Home Diving What Does a Diver-Down Flag Look Like? Types and Buying Guide

What Does a Diver-Down Flag Look Like? Types and Buying Guide

Also called a scuba flag, a diver down flag is a flag used to indicate that there is a diver in the water in that area. Basically, it’s a message translatable to “I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.” A person seeing this flag in a boat is expected to stay clear of a given area and slow down. This lowers the likelihood that the diver will be injured from a boat in the same area or other activities.

There are two flags used for warning those in the water of the presence of divers in an area namely the alpha/alfa flag and the red-and-white flag. The alpha flag is white and blue with a white triangle to the right (in the blue section) while the red-and-white one is red with a white diagonal line running from the top left corner to the lower right corner. Both flags have the same meaning and can thus be used interchangeably.

What do you do when you see a divers down flag?

Each time you see a divers down flag in a location, you are required to keep off the area and slow down even if you’re at a safe distance. This sign needs to be displayed by all vessels involved in diving and by individuals who are diving. If you’re diving alone, you’ll need to display either one or both flags for those around you to know you’re down there.

This flag functions both as a warning for vessels and people to be careful not to injure the divers and as a warning to other vessels which may collide with the diving boat in that area.

What are the two types of diver down flags?

The two types of diver down flags, as stated before, are the signal flag alpha (or Alfa), and the red and white flag. While they mean the same thing, they’re used by different countries and regions. They can, however, be used interchangeably or together for the same purpose.

Diver Flag Types & Colors

1.      Signal Alpha/Alfa

The alpha or alfa flag is the most used diver down flag and is the standard signal around the world. It signifies the words “I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.” It is also the international maritime signal flag.

This flag is used in all the countries of the world apart from the United States and others within the US’s sphere of influence in diving such as Canada, Italy and a few nations within the Caribbean.

For this flag, a rigid replica of it should be displayed in the following scenarios:

  • By all vessels during diving operations.
  • By any vessel that has restricted movements during diving activities.
  • When it’s not practical for a vessel to display the lights and shapes required by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (IRPCS) Rule 27 (e). This can be due to the large size of the vessel or a malfunction and unavailability of these features.

While the Alpha flag helps in warning ships of divers below, its primary aim is to protect the other vessels from colliding with the divers’ vessel or with other vessels in the area. The fact that they’d have slowed down increases the likelihood of collisions.

2.      The Red and White Flag

The countries that use the Alpha flag such as the US, Italy and Canada use the red and white flag for the same purpose of keeping divers and their vessels safe. It was the invention of Navy officer Denzel James Dockery who created it in 1956 and it was used widely by the US Navy hence increasing its popularity.

This flag is displayed when divers are below the water but they have to keep within a given distance from it. An observer seeing it will slow down but know that a certain distance from the flag is safe for passage.

This flag can be placed on boats or a surface marker buoy and should only be shown when there are divers in the water. Whenever they come out, the flag shouldn’t be shown anymore.

These flags should be understood by all divers and all those involved in any water activities as they help keep people and vessels safe. If one is diving and doesn’t display one of these flags or other sign, they’re liable to a fine. As a diver, you need to always be wary of other boots even with the flag flying. Some people don’t know what the flags mean.

Best Diver Flags for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

There are various designs and additions on diver down flags each of which depends on your needs in a particular situation. For most people, having the diver down flag can be on the diver’s boat, a floating buoy attached to the diver, or a floating buoy anchor on the floor of the ocean.

Best Diver-Down Flags

No matter your choice of flag and its anchor, we have 10 of the best diver down flags for all water activities below. They’re as follows:

1.      SeaGator Dive Flag for Scuba Diving

The SeaGator Dive Flag is a flag and nothing more. However, that would be a major understatement of its quality in terms of the features and attention to detail given to this flag. In our review, we all agreed that it’s the one flag all divers ought have in their toolbox.

This flag is exactly what the law requires it to be; a 20” by 24” flag with a stiffening pole. With this flag, the stiffening pole is both removable and collapsible for when you need to fold it and store it away once you’re done with your diving. The pole folds into 3 sections for ease of storage. When in need of using the flag, you prop it up then insert it into the flag’s velcro pouch and you’re good to go.

