Scuba Diving Hand Signals

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Scuba Diving Articles - Learn To Scuba Dive
Saturday, 25 October 2008 15:00

Knowing your hand signals while diving is vital. Aside from regular communications, you need to have your hand signals ingrained in your mind in case of an emergency (or even better, avoiding one). This guide lists all the basic hand signals (both PADI and BSAC differences) and it a useful guide whether you're learning to dive or just revising after having a break.


Basic Signals


(Are you) OK?

OK on the surface


Stop, wait here
Slow down, move hand slowly down and up a few times

Stay at this depth.
Move hand left to right and back


Stay together
Move apart a little
You lead, I'll follow


Where is your Buddy?


Come here, beckon

Distress Signals

Not OK, something is wrong. rotate wrist slightly a few times Then point to whatever is the problem e.g., mask or ear.
Out of Air (BSAC)
Move hand forward and down at 45 degrees.

Out of Air (PADI)
Move hand across the neck left to right a few times.


Distress on the surface. wave aggessively
Cramp - tight fist then point to where
I'm Narked!
Move index finger in circles.


I am cold, move hands up and down
I am out of breath, move hands in and out at chest level.

Air Related

How much air do you have?
Response example 1
50 Bar followed by 20 Bar - 70 Bar
(Always round down to the nearest 10)


How much air do you have?

Response example 2
Repeat the 50 Bar signal twice + 30 Bar = 130 Bar
(Always round down to the nearest 10)


On Reserve or 50 Bar
repeat signal twice = 100 Bar
Occasional signal for 100 Bar

Depth and Time related Signals

Ascend to a particular depth
Depth signalled afterwards e.g., 6m


Descend to a particular depth
Depth signalled afterwards e.g., 10m


Stop for 3 Minutes
Time out (sometimes used to denote 100 Bar)


Directional Signals

That way, point hand in the direction
I don't know, shrug shoulders


Training Signals

at me
I'm in Charge
(Sergeant Stripes)


Underwater Creatures

Turtle, wiggle thumbs
Large Ray , flap fingers like a large ray
Moray Eel






Other Signals

Do not touch, move top hand down to end a few times

Thanks to for allowing the use of these images and definitions.