director will be diving with you, or just asking a less experienced IDC Staff Instructor to do these dives instead.
Questions to ask:
Do you offer any free diving before or after the IDC ?
Mask clearing ? C.E.S.A. ? Neutral buoyancy ? No, for me it’s ‘breathing underwater’ from Confined Water Dive 1. Not only is it essential to stay alive, but it the basis of everything that happens underwater…
Quite often on an Open Water course this skill gets brushed over and taught too quickly. But if you spend the time explaining the importance and the effect of breathing correctly underwater, you might find that your entire Open Water Course will flow more smoothly. As an instructor, do not be too quick to place extra weight on the student’s belt when they can’t descend at the start of Confined Water Dive 1. Instead, take the time to explain the correct breathing pattern, and the importance of emptying the lungs on exhalation. Once the student divers do this, they should descend more easily, and now right from the beginning, they have understood the correlation between breathing and buoyancy/depth control. Their instinct now, should they start to rise in the water will be to exhale, rather than to reach for the deflate button.
Sometimes at the beginning of an Open Water Course, the students are a little nervous, and this can affect their breathing pattern too. Once underwater, I then take the time to teach the correct breathing pattern before attempting mask clearing or regulator skills. I treat this skill underwater as an introduction to the fin pivot. I ask them to lie down from the first moment they go underwater – never on the knees – practising equalising as they do so. Then I ask them to watch my hand as I coax them into a relaxed, correct breathing pattern. As they do this, I add little amounts of air to their BCDs to get them neutrally buoyant, so they are essentially ‘fin pivoting‘, and I will let them continue with this for several minutes – just breathing. After they are relaxed with this, I can continue with the rest of the skills in this ‘diving’ position. If I find that I need to add a significant amount of air, then I will remove a weight from their belts, as they are over-weighted. Now the students will truly start to understand the importance of the correct breathing pattern underwater and the effect this has on buoyancy, depth, and position in the water, and your Open Water Course will be easier to teach, and more importantly, your students will be better divers…
Well, I hope everybody had a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and that 2014 is a great year too ! 2013 was a busy year for IDCs on Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, and some great times were had. My IDC candidates’ 100% first time pass-rate is still in tact, and I hope some of you can come and help me extend that throughout the coming year too…
Our next PADI IDC will be taking place on Koh Phi Phi at Phi Phi Barakuda, and will start on January 30th. If there’s anyone contemplating becoming a PADI Instructor, there’s still time and spaces on this IDC. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
We have plenty of other IDCs planned throughout 2014 too. Why not take a look at our IDC schedule to see if there are any dates that would suit your plans. If there’s anything you would like tom know about making the step to become a PADI Pro, either at Divemaster or Instructor level, please feel free to drop me an e-mail on email@example.com.
Is yours a big one ? Can your Captain spot it in bad weather ? Surface Markers Buoys (SMBs), also know as ‘safety sausages’, are a vital piece of SCUBA safety equipment. Every diver should carry one. They come in a variety of different colours, shapes, sizes and we even have different methods for using them…
Some SMBs are made from plastic, and are designed for use on the surface only. They are normally inflated by putting one end under water and purging the second stage inside to inflate it. These inflated tubes are normally about 2m (6 feet) tall. When not in use, safety sausages roll up and fit in a BCD pocket. Commercial boat dive operations, especially at offshore reefs or areas known for strong currents or mercurial weather, may require divers to carry safety sausages at all times as a precaution.
A delayed surface marker buoy (dSMB) is similar to a surface marker buoy, but is deployed whilst the diver is still submerged and generally only towards the end of the dive. These marker buoys are made of a stronger, fabric material so they don’t burst as the air expands during their journey to the surface. The buoy marks the diver’s position underwater so the boat safety cover can locate the diver even though the diver may have drifted some distance from the dive site while doing safety stops or decompression stops. A reel and line, or just a 6m line, is used to keep the buoy upright on the surface.
There are at least four methods of keeping the air in the inflated SMB. The buoy can be:
open ended (preferably with small independent weight or line to keep the opening submerged to prevent the air escaping);
open ended self-sealing buoys (the air in the buoy expands as the buoy ascends sealing a neck at the bottom of the buoy);
sealed, with an inflation valve and a pressure relief valve;
sealed, with a built in air supply and a pressure relief valve.
Divers of some training organisations carry two differently coloured deco buoys underwater so that they can signal to their surface support for help and still remain underwater decompressing. For example, in some circles in Europe, a red buoy indicates normal decompression and a yellow buoy indicates a problem, such as shortage of gas, that the surface support should investigate and resolve. Although in other circles, two buoys (any colour) up one line means the same, currently the protocol is not universally accepted even within Europe.
Personally, I like to deploy my SMB on every dive from depth. Using a reel, I can deploy my SMB from 10m+, before ascending to 5m for my safety stop. I find this especially useful if diving in strong currents, in areas with heavy boat traffic or when diving with student divers.
Learning to use an SMB is an essential skill in diving. Do not rely on your Divemaster to do this for you, as you never know when you could become separated from a group underwater. The PADI Delayed SMB Diver Specialty course is a great way of getting to grips with this skill. During this course you will get to use different types of SMB and will use different methods of deployment, and will help you become a safer diver !
If you’d like to add this skill to your diving repertoire, or are an instructor who’d like to gain the Delayed SMB Diver Specialty Instructor rating to be able to teach this useful course, then drop me an e-mail, or use our contact form, to learn more. Delayed SMB Diver Specialty Instructors are also authorised to add this as an Adventure Dive option during their Advanced Open Water Courses…
Imagine a job where you actually look forward to work. Lead a life others fantasise about. Sailing into incredible sunsets could be the rule not the exception. The commute to work could be as easy as a ten minute boat ride or a stroll down the beach. Work becomes an adventure in itself. While experiencing new cultures and lifestyles, you’ll be surrounded by people who are always happy. When you take people diving all day, everyone’s happy. It’s not all fun and games in paradise, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
The first step is the PADI Open Water Diver course. This is the most widely recognized and respected rating in the world and on attaining it you have the freedom to dive with a buddy independent of a professional.
After completing five more adventure dives you achieve the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver rating which will give you more experience, make you feel mor comfortable in the water and let you enjoy your diving even more.
The PADI Rescue Diver course is both rewarding and fun. Rescue Divers learn to look beyond themselves and consider the well-being and safety of others. Although serious, this course is an enjoyable way to build your confidence.
The PADI Divemaster course is your first step on the professional ladder. Working closely with instructors you will expand your dive knowledge and hone your skills as well as developing your leadership abilities by learning to supervise dive activities and to assist instructors with student divers.
The first portion of the PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) is the PADI Assistant Instructor course where you’ll gain additional experience as a PADI professional and start to learn the PADI system of diver education.
After a fun-filled IDC on Koh Phi Phi and lots of hard work from the candidates, the Instructor Exams in Phuket went swimmingly well. The IE started with everyone’s favourite section – the Written Exams ! All the candidates were very happy to see the end of these exams, and were all smiling after passing this section with no problems. The following day we headed off to the swimming pool in the morning for the Confined Water section. Again, there were no problems here, with all candidates recording very high scores. Following the Knowledge Development presentations that afternoon, we were just left with the Open Water presentations for the final day, and then it was time to celebrate…
If you too would like to follow in the footsteps and Andy, Sarah and Miki and change your life, then e-mail me for further details. Also if you’d like to become a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, feel free to ask for more details…