The flag is made of highly durable nylon material that’s waterproof and won’t be affect by salt water and other conditions in the sea. Two corners of the flag are reinforced with vinyl. The vinyl sections have brass grommets for easy deployment. These grommets have holes in them for easy attachment of hooks and strings.

The red and white colors are highly visible from afar and will thus keep you safe. With this setup, you can attach this flag anywhere you like be it on a boat, the beach or just about any other convenient place.

Pros

  • Highly visible red and white colors.
  • Durable nylon materials with brass grommets for connection to poles and other areas.
  • Collapsible stiffening pole for easy storage.
  • Meets legal requirements of measuring 20 by 24 inches and having a stiffening pole.
  • Can be used on many different surfaces.

Cons

  • The stiffening pole can collapse under very turbulent conditions.

Chances are high that you won’t have an issue with this simple yet very durable diver down flag.

2.      Dixie Divers Beuchat Guardian Board Float for Free Diving or Hookah with Legal Dive Flag Freediving Scuba Diving

When it comes to divers down flags, the Dixie Divers Beuchat does the job well and gives you many other benefits you won’t find in other such flags. It’s basically a small inflatable boat with a diver down flag at the helm and various other tools needed for most diving expeditions.

With this board float, you can move to a specific site in the water without the main boat without scaring the fish away. With it, you can transport equipment, food, your catch, water, and any paperwork you may need on your expedition. Besides that, you can also use it to store your phone or other GPS tool you can’t dive with.

It comes with lots of safety features including the fact that, besides holding the divers down flag, it has a highly luminous red color which can be seen from miles away by other boat. You can also rest on it to fix your diving gear or just to take a break from the water.

It comes with a 19-liter detachable compartment at its front. Above this compartment is a storage pocket for various items. You also get 22 attachment points 2 of which are made of stainless steel and the rest (20) made of plastic. These attachment points are vital in ensuring the boat is attached to your diving gear so that it moves around with you. This ensures your safety no matter the direction you move in.

To provide efficient finning, it has an inflatable cushion at its rear section. Its stability is ensured by the presence of fins beneath each float. You wont need to worry about its durability as the floats on either side of the boat have double layers and the boat itself is made of double-layered PVC at 0.85mm thickness.

The flag for this flatter is 1.2m long and is in two parts for ease of storage. At just 4.5kg, the flat board is easy to carry to the water by a single person. It even has straps for the same. You just carry it around like a normal backpack.

Pros

  • Has a 1.2m pole for the diver down flag.
  • Allows easy movement to the diving site without the main boat.
  • Can be used to carry items to the diving location.
  • Can be used for resting or fixing equipment.
  • 22 attachment points for the diver and other items.
  • It’s very stable on the water.
  • Highly visible flag and boat due to the luminous colors.

Cons

  • Costly.

If you want much more than a simple flag, this is it.

3.      Innovative Scuba Concepts Torpedo Buoy Orange W/LINE

This bright-orange torpedo buoy from Innovative Scuba Concepts is one to behold as it packs some of the best features you can find in a base for the diver down flag. It’s in the shape of a torpedo with a base for the white and red flag at the top and a series of attachments below it. The torpedo is inflatable hence won’t sink when placed on the water.

This unique shape has various advantages including the fact that its hydrodynamic and sleek to the extent that it glides through water easily no matter the water conditions. You can thus be assured of a smooth flow when towing it while scuba diving below. In this way, you’ll always be sure of safety as the flag will follow you around. The fact that the buoy itself is a bright-orange color makes it easy for other people in the area to spot it and keep off.

It’s made of highly durable materials that provide the least drag in the water. The torpedo’s parts are made with TPU fabric and high quality nylon. On its body are 4 D-ring attachment points, the flag and an oral inflator valve. There’s also a pocket for additional ballast and a 60’ (18.3 meter) high-visibility nylon line. This line has non-corrosive plastic gate clips. You can thus dive as deep as 60 feet into the water and will still be attached to the buoy and flag for safety.

Pros

  • Made with high-quality TPU fabric and nylon for longevity.
  • The torpedo buoy has a hydrodynamic shape for easy and quick movement in the water.
  • The buoy is a bright-orange color and, together with the white and red flag, is highly visible from afar.
  • Torpedo has 4 D-ring attachment points, flag and an oral inflator valve.
  • Comes with a highly visible 60 feet (18.3 meter) nylon line with non-corrosive plastic gate clips.

