Scuba Hand Signals Chart | PADI Sign Language Underwater (2023)

Divers in Thailand › PADI Scuba Hand Signals Chart

Divers will find our review of PADI underwater scuba hand signs and symbols a useful resource. They make up the language and gestures used in diver communication.

The chart lists the common scuba diving hand signals (e.g. OK sign, numbers, air pressure, fish signs). You should always review divers sign language if you dive with an unfamiliar buddy.

How to Communicate while Scuba Diving?

Divers cannot speak through the mouthpiece of a conventional scuba regulator.

You would need an electronic system or a full face dive mask to have a reasonable conversation by voice while submerged.

Instead, we use PADI dive signals and hand movements underwater to interact with each other.

PADI diver training teaches you how to communicate and get attention underwater using standardised scuba signals or plastic writing slates.

Even so, it is worth noting that surface and underwater diving signs do vary among many of the different scuba training agencies (e.g. BSAC, CMAS, SSI) in Thailand.

Therefore, it is prudent to review common hand gestures and an appropriate emergency recall system during your pre-dive safety check (e.g. BWRAF).

(Video) Basic Scuba Hand Signals | Dive Brief | @simplyscuba

Furthermore, you should always review the basic scuba diving hand signals chart below if you will go diving with a new buddy.

Fun fact:

It's quite common for a group of divers to have a coherent conversation underwater - even though they may speak different languages topside. This also applies to deaf divers who often enjoy entire conversations in the water.

In addition, some divers still use certain variants of dive talk on dry land. The adapted 'non-diving lingo' works for them even after they have surfaced.

Note: Being able to understand fingers and hand gesticulation underwater (and body movements) helps to reduce confusion, anxiety, and it increases safety.

PADI Scuba Hand Signals

We use a set of established PADI dive signals and common arm gestures on all dives as part of the scuba diving buddy system.

The okay hand sign is one of the most used of all body signs underwater. It is a technique used to ask, and then confirm, that you are 'OK' in diver sign language (i.e. you are feeling fine).

Hence, displaying a circle created by your thumb and forefinger underwater, or at the surface, means you do not have a problem.

But wait - there's more:

(Video) Scuba Diving Hand Signals 👌 How Divers Communicate Underwater!

We also use basic PADI hand signals to show our intended direction (e.g. let's go up, go down, or stop). Whereas, other scuba signals that divers use, will show:

  • Both hands to form the letter 'T' shape signals 100 bar (meaning the tank pressure is half used).
  • Low tank pressure (such as a clenched fist for 50 bar).
  • The procedures for making a 3-minute safety stop (using 3 fingers to mean the number 'three').
  • You want to share air supply with a buddy (after making the slitting throat signal).

Using your fingers is an efficient way of indicating numbers underwater, such as when showing how much air you have remaining in the tank.

Apart from the recognised PADI dive signals, most divers use some really cool scuba hand signals - together with some funny body movements - to represent fish family species and other aquatic animals.

Scuba Diving Hand Signals for Fish

There is no standard PADI hand signals PDF used for communicating the different signals for fishes and sea life creatures.

Okay... no problem! So, here is a list of hand gestures and body motions that almost all divers will use to make fish signs underwater:

  • Jellyfish: Sweep your hand and fingers horizontally through the water in a way that mimics the drifting movement of jellyfishes in the water column.
  • Moray Eels: Fingers and thumb closing and opening to represent the way morays move their jaw as part of their breathing mechanism.
  • Pufferfish: Expanding clasped hands to represent the way pufferfishes will 'puff up' like a balloon as part of their defence mechanism that they use when threatened.
  • Sharks: Place a hand vertical near to your head to denote the large dorsal fin that makes almost all sharks easily recognisable.
  • Shrimps: Point a finger upwards at the side of your head (one each side) to mimic crustacean antennae.
  • Triggerfish: Pointing a finger (like holding an imaginary pistol) to imitate the caudal fin that these fish will erect during periods of aggressive behaviour.
  • Turtles: Have one hand resting on top of the other hand to represent the carapace (the hard shell) that sea turtles have.

PADI Hand Signals for Communicating with Students

Because PADI® scuba courses are performance-based, students need to meet certain objectives and requirements to be certified. As a result, the instructor will use diving hand signs to communicate the following "phrases" during the training:

  • Everyone in the group needs to watch me (e.g. while the instructor demonstrates a skill).
  • Allow water to enter your dive mask and stop when it reaches halfway.
  • I want you to perform that skill one more time.
  • Remember, you should always blow bubbles any time the regulator is out of your mouth.
  • Well done! Great Job! You have mastered the skill!

FAQ about Scuba Hand Signals

How Do Divers Signal 'Illness' Underwater?

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors has introduced a new standardised hand signal for "I don't feel well" in their scuba courses for divers. They have made the signal simple to perform.

If you find yourself feeling physically unwell underwater, point your fingers toward yourself and draw a large oval in front of your head and torso.

(Video) Scuba Skills: Underwater Communication and Hand Signals

What's the New Hand Signal in the Diving Community?

A new diving hand signal is helping to raise awareness about the worldwide problem with plastic pollution. Creating the letter "P" for Plastic - using two hands - serves as a reminder to "Leave Only Bubbles" in our oceans and seas.

Note: Another section contains information about the Dive Against Debris Diver Specialty course and how to turn a passion into real and meaningful action.

Can Divers Hear Boat Motors in the Water?

It is not always obvious to determine the exact direction of sounds while you are below the surface. But, in most cases, you should be able to hear the noises that boat engines make.

