Diving hand signals are vital for diver safety and enjoyment during every dive. They are the best way to get the most out of your dives, stay safe, and point out the wonderful marine life you see! We have created a standardized set of hand signals, which are used globally by all SSI divers to ensure clear understanding and consistency. Read on to find out more.
All of the common rules about communicating underwater apply not only during recreational dives but even more so during decompression dives. Dive buddies must use diving hand signals to share a lot of important information during Extended Range dives, including:
Decompression divers also often use only one hand to communicate. This leaves their other hand free for a camera, ascent line, decompression platform, dive light, or diver propulsion vehicle.
One-handed communication is more efficient and can be as easy as communicating with two hands once the diver is familiar and experienced with one-handed signals.
Common one-handed signals are used to communicate:
To use one hand to request the amount of breathing gas another diver has available, the diver holds their hand horizontally with the palm facing up and the fingers extended. They then curl their fingers toward their wrist several times as if squeezing a sponge.
The amount of pressure remaining in the cylinder is given as a number, with each numeral indicated in sequence. For example, if a diver had 150 bar remaining in their cylinder, they would indicate a “1”, then a “5”, and finally a “0”.
The buddy team must communicate when it is time to transition from the bottom stage to the ascent stage, each time that a decompression stop is finished, and when they move to the next shallower stop. This is communicated using the “Level Up” hand signal.
When the team arrives at the next decompression stop, they must verify the amount of time they will stay at that stop, since each diver’s computer may indicate a slightly different stop duration. This information is communicated with a sequence of signals to indicate the remaining time.
Prior to ending the dive, each diver must have completed their decompression obligation. Once their dive computer indicates that they can make a direct ascent to the surface, the diver indicates the “Decompression Complete” signal to their buddy.
They wipe their hand back and forth over the dive computer’s screen to indicate that their decompression obligation has been “wiped clean”. The buddy team should only ascend to the surface once both divers have given the signal.
Switching between breathing gases is a controlled action that must be communicated between dive buddies so that one buddy can observe the other as they switch gases. To give the signal for “Gas Switch”, the diver conducting the switch forms a horizontal “V” with their index and middle fingers in front of their regulator. They then rotate their fingers one over the other a few times to indicate the switch.
Divers gain mastery of communicating with hand signals from the very outset of training so that the actions become ingrained habits and automatic responses. You can find SSI diving hand signals in the MYSSI app.