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Top 10 hand signals for improved unterwater communication

Underwater communication between dive buddies always comes down to hand signals. They’re the most basic and oldest type of underwater communication and not without a reason. They’re simple, easy to learn and they can be used in almost every situation.

Do you want to signal your buddy that there’s an awesome turtle behind him or that you need to stop for a second? With hand signals, you can tell him what’s up in a matter of seconds.

 

So, learning and understanding hand signals is crucial for an awesome and safe diving adventure. By the way every underwater signaling device on the market (Shaker, Buddy-Watcher, Tank-Banger) is built on this basic type of underwater communication. Without them they are practically useless!

 

While hand signals have many advantages they also have a huge disadvantage: If your buddy isn’t looking at you or isn’t able to see you, hand signals become useless no matter how wildly you wave.

 

This is the reason why a signaling device should always be carried along in every dive. Of course, if you are always staying close to your buddy so you can touch him anytime, you won’t need a signaling device. But for recreational divers who like to sometimes explore on their own a signaling device is mandatory.

 

Use one of these signaling devices to get your buddy’s attention. Afterwards you can communicate underwater with hand signals just like you would normally do. If you want to know which signaling device is perfect for you scroll down to the end of this site. 

1. I’m OK/Are you OK?

The simple “OK“-hand signal can be used as an answer and as a question depending on the situation. If you think your buddy might have a problem just use the “OK”-hand signal and wait for his response. Just form a hole with your thumb and index finger.

I'm OK

Tip: You should always respond to any signal of your buddy with an “OK”-hand signal so he knows you understood him. Otherwise your buddy doesn’t know if you have received the signal or not.

2. I have a problem

When your dive buddy asks you if everything is ok you can answer with the “OK“-hand signal or with the “I have a problem”-hand signal by shaking your flattened hand a bit.

If you have a problem don’t hesitate to inform your buddy about it!

I have a problem

It’s important to always communicate underwater with your buddy on how you are doing and respectively how he is doing. Keeping track of each other’s well-being is crucial for a successful dive.

3. Go up/down

These two hand signals are key for the start and the end of a successful dive. Use the “Go up“-hand signal to end the dive/ascend and the “Go down“-hand signal to start the dive/descend. Just give your buddy thumbs up or thumbs down.

                              Go up      Go down

Ascending/descending with your buddy at the same time is important so you don’t lose sight of each other.

4. Three-minute safety stop

This hand signal is important to prevent decompression sickness. Every diver should at least do a three-minute safety stop at around 16 feet below the surface while ascending back to the surface. To make this hand signal place your flattened hand over your three middle fingers.

Three-minute safety stop

Always use this hand signal when ascending to make sure that neither you nor your buddy forgets about the safety stop.

5. How much air do you have left?

Before every dive you should make sure to set a specific amount of air as the point when you ascend back to the surface. This is to make sure you don‘t run out of air underwater. Just put two fingers on the palm of your other hand to check on your buddys air supply.

How much air do you have left

Communicating underwater with your buddy about your air supply is crucial for knowing when it’s time to end the dive.

6. Low on air

When your buddy or you use this hand signal by putting a fist on the chest it’s time to immediately end the dive. This should be the last point where you decide to ascend back to the surface. Being low on air can get extremely dangerous very quickly!

Low on air

Tip: To avoid this kind of situation check on your air supply constantly so you don’t continue diving while you are low on air.

7. Out of air

This situation should never occur if you check on your air supply constantly. If it does occur stay calm, start to ascend immediately and share your air with your buddy. To make this hand signal put your flattened hand horizontally on your throat.

Out of air

Remember your training and don’t panic! If you both have enough air left also don’t forget to do a proper safety stop.

8. Stop

This hand signal can be used in almost any situation and it’s identically to the stop hand signal on land. Want to check on your gear or to observe an awesome fish? Signal your buddy to stop so he doesn’t get too far away and you can stay together.

Stop

If your buddy gets too far away from you it can be a real pain to reach up to him. So always signal him that you want/have to stop before you actually do it.

9. Slow down

Almost as the “Stop“-hand signal this hand signal can be used to make sure neither you nor your buddy drifts too far away from each other. Drifting too far away from your buddy can get dangerous especially when the vision is poor. Just sink your flattened hand slowly downwards to tell your buddy to slow down.

Slow down

Diving too fast can also get dangerous – take it slow and enjoy the sea world around you.

10. I’m cold

Don’t underestimate the underwater temperature. Water drains heat from your body 25 times faster than on the surface. Losing your body’s heat can happen very quickly in cold waters, so you should be careful! Place your hands on your upper arms whenever you start freezing.

I'm cold

If you get too cold make sure to end the dive immediately to avoid the risk of losing valuable motion skills.

Let your creativity flow!

There are a lot of other scuba hand signals out there. You can even develop your own with your buddy. Want to let your buddy know that you are hungry or that your wife looks beautiful in her diving suit? Communicate underwater with your dive buddy however you like.

The Buddy-Watcher-Team set an example. But see for yourself!:

                               I'm hungry                                        You're looking beautiful                                                     

                    I'm hungry                        You're looking beautiful

 

It doesn’t matter which ones you use as long as you use the same hand signals as your buddy. Remember to always discuss with your buddy which hand signals you want to use in your diving adventure. It sucks when your buddy tries to give you a signal and you don’t know what he wants to tell you.

The perfect underwater signaling device

Just imagine: Your buddy notices a beautiful woman underwater and starts diving blindly towards her. How are you going to attract his attention to you now that he’s several feet away from you? The only alternative to following him and touching him is by using the signaling device you decided on.

 

One way to solve this problem is by using signaling devices that make very loud acoustic noises. Common devices are Shakers and Tank-Bangers. Because their acoustic signal can be heard even in Atlantis, you sure will attract your buddy’s attention to you using them. Thus, if you want to be heard clearly underwater these kind of signaling devices are perfect for you.

 

But by using them you don’t only alert your buddy but also every diver and sea animal around you. If you want to show your buddy a sea horse using one of these underwater communication devices will surely chase it off.

Using the Buddy-Watcher on the other hand will keep the sea horse in place. Your buddy and you can enjoy the moment together since it doesn’t bother the marine life in any way.

 

With the Buddy-Watcher you can send ultrasonic wireless signals to attract your buddy’s attention. If you press the button on yours the Buddy-Watcher of your buddy will vibrate accordingly. Since this type of underwater communication occurs only between you two your buddy can be sure it’s you who sent the signal.

Along with your Buddy-Watcher signals, you can communicate underwater with hand signals just like you would normally do. Except that you won’t bother other dive buddies underwater.

By the way: It’s the 21th century. Who wants to shake a rattling stuff when you can just press a button on your wrist? The communication on land changed drastically in the last decades. Isn’t it time for the underwater communication to change as well?

 

Buddy-Watcher keeps the ocean quiet and therefore more enjoyable. If you care about your environment, the Buddy-Watcher is the perfect signaling device for you.

If you want to know more about the features of Buddy-Watcher check out our short guide.

 

Improved underwater communication with less interference. Buy or borrow the Buddy-Watcher and use it in combination with scuba hand signals to take your underwater communication to the next level!