Hand Signals That Can Save Your Life

Relatively speaking, I’m no expert scuba diver yet and I would still even consider myself as a novice. If not for my passion for the underseas, I also would not have started this blog as it takes my time away from where the real action is.

That said, I am climbing my way up to be a master diver and perhaps get an ISO 24801so that I can perhaps be an instructor one day when I retire. Teaching, by the way, is another passion of mine.

So today, I will focus on teaching you the basics — communication. As you very well know, it is useless and almost impossible to make clear sounds underwater. Obviously, the regulator sufficiently grasped between our teeth presents a barrier to communicating using our mouth alone; hence, the importance of our limbs, particularly our hands.

I will enumerate the following critical hand signals when you are going deep into the blue, including our Top Five. These hand signals have variations in some locations but most of them (about 9 in 10) are universally similar.

The I’m-On-The-Surface (Safely Above Water) Signal 

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

A variation on this for some divers is to close their fist and put it over their head in the same manner as above.

The I-Need-Help (Emergency) Signal 

Dive Angelfish Hand Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Perhaps the most life-saving gesture you could ever make throughout your scuba diving experience, this one is very critical. Wave your hands as wide and far as you can to draw attention to your peers whether on the surface or deep down the ocean.

The I’m-Perfectly-Fine (OK) Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

This one brings relief to your peers and gives everyone the assurance that all is well, especially when one of you just encountered a potentially threatening situation or creature for that matter.

The Hang-On, Don’t-Move (Stop) Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

When you encounter or sense something that requires you all to be alert and freeze in your underwater tracks, make use of this very helpful sign. Don’t move your fingers a bit but be firm in showing the palms forward sign.

The I’m-Having-Cramps Signal

Photo by Peter Southwood is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Although relatively less common, this signal can also save a life. There are many kinds of muscle spasms or conditions that can hit you underwater especially at that pressurized level below. But cramps is one that can potentially be deadly. So make sure to have memorize this handy sign by heart so you can flash them when you need to.

Below is a more comprehensive list provided by PADI in their website.

Photo by PADI via Twitter

That’s it for now. Remember these two words before you embark on any adventure, especially non-land-based ones: SAFETY FIRST. Stay well!