Surface Signaling for Scuba Divers

Getting someone’s attention underwater is a crucial safety skill. Here’s a roundup of the most common surface signaling for scuba divers.

Most divers know the importance of good buddy skills. Staying close to your buddy and being able to get his or her attention are both important parts of staying safe underwater. But what if you need to attract someone’s attention after you surface? It might be a buddy who has popped up far away from you, your dive boat crew, or someone on land if you need help. Here we’ll go over some of the most important surface signaling for scuba divers. Choose what to use based on your needs and means, but make sure you’re prepared with at least one of these tactics.


This method of surface signaling for scuba divers is by far the cheapest and requires no gear. All you need is your mouth and a bit of training. A powerful, sharp whistle travels far. Because it is a high-pitched sound, it can penetrate quite a bit of dive-boat engine rumble or the sound of crashing waves on shore, both of which are low-pitched sounds. So, if you don’t know how to whistle, you may want to pick up the skill. Ideally, learn to whistle both with fingers and without.

There are a few good video guides on YouTube; here’s one for whistling with your fingers, and here’s one for without your fingers.

Using a whistle

Maybe you’ve tried, and you just can’t whistle, or you want backup. One step up the gear- and cost-ladder is a small whistle that you can put in your pocket or attach to your BCD. These have the same advantages as whistling, and work even if you don’t know how to whistle. So, if your teeth are chattering too hard from cold or you’re out of breath, a whistle will work.

Signaling mirror

Another small, inexpensive item that can do wonders is a shatterproof signaling mirror. These can be great for attracting people’s attention and weigh next to nothing. Keep in mind that signaling mirrors only work in the sunlight, though. On overcast days or at night, a powerful dive torch can serve the same purpose, with a bit of added bulk.

Air horn

An air horn that attaches to your low-pressure inflator hose is an effective means of signaling. It can produce a loud and easily discernable sound. The drawback is, of course, cost. These devices are a bit pricy, and they add some bulk to your setup. They also won’t work well if you surface with a near-empty tank.

VHF radios

Today, you can buy small, portable, waterproof VHF radios with built-in GPS. These will allow you to radio any VHF unit within a few nautical miles, and not only talk to them, but also transmit your exact position via the GPS. By far the costliest option, this one is the go-to solution for those diving in difficult and remote locations, or any diver with a fear of being stranded at sea.