Diving signals are communication that divers use underwater with their hands, because communication underwater without special and expensive equipment is impossible.
Without realizing people use a lot of hand or body gestures to express themselves. Movements like shrugging the shoulders for “I don’t know”, nodding the head for “Yes” and shaking the head for “no” are very common in our society. Also couples who have lived together for a while can communicate with body, eyes and hands and they don’t need to speak to understand each other.
All the signals were created for better understanding between divers, because going every time to the surface to communicate is dangerous and some time there is no time for writing everything on a slate. The signals were also introduced by military divers in the early years of scuba diving.
Beside the hand signals used underwater, divers at the surface use other diving signals or devices to communicate.
The famous diver down flag (red with a white line across): indicates that there is a diver below. No other boats are allowed and there is a second, larger zone in which boat’s speed is limited. The flag can be placed on a boat or on a buoy. And in some countries it must go down when all divers are out of the water. Today this flag represents scuba diving worldwide.
The Alfa Flag (white and blue): in international shipping communications every letter of the alphabet is represented by a colored flag. This flag represents the letter “A” Alfa. By itself means “Diver Down; Keep Clear at slow speed”. The flag must be flown from any vessel that has diving operations going on which restricts ship’s maneuvers.
Surface marker buoys (SMB): Good for signaling boat drivers of your location while performing the safety stop or ascending. SMB makes boat drivers see you from far at the surface. The Yellow SMB it is used more commonly in tech-diving and means emergency underwater/ need assistance (for those divers that have to spend hours on decompression stops).
Today it is mandatory to know diving signals before a dive. All diving agencies or organizations around the globe teach their divers hand signals, making some of them to vary from region to region. That’s the reason why it is a good practice to always review the diving signals when diving with friends and strangers during the dive briefing.Many times divers have to create a new set of hand signal depending on the different circumstances of the dive. The important thing is to always prevent the inevitable and always stay safe.
Have fun while diving.