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Scuba Diving Hand Signals You Should Know Before You Dive
Swimming underwater using a scuba continues to grow in popularity. And developing trends are encouraging more people to explore the incredible world beneath the sea. Scuba diving is not only a leisure activity – but has also become a sport. And amazing adventures can be had following basic and advanced training.
Safety remains paramount – and communicating underwater is easy to learn – and essential. See scuba hand signals you should know before you dive here…
Use of Hands for Communication
Hand signals are the main method of underwater communication for scuba divers. A standard set of signals designed for universal use can be learned at entry level diving courses. There may be slight differences depending on the region – and related to the type of dive.
Scuba diving signals should be performed clearly and positively. And are normally done in front of the chest. They may also require an answer from the person being communicated with.
Learn the Basics
There are over 240 scuba diving hand signals that can be used for navigation and safety. These are commonly broken down into different categories as listed here:
Problem and emergency signals
Air pressure and number signals
Underwater wildlife signals
But the ones you need to initially remember amount to around 21. Look at a brief guide below:
Join thumb and index finger to form a loop – extending three remaining fingers upwards – if gloves are being worn the OK sign can be made without extending the fingers
2. Not OK
With an open flat hand facing downwards – rotating slowly side to side
3. Ok on the surface
Join both arms in a ring above the head – touching the top of the head with the fingertips
4. Not OK on the surface
Waving one or both arms overhead in a wide arc to call for attention indicates a problem needing immediate help
5. Ascend or end the dive
Make a fist with thumb extended upwards – moving hand upwards to show travel direction – and get an up signal in response
Make a fist with thumb extended downward – moving hand down to show travel direction
7. Slow down
Holding the hand out flat and motioning downwards showing the need to swim more slowly or relax
Holding up a flat hand – just like a policeman – is the typical way to say stop. Technical divers may use the hold sign made by extending a fist with the palm-side outwards, requiring a hold response in return
9. Look or watch
Use the peace sign and point to your eyes – then point to yourself for “look at me” – or elsewhere such as marine life or other interesting objects
10. Go this way
With the hand held flat and the palm facing sideways point using all five fingers to the specific direction
11. Level off
Taking the flat of your hand move it slowly back and forth at the same level to ensure other divers don’t exceed the target depth
12. Take a safety stop
Point one, two, or three fingers towards the lower palm of your other hand to indicate how many minutes you would like the safety stop to last
13. Follow me
Point at yourself first to indicate you’ll be taking the lead and follow up with that finger leading the way – if you want your buddy to lead point at your buddy first with that finger leading – the direction is indicated with the forefingers
14. Something is wrong
Make an open hand with palm facing down – fingers apart rocking back and forth on the axis of the forearm
15. Danger/ Abort dive
Make an X out of your arms with closed fists to show that there’s danger nearby. If it’s in a certain direction use a closed fist to point that way
16. Stay together/buddy up
Make hands into fists, extend index fingers, and hold both fingers together side by side – used when performing specific activities like going deeper or ascending the dive
Scuba diver hand signals are extremely important when related to decompression stops – an underwater technique where divers spend a few minutes at certain depths to avoid decompression sickness. Making a fist and extending your little finger, or little finger and thumb together is how to do it
18. I’m cold
The “I’m cold” signal is made by rubbing upper arm with hands as if trying to warm yourself up. When divers get extremely cold it can impact on moving properly and thinking clearly – and absorbed nitrogen may not be eliminated efficiently
19. Low on air
Press and hold a closed fist against your chest to inform other divers that you’ve started using your tank pressure reserve and need to end the dive
20. Out of air
Moving a flat hand across your throat in a slicing motion is an emergency scuba signal indicating your gas has been cut off – extremely rare – but requiring immediate response and assistance from your diving buddy letting you take breaths from an alternate regulator as you ascend
The leak or bubbles signal should be used as soon as a diver notices bubbles coming from another diver’s gear – this could mean a serious issue. With your hand facing up, hold your fingers together and then quickly move them apart repeatedly
Other Commonly Used Signals
A large range of signals is used to indicate the remaining gas pressure in cylinders. Some of these are:
Throat cutting – signalling emergency or danger levels
Mouthpiece tapping – requesting air to be shared
Ear pointing and hand cupped behind ear – asking for another diver to listen
Flat hand sweeping over top of head – indicating a solid decompression ceiling overhead
Moving hand across the body in a wave motion – signifying a current
Signals may also be invented by locals for local situations to point out wildlife such as:
Turtles – hands flat on top of one another, palms down, waving thumbs up and down in unison
Sharks – hands flat, fingers vertical, thumb against forehead or chest
Hammerhead sharks – both fists against sides of head
Put Your Signals Into Practice
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