Scuba Diving Hand Signals

Scuba Diving Hand Signals

The highlight of most vocations to holiday destinations that have access to the sea and beach is scuba diving.

Many people enjoy scuba diving but one of the few most important aspects of scuba diving is learning how to communicate while underwater; while you may not meet with any danger while scuba diving it is important to understand and be understood.

Many articles point to hand signals as the best way to communicate while scuba diving and most scuba diving service providers give a quick course in communicating while underwater. This article will discuss some common useful hand signals to learn before your next dive and their meanings and the expected reactions.


Scuba Diving Hand Signals:


one of the first hand signals scuba divers learn is the ‘okay’ hand signal. The signal is made by joining the thumb and index fingers to form a loop while extending the third, fourth and fifth fingers. The signal can be used as both a question and a response. The signal is said to be a demand signal as it demands a response. The respondent will show an ok signal in return or communicate if something is wrong.

Not okay

if you are not okay, you can communicate this by extending a flattened hand facing downward and tilting it gently from side to side. The signal is similar to the hand gesture ‘so-so’ in normal conversation. Thereafter, the diver who is not okay follows this signal by pointing with his or her index finger to what is wrong or a problem. For example, pointing to the ear would mean an ear equalization problem.


End dive 

a ‘thumbs up’ signal communicates ‘up’ or end dive. This is one of the most important signals in scuba diving. The golden rule of scuba diving states that any diver can end the dive at any point for any reason by using the ‘up’ signal. The signal must not be confused with the ‘okay’ signal. The up signal is a demand response signal and a diver who shows the up signal to another diver should receive an up signal showing in response.


Thumbs down

the thumbs down signal communicates ‘descend’ or go down. This signal should not be confused with the not okay signal.


Slow down

this is communicated by a hand held flat facing down which is motioned downward. It is similar to a vehicle hand signal of slowing down.



The signal is communicated by a flat palm facing forward or by technical diverse it can be a closed fist meaning hold, commonly used in the army. It is a demand response signal which requires divers to respond with a stop or hold signal in return.


Low on air

this is expressed by a closed fist against the chest. The signal is not an emergency it is basically a notification to other divers that a diver is low on air.


Out of air

by moving a flat face down palm across the throat, this is an emergency and requires the immediate response of air sharing while returning to the surface.