The Dive Otter

Basic Hand Signals

The best YouTube video I can find on hand signals is from Steve @ The clips below come from this excellent video. I've used some supplement clips from Azul Unlimited's signals for beginners video, another great youtube channel.
These are the basic hand signals that I have seen actively in use in the Chicagoland area. You should always work these out with any new to you dive buddy before you splash. The first group are "the basics". The second group are useful for recreational team diving, particularly in the local quarries.


This is both a question and a response. If someone flashes you the "ok" you should pause....yes pause...think about the question...and then respond back with "ok". Simply flashing "ok" back is not what the signal implies. It is a genuine question.


Generally you then point to whatever is the your ears (equalization).


Hopefully this one is obvious

Ascend or End The Dive

ANY one can end a dive at ANY time for ANY reason

Air Pressure Check

Most of us learned the "two handed" version. So the one handed version could be confusing as it looks like a "come here" motion. The "come here" motion is actually a more exagerated version of this with the open hand instead of closing to a fist.

1,700 PSI

I prefer using the arm method for indicating pressure as it is easier to see and understand (for me) than flashing a bunch of fingers. Place the fingers across your arm meaning "thousands" and then show the next 100's number. It only takes 2 motions instead of 4.

Low Air

I'm low on screwing around...we need to get to the surface but it is not an emergency

Out of Air

This should be a VERY obvious motion. Not some tiny thing with your fingers....get your entire arm into the motion. Make it obvious!

Useful when Recreational Team Diving


Like stop...but to mean "hold position - don't move". So if you need to go check something or do not want your dive buddy following would be better to give the "hold" signal instead of the "stop" signal. You then "hold" the position until the person who gave the signal gives a new command.

Turn The Dive

We need to start heading back to our exit point for whatever reason


Usually left or right. Do not show your thumb! That could mean you want to ascend or call the dive so do not confuse your buddy.

Level Off or Platform

Level off makes sense and is obvious....platform not so much. There are platforms in every quarry in Chicagoland and no generally accepted hand signal for it. So I've seen folks use this signal to mean "platform". Like saying "Hold, Platform, 2"


Generally meaning you have a question for the person you signal that to. Like "Where is platform 2?" with the signal "Question, Platform, 2".

Yes / No

No is obvious. Yes will be new to most people.

Switch Places

Usually for when either you want to lead or you want the other person to lead during the dive

Kick Your Legs or Lets Go

As in...let's go that way. Or get a move on. During training it may have been used for "Stop Kicking Your Legs" instead.

Slow Down

I saw this one A LOT in my training!

Deploy SMB

You should know how to do this. If not...let's buddy up and practice.

Safety Stop

Which is universally 5 meters (15ft) for 3 minutes