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17 Scuba Diving Hand Signals You Should Know

scuba diving hand signals - main - señales de buceo

Scuba diving hand signals are the basis of communication for this sport. All divers, from beginners to the most seasoned experts, know that scuba diving is about team performance. “No one dives alone” is the maxim on which rests the dive buddy system.  But this system would not make sense if, once submerged, you have no way of telling your partner the direction you want to go, any physical or equipment problem, or simply, that it is time to finish the dive and ascend. So, unless you have a very expensive underwater voice communication system, scuba diving hand signals will be your communication tool.

Yes, it is true, when you find the perfect dive buddy and after many dives together, it is common to develop your own system of diving signs. Until this happens, it is essential you know these 17 basic scuba diving hand signals.

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1. Thumb Down, The Diving Sign to Indicate That the Fun Begins

It is curious how this scuba diving signal, which on the surface has a negative meaning, can fill a diver with excitement and joy. After the surface OK sign, thumb down indicates the dive begins. This signal can be complemented by placing the thumb down.

Scuba Diving Signs to Say How You Feel


2. Scuba Ok Sign

When scuba divers reach the desired depth and during the rest of the dive, it is important to answer “are you ok?” in sign language. To perform the scuba Ok signal correctly, make an “O” with your thumb and index finger. This diving signal both inquires\ if everything is OK and is used to respond when everything is all right.


3.”It Is Not Ok” or “I Have a Problem” Scuba Signal

However, if there is any complication, it should be indicated to your partner as well. This is done with the palm of the hand open, downwards and fingers spread, making it shake or wiggle. After that, you should indicate what your problem is.


4.“Cold” Hand Signal

If you feel cold, you should hug yourself, putting each of your hands over the opposite shoulder.


5. “Ear Problem” Scuba Sign

When you cannot compensate correctly, point with your finger at your ear.

Go Down

scuba diving hand signals---go-down - señales de buceo


scuba diving hand signals---ok - señales de buceo

I have a problem

scuba diving hand signals---problem - señales de buceo


scuba diving hand signals---cold - señales de buceo

Ear problem

scuba diving hand signals --ear problem- señales de buceo

Scuba Diving Hand Signals to Indicate Direction


6. “Go in This Direction” Underwater Hand Signal

Generally, all smaller problems are resolved in a moment without complications. So, we can go on enjoying the dive. To indicate the direction in which we are going to move forward, we will again use our thumbs. We will use the right or left thumb depending on where we want to go, similar to when hitchhiking.


7. “Change the Direction” Hand Command

Sometimes it is necessary to change the direction. The proper scuba diving signal you have to use for this begins with the index finger extended, pointing straight up and moving in circles. After that, you should indicate the direction in which you are going to continue advancing.


8. “Stop” Sign with Hand

On the other hand, if we want our partner to stop, we will confront him or her with the palm of our hand raised vertically, similar to a policeman stopping traffic.


9. “Look” Diving Signals

If you have located an animal and you want to draw the attention of your partner to it, the correct scuba diving hand signal starts by your pointing at your own eyes with your index and middle fingers. Then, indicate the direction where the animal is.


10. How to Say “Come Here” In Scuba Sign Language

Another possibility is that your dive buddy is too far away from you and you need him or her to come closer again. Moving the arm and the palm of the hand towards you is the correct way to say: Come closer please!!


11. “Buddy Up” Or “Stay to Together” Diver Signal

Frequently, instructors or Divemasters are the ones to realize a couple of dive buddies is too separate. If they put their two index fingers together in parallel, they are requesting: “Please do not detach from your partner” “Keep on together”.

Go this direction

scuba diving hand signals---direction - señales de buceo



scuba diving hand signals---mira - señales de buceo

Come here

scuba diving hand signals---come-here - señales de buceo

Stay together

scuba diving hand signals---juntos - señales de buceo

Scuba Diving Signs Related to The Air


12. Scuba Sign to Say “How much air do you have?”

The dive advances, but the time we have to enjoy is limited by the air in our cylinder. For this reason, the next signal is performed several times throughout a dive. We are talking about how to ask how much air your dive buddy has left?

There are two ways to do this. The most common is to point the gauge with the middle finger and the index finger. The second way is to point in exactly the same manner but to the outstretched palm of your hand, instead of the gauge.


13 & 14. Scuba Diving Hand Signals “I am Low on Air” and “I’m Out of Gas”

When a scuba diver is entering the reserve he puts his clenched fist at chest level

If he moves his hand horizontally in front of his throat as if he were to cut off his own head. He is out of air.


15. “Share Air with Me” Hand Signal

Therefore, he is going to ask for air. The Scuba hand signal he will use is about putting the fingers together and moving them in front of his mouth. Something similar to the sign of eating.

Of course, It is time to finish the dive.


The Scuba Dive Sign to Indicate the End of The Dive


16. The Scuba Diving Hand Signal For “Cancel”

Probably, it is the least used of all given the practice of this sport has a high level of safety. However, it is necessary to know it, even if you will likely never need it. It consists in crossing your arms over your chest with your hands closed.


17. What Does a Thumbs Up Sign Mean in Scuba Diving?

Although the dive time is never enough for us, we need to finish it properly and use the “ascend” scuba diving signal in the correct way. To indicate this, we must place the thumb-up. Take care not to confuse this signal with the one that indicates OK, during the dive. Underwater, a thumbs-up indicates something very different from what we are used to on land, and mistakenly using it to say you are OK could end the dive prematurely. You would not want to ruin a dive because of a simple oversight, would you?

How much aire left?

scuba diving hand signals--How-much-air-do-you-left - señales de buceo

I am low on air

scuba diving hand signals---Low-on-Air - señales de buceo


scuba diving hand signals-cancel - señales de buceo

Go up

scuba diving hand signals---go-up - señales de buceo

It is important that you perform these scuba diving hand signals with precision and the right speed or it is possible you will not be understood. Don’t worry if you have not dived before, because, during your PADI dive course, these and other scuba diving hand signals will be explained by your Dive Instructor in detail. Also if you have not dived for some time, it is recommendable you do a scuba review which will include a revision of the hand signals.