Hand Signals

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Hand signals are worth knowing and should be practiced before you need them in a rescue situation.

Your trip should agree on a sign language at the start of your trip. If you have comments or additions, mention them. Here is a list of possible hand signals. Not all trips will use all of these.

1. Point to safety. If you see a rock or a hole or the best run through a rapid, point at the best route, not the danger.

2. Are You OK? - I'M OK - Pat yourself on the head or the thumb on forefinger OK signal. From far away, form your arms in a big O over your head. This is both a statement and a question. A pat on the head can be a question – Are you ok? And a pat on the head back says “Yes, I’m ok” or “Yes, I’m ready.”

3. DANGER/HELP!/NO! Cross your arms over your head in an X.

4. READY - Hold paddle vertical or thumbs up.

5. EDDY OUT – circle arm overhead and then point to the side of the river to pull to shore to.

6. SPEED UP - Move fist in circle like locomotive wheel

7. SLOW DOWN - Wipe brow with forearm (as in "we're getting tired")

8. PERSON OVERBOARD - Stroke arms as in an air swim, and intersperse by pointing to the swimmer. Alternatively, hold a paddle or arm vertically and point to swimmer.

9. HUNGRY/LUNCH - Open mouth and point to it

In this photo, the person on the raft sees that the person on shore knows they are on top of the boat! YAY! Rescue is on its way.

IMG 8388 Hand signal.jpg

Click here to return to the River Signals page.