Scuba hand signals are essential in your training as a diver because this lets you communicate underwater. For example, it lets you tell your buddy that you have been diving for long enough and want to warm up after a cold dive.
The movements for scuba hand signs are simple and you should be able to perform them at any time, even when wearing dive gloves. Some might say that they cause stiffer movement for diver hand signals but if you get one of the best selling scuba dive gloves you will not have this problem.
15 Most Common Scuba Diving Hand Signals
Fortunately, the most used scuba diving hand signs are intuitive so they are easy to remember. Here are some great images from ForDivers.com to help you visualize them. Below are the basic scuba dive hand signals that you should know.
1. Okay! (underwater)
Meaning: It is okay. There is no problem. I think one of the scuba diving signals that everyone has seen somewhere.
How: Form a circle by touching the tips of your thumb and index finger. The remaining three fingers remain still.
2. Okay! (at the surface)
Meaning: It is okay. There is no problem. These scuba signals are specific to let the boat or your buddy that all is ok at the surface.
How: Raise both arms and form a loop above your head by having them meet. Alternatively, raise one arm up and touch your head. This signal is commonly used to communicate with the dive boat captain.
3. Not Okay (underwater)
Meaning: Not okay, there is a problem.
How: Lay your hand out flat with the palm facing down. Pivot from the wrist, like some people, do to describe ‘so-so’. Once your buddy understood that there is a problem, point to the problem with your index finger.
4. Not Okay (at the surface)
Meaning: Not okay, there is a problem.
How: Reach up with one arm and wave above your head. This scuba hand signal is why you should not wave to a dive boat when you do not need any assistance.
Meaning: Look at (the person signaling or something else in the vicinity). This signal has two parts; the first part is to get a divers’ attention and the second part is to indicate the subject.
How: First, point at your eyes with your index finger and middle finger. Then, indicate what the fellow diver should be looking at. Point your thumb at yourself when you want your buddy to look at you or use your index finger to point when you want your buddy to look at something else.
Meaning: Go down or descend to a lower level. It is usually posed as a question so responding with the same signal shows agreement to descend.
How: Point your thumb down with the rest of your fingers curled into a ball.
Meaning: Go up or start the ascension process. This is another question signal so copying the signal shows understanding and agreement to go up.
How: Point your thumb up with the rest of your fingers curled into a ball.
Meaning: Remain where you are or stop doing what you are doing.
How: There are two versions that mean the same thing. The first way is showing your palm facing forward and the second way is making a fist with the wrist towards the buddy.
9. Slow Down
Meaning: Swim slower or go slowly.
How: Lay your hand out flat with the palm facing downward and then move it down. Repeat if necessary.
10. Level Off
Meaning: Stay at the current depth. This usually indicates that you have reached the maximum safe depth.
How: stretch your hand out flat with the palm facing down and move it from left to right, repeatedly.
11. Safety Stop
Meaning: Going up to reach the level for the required safety stop. All scuba diving signals are of importance but when safety is involved they are a must to learn.
How: Reach out a flat hand with the palm facing down above your other hand and with the other, indicate ascend. Once at the level for the safety stop use the same signal and the number of minutes you need to stay at that depth using your fingers with the hand you were using to indicate ascend (minimum safety stop length is 3 minutes).
Meaning: That is dangerous, danger – Watch out! Obviously another of the diving signals that could save yours or your buddies life while underwater.
How: Create a fist with your hand and extend your arm so that it is straight. You can do this after pointing to whatever it is you want to warn your dive buddy about.
13. Swim in That Direction
Meaning: Swim towards the indicated direction.
How: Point your thumb in the indicated direction with the rest of your fingers curled into a ball. The direction of the fingers is the direction to move towards.
14. How Much Air Do You Have?
Meaning: Ask another person how much air they have left.
How: Lay your hand out flat with the palm facing upward, using your other hand place two fingers in the middle of your palm.
15. Out of Air
Meaning: This is an emergency situation signal in which there is no air left in the tank.
How: Place a flat hand with the palm down in front of your neck. Make a quick sideways motion by pulling your arm out to the side.