Where I grew up, we referred to flip-flops as thongs. You can imagine the looks I got later in life when I told people, “I had to borrow my mom’s thongs because mine were totally worn out.” Just like flip-flops can be thongs, slippas, sliders, chanclas, jandals, etc. divers use different words for scuba diving equipment. In this article, we’re going to explore scuba diving slang from around the world.

NOTE: If you don’t already know the difference between a Divemaster and a Master Scuba Diver, or that you should never refer to a diver’s fins as flippers, brush up on the basics here. If you’re not a certified diver yet, what are you waiting for?

Scuba Diving Equipment Slang

Here are some of the different ways to talk about your scuba diving gear or scuba diving kit

BC, BCD, jacket, wing
BCD is an abbreviation for buoyancy control device, a common piece of diving equipment. It’s basically an air bladder divers use to adjust their buoyancy. The two most common types of BCs are:

  • Jacket – a vest with an air bladder inside that inflates around your torso.
  • Back inflate – the air bladder is behind you and inflates around either side of the tank.

Many divers attach their scuba cylinder to their BCD, but this isn’t the only way to go. Some divers use a harness or backplate and others dive with a tank (or tanks) beside them (sidemount).

If your dive buddy says, “can I get a new bottle for the next dive?” That’s scuba diving slang for, “I need a new scuba tank.”

a diver wearing two tanks on her back aka doubles

Diving with two tanks at the same time.

Divers sometimes breathe off surface-supplied air, known as breathing off a hookah. 

Short for hydrostatic. All scuba tanks must be hydrostatically tested periodically to ensure they are safe to use. You might hear a diver say, “I found this tank in my garage, I’m going to get it hydro’d and inspected before I dive with it.”

pony bottle
Some divers carry an emergency air supply in a small cylinder, known as a pony bottle, attached to their BC. 

Enriched air nitrox refers to breathing gas with extra oxygen in it. Regular air contains about 21 percent oxygen, whereas enriched air typically is 32-36 percent oxygen. Technically, any mixture of nitrogen and oxygen is nitrox (including the air you’re breathing right now). 

Instead of saying enriched air nitrox, many divers simply say nitrox. Learn more about the benefits of diving enriched air nitrox.

Choosing dive gear for children - regulator

reg, octopus, occy, octo
The collection of hoses that connect a diver to their breathing gas and BCD is called an octopus or regulator (reg for short). 

  • In some parts of the world, occy or octo describes just one part of that system: the backup hose and second stage you can use to share your air supply with a buddy.
  • Similarly, regulator can refer to just the second stage mouthpiece as in, “Okay divers, take your snorkels out and put your regulators in.”

safety sausage
The proper name for a safety sausage is: surface marker buoy (SMB), an inflatable surface signaling device. 

A scuba diving slang term for a diver propulsion vehicle (DPV).

Steamers and Fart Bags

fart bag
Dry suits: they keep water out and farts in.

shorty, springy, steamer
A wetsuit helps you stay warm underwater and protects your skin from abrasions, stings and sunburn. Depending on the water temp, you might wear a steamer (long wetsuit) or a shorty/springy (a wetsuit with cropped sleeves and legs). 

wetsuits drying on a wall overlooking the water

skin, stinger suit
A skin, body suit and stinger suit are basically all the same thing: a full-body garment made from swimsuit material. They don’t provide much warmth but a skin can protect your skin from UVA/UVB radiation, stings and abrasions.

swimmers, bathers, cossie/cozzie
In tropical diving locations, some divers don’t wear a wetsuit or a skin, they simply put their gear on over their swimsuit, bathers or cossie. Females may wear a one-piece swimsuit or a bikini while guys wear swim trunks or a speedo (I hear speedos are called budgie smugglers down under).

Miscellaneous Scuba Slang Terms 

Below are some scuba diving slang terms you might hear while divers are off gassing topside between dives. For example:

No one’s perfect, we all surface with a nasal nudibranch now and then, but the egg beater is not allowed on our bug hunting trip next week. That stroke must have a punch card for chamber rides. He told me he got narced watching a bait ball at 36 m/120 ft and went into deco

air hog, air pig, air sucker, hoovers
A diver who drains their tank of air faster than other divers (or their dive buddy) may be called an “air hog.” It isn’t a permanent condition. Training is one of the best ways to improve air consumption and enjoy more time underwater.

the Bends, getting bent
Decompression sickness can cause mild to excruciating joint pain. Someone experiencing decompression sickness may double over in pain or contort their body as a result of the discomfort they feel, which is where we get, The Bends and getting bent.

bottom time
The amount of time you spend underwater. It can refer to a single dive or a lifetime of diving.

a shark swims toward a bait ball of sardines
Photo by PADI AmbassaDiver™ Lesley Rochat

bait ball
When fish group together into a ball-like shape as a defense mechanism, the conglomeration is described as a bait ball.

An outcropping of coral – a term typically heard in Australia, Fiji and other diving locations in the South Pacific.

chamber ride
When a diver spends time in a hyperbaric chamber, also known as a decompression chamber, they go on a chamber ride.

deco/into deco
If a diver exceeds no decompression limits (NDLs) by staying too long at depth, they must make a decompression (deco) stop during their ascent to off-gas nitrogen. Recreational divers should not make dives that require decompression. Deco dives are considered technical diving and require additional training. That said, a three-minute “safety stop” at  5 m/15 ft is a safe diving best practice.

a diver a pool at camel resort

If you’re not sure whether a full certification is for you, try a Discover Scuba® Diving experience (DSD). This half-day program allows you to try on scuba gear and breathe underwater in a shallow environment under the constant supervision of a diving professional.

egg beater
A diver who swims vertically with their legs beneath them. This body position can stir up the bottom and ruin visibility for everyone.

feed the fish
Vomiting underwater or into the water from the boat.

Starting around 25-30m/80-100 ft, some divers experience euphoria, anxiety, or other strong emotions. This experience is known as gas narcosis, nitrogen narcosis, or simply feeling narc’d. 

Nitrogen narcosis doesn’t happen on every dive, but if it does, narcosis can lead to poor decision-making and dangerous situations. This is why it’s important to get deep diver training and always dive with a buddy.

nasal nudibranch
Mucus that escapes from your nose during a dive, aka a booger.

off gassing
Scuba divers absorb nitrogen (and other inert gases) while diving. During ascent and at the surface, our bodies gradually shed the absorbed gas. 

In recreational diving, off gassing usually refers to standing around topside, drinking water, eating snacks and talking about the dive. Longer, deeper dives require more off gassing time.

An impolite (but sometimes accurate) way to describe a careless diver. Sometimes the diver is clueless, other times the stroke knows right from wrong and chooses to make bad decisions.

A small dive boat that can transport a maximum of six divers.

Visibility or viz describes how far you can see underwater. It’s typically measured in feet/meters or body parts. For example, “viz was horrible, I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.”

An inflatable boat sometimes used to transport divers. 

Further Reading:

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