Moreover, understanding boat propeller safety rules is of utmost importance for all divers and snorkelers – especially beginners.

Important: Sound travels about four times faster in water than it does in air. Even so, wearing a neoprene dive hood may affect a diver's hearing thresholds.

How Do I Signal My PSI for Diving?

Most divers will use the PADI hand signals PDF for guidance. But, some may differ (e.g. when using agency crossovers and equivalents).

Buddies communicate by pressing one (1) finger on their arm to represent 1,000 PSI. Lifting one (1) finger up indicates 100 PSI of air pressure remains in their tank.

Note: If a diver presses one finger to their arm, followed by four fingers held up, they will be showing that they have 1,400 pound-force per square inch (PSI) left.

How Do Scuba Divers Talk Underwater?

To be able to talk while submerged, there needs to be a transducer attached to the face mask. This device can convert voice sounds into an ultrasound signal.

(Video) Basic Scuba Diving Hand Signal

Assuming your fellow diver has an ultrasound receiver, they will be able to accept the signal. Converting it back to a sound that they can hear allows for underwater chatter and communication.

Note: Another section explains more about how scuba divers communicate at the surface and when using underwater recall systems.

How to Get Someone's Attention Underwater?

Scuba accessories and underwater gadgets come in all shapes and sizes. Many of them are used purely for personal comfort and enjoyment.

But, carrying a few basic devices will increase your safety and make it easier to get someone's attention in an emergency.

How to Interact with Underwater Organisms?

Divers share a common responsibility to protect and conserve nature. As a result, passive interaction with aquatic animals helps to safeguard delicate and sensitive sea life.

What Mistakes Do New Divers Make?

Some simple diver errors progress from mere frustration and embarrassment, to costly financial mistakes, and even worse.

But, there are common mistakes beginners make on a regular basis - and some experienced professionals do too!

Note: The short video [2:36 seconds] emphasises the importance of underwater communication for safe scuba diving. Learn how to convey a clear message to your dive buddy even when there is a regulator in your mouth.

PADI Scuba Hand Signals Chart

Scuba Hand Signals Chart | PADI Sign Language Underwater (1)

(Video) 107 Hand signals for scuba divers

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What hand signal is used by the divers to communicate underwater? ›

Go Up & Go Down or Ascend & Descend Hand Signals

The Ascend or Descend signals are a simple thumbs up or down hand gesture. These are not to be confused with positive or negative signals like the OK or Problem hand signals. The ascend signal is used to communicate with your buddy that it is time to ascend.

What does a thumbs up sign underwater mean? ›

Here's why you can't do a thumbs-up to say “OK.” When used underwater, this widely used hand signal actually means it's time to ascend and end the dive. Any diver is allowed (and even encouraged) to use the “Up” signal whenever they feel uncomfortable about continuing the dive.

How do scuba divers communicate underwater? ›

A transducer is attached to the diver's face mask, which converts his or her voice into an ultrasound signal. A fellow diver has an ultrasound receiver, which accepts the signal and converts it back to a sound that the diver can hear, allowing for communication.

How do you sign scuba diving in ASL? ›

Dive is signed the natural way (acting out diving) or the symbolic way. To do the natural sign for dive, put your flat, dominant hand on top of your flat, non-dominant hand, then hold them together in front of your head as you proceed to duck and act out the starting motion of diving.

What is the best signal for underwater? ›

A thumbs-up sign communicates "up" or "end the dive." The "up" signal is one of the most important signals in scuba diving. Any diver can end the dive at any point for any reason by using the "up" signal. This important dive safety rule ensures divers are not forced beyond their comfort level underwater.

What signals travel underwater? ›

Acoustic signals, or sonar, sent by underwater devices mostly reflect off the surface without ever breaking through.

What does thumbs-down mean in scuba diving? ›

DESCEND. Give the thumbs down sign or point down towards the bottom of the ocean with your thumb. Signaling this sign means you have safely entered the water and are ready to descend or go deeper with your diving buddy.

What is the underwater sign for turtle? ›

Turtles – hands flat on top of one another, palms down, waving thumbs up and down in unison. Sharks – hands flat, fingers vertical, thumb against forehead or chest.

What is the diving sign for danger? ›

To indicate danger is nearby or in a particular direction, clench your fists and cross your arms in front of your chest, like crossbones, and then point in the direction of the imminent danger.

How do Navy Seals communicate underwater? ›

An audio signal emitted by a submerged transducer travels through the water to the divers, who can hear the sound directly, without signal receiving equipment. Amplitude modulated (AM) and single sideband (SSB) systems provide two-way communications between divers and between the surface and divers.

What is the signal for diver down? ›

Internationally, the code flag alfa/alpha, which is white and blue, is used to signal that the vessel has a diver down and other vessels should keep well clear at slow speed. In North America it is conventionally red with a white stripe from the upper left corner to the lower right corner.

Do scuba divers use ASL? ›

Many scuba classes require you to learn hand signs based from American Sign Language (ASL). Most of the scuba signs rely on ASL signs to make them easier to understand underwater even with full gear loaded on the diver.


1. Scuba diving: 65 hand signals for fish
(Mel’s Scuba World)
2. Sign Language Underwater with PADI Instructor Thomas Koch
3. Hand Signals & Sign Language Are what the Most of Scuba Divers Communicate Under the water.
(Seek the World)
4. 15+ Caribbean Fish ID Hand Signals for Beginners
(Circle H Scuba)
5. Sign language for fish
6. American Sign Language V.S. Scuba Diving Signs
(Seek the World)


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