Hand Signals

17.12.2016 by ricardo
scuba diver showing ok sign

You are seated in an Airbus 316, window seat. Behind you, there are two people that are a little too much into tanning who have just had their third glass of champagne: Die-hard entertainers filled with pre-holiday excitement whose volume regulator seems to be defective. You plug your ears, get out your dive book and start browsing. Stop! The underwater signs. A little repetition has never hurt anyone. As they are internationally recognised, these signs are understood by every diver and differ only in regards to some small details. Of course, you have not forgotten about these important gestures and movements of your hands and arms. No! There are only 13 standardised hand signals. Along with the approximately identical number of additions as well as number signs – a truly controllable range of diver communication rules. An efficient means of underwater communication to pass on essential, vital, but also interesting information quickly, unambiguously, and independently to your buddy regardless of your buddy’s mother tongue. You cover the first picture, which reads: Ok. Ok? Easy. Your index finger and thumb touch forming the letter O, while the other fingers are spread apart. The most commonly used sign for all divers. One of those that you basically always respond to. In any case, the following rule applies: If a sign has been given, it should be confirmed immediately.

Let’s go. This is similar to studying new vocab at school: Cover it up. Make the respective signs. Uncover. Check. A few of each kind.

What are the most important hand signals in diving?

I.    Command hand signs: Everything ok? Ok! Stop! Turn around.

II.  Information hand signs: Discomfort. No air anymore. Problems with pressure compensation.   Something’s not right. I’m on reserve. Diving direction. Maintain this depth.

III. Action signs: Dive. Surface. The desire for another air source. Look or see!

IV. Numbers.

You read the info box on the touch-contact signs, scan the section on rope signals (used in case of limited visibility, ice diving, cave diving, among others).

Top of page 13, the sign for danger: Hitting the water surface with your arms – something that you are not going to try given how tight these airplane rows are.

Descent. Landing.

24 hours later at the diving base: Briefing in 30 minutes. The sea is calling. You repeat the order of all of the steps of the buddy check in your head. After all, this is your life insurance. Something’s disturbing your concentration: Voices. They are flipping around the corner. Those sun-tanned entertainers. At the bottom of the sea, their talk show will be reduced to a minimum as well. There are only the hand signals. Luckily for the fish! And you.


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