Underwater hand signals are the secret language of divers. Once you get good at them, you can have entire conversations underwater. Some divers even find themselves using scuba diving hand signals on land.

Hand signals are also fairly universal. Two divers who don’t speak the same language topside can communicate fluently underwater.

Can you translate the following phrases?

  • Wait. Look under that rock. There’s an eel. Do you want to take a photo of it?
  • See that crab? It’s making me hungry.
  • How much air do you have? I’m good on air, but I’m having ear problems. Can we end this dive?
  • Follow me to the boat. We’ll do a 3-minute safety stop, then ascend. Okay?

If you’ve forgotten some of the basics, check out this video from our friends at Sport Diver. You can also buy or download a Scuba Diving Hand Signals Pocket Guide.


PADI® Professionals (divemasters and instructors) learn additional hand signals to communicate with students underwater.

Here are a few you might have seen your scuba instructor use during your Open Water Diver course®:

  • Everyone watch me
  • Fill your mask with water halfway
  • Try that skill again
  • Well done!
  • Remember, always blow bubbles when your regulator is out of your mouth
Watch me

The hand signals for marine life are some of the most fun to learn – and use. Here are some common underwater hand signals for marine life::


A new hand signal is catching on in the diving community

P for plastic debris. The Plastic Soup Foundation created the new hand signal to help divers raise awareness about the massive problem with plastic. PADI and Project AWARE® encourage all divers to use this new hand signal and post pics and stories on social media using #PforPlastic.

Sadly, our oceans and waterways are full of plastics. If nothing changes, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Encourage friends and family members to say “no” to single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery and plastic bottles. Consider sharing some of these striking statistics from National Geographic:

  • Nearly half of all plastic ever made has been manufactured between 2000 – 2018
  • 40 percent of plastic produced is used only once
  • Approximately 1 million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world

Planet earth needs its human citizens to go on a plastic diet. On average, each person in Europe creates 31 kilos of plastic waste per year. The United States uses around 25 billion styrofoam cups every year and 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.

A staggering amount of plastic waste ends up in our oceans. Project AWARE has an interactive Dive Against Debris® map that allows anyone to see the amount of plastic rubbish collected in your local area and around the world. Experts estimate only nine percent of all plastic ever made has likely been recycled.

Underwater, divers have to use our hands to communicate, but topside we can be the voice for the ocean. Read more about the new scuba hand signal at The Plastic Soup Foundation website.

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