Cons

  • The flag needs sturdier attachment on the torpedo buoy.

This is great option for all scuba divers.

4.      SalviMar Covered Torpedo Buoy

This flag and torpedo combination from SalviMar is another option you should have high on your priority list. One of the best things about this torpedo buoy is the fact that it has two flags. These flags are the two known international diver down flags namely the red and white flag and the white and blue flag. For this reason, you’re guaranteed safety no matter the country you’ll be diving in.

It’s made of high quality materials with the TPU covered in flexible fabric for longevity. If you deflate the buoy, you end up with a very flexible piece that folds into a compact shape for easy storage and transportation. You can easily put it in your backpack and go on your way.

You can easily change the flag on the torpedo buoy as they’re meant to be easily removed and put back. As such, you can use your own flag given that the ones which come with it are too small to comply with the regulations. You’ll need to add some weight to keep the buy upright at all times as it’s a bit unstable on rough waters.

It comes with a rope for attachment to the body so that you can dive safely and several attachment points on the body of the torpedo.

Pros

  • Comes with two highly visible flags.
  • Made with high quality materials such as the fabric covering.
  • Folds into a small package for ease of carrying around.

Cons

  • Flags don’t meet legal regulations.

While you’ll need a few tweaks to make this one work in all areas, it’s a very solid buy.

5.      Sopras Sub FreeDiver Buoy Instructor Float Training Buoy Scuba Diver Freediving Snorkeling Flag with Stiffener Florida Legal Size

Sopras chose a different design for its diver down flag and we love how it can be used easily for various water activities from free diving to scuba diving, beach diving and many others. It can even be used by instructors for swimming and diving lessons.

It’s made with high-quality materials with the inside bladder being made of nylon 200D with H.F welding. As such, you get a sizable yet very light buoy with a diver down flag. It only weighs 1.2kg which is the optimal weight for a float training buoy.

Given its small size, you can use your own mouth to inflate it or a standard BCD inflator. It has two ring attachment points on which you can attach a string as you go underwater. There’s a net on the bottom of the buoy to let water out. The red and white diver down flag is of a legal size and thus works in all places.

Pros

  • Highly visible bright-red color.
  • Has a legal-size red and white diver down flag.
  • Made of high quality material for longevity.
  • Weighs only 1.2kg thus easy to carry around.
  • Can be used for various activities including free diving, scuba diving, beach diving and diving lessons as well.
  • 2 attachment points for lines.

Cons

  • Quite small compared to the rest of the alternatives.

We recommend this for those who are into water spots and want something to use across the board.

6.      DiveSmart Bouy Float with 100ft High Visibility Neon Yellow Scuba Finger Reel (ABS) for Surface Signaling

This DiveSmart buoy float is basically a round ball with a diver down flag at the top. That description, however, simplifies it too much since it’s way more than that. You inflate it with your mouth, hook it on your diving gear and away you go.

The 13-inch diameter inflatable diver below buoy is made with red and white color with the writing DIVER BELOW written in highly eligible letters. This buoy is inflatable with your mouth although you’ll need to add some water into it for stability purposes.

The red and white flag at the top of the buoy is reinforced to stay in place even in turbulent weather. We were a bit disappointed with the flag which only measures 12 by 11 inches. This is less than what the Florida state (not my much though) and others need but it’s still highly visible from afar.

This kit comes with a 100 feet high visibility finger spool dive reel from ABS on a neon yellow line. With the double-ended brass hook, you’re sure of staying visible and safe as you dive to 100 feet below the surface of the water.

Pros

  • Highly visible buoy and flag in red and white.
  • The buoy can be easily inflated by the mouth.
  • Has a 100 feet of a neon yellow line with a double ended brass hook for easy visibility.
  • The buoy has a DIVER BELOW written on it for visibility.

Cons

  • The flag is smaller than the regulations.

The highlight for this one is the 100 feet of line which is the longest thus far.

7.      Scuba Choice Palantic Scuba Diving Spearfishing Nylon Torpedo Float with Dive Flag

The Palantic torpedo float comes in a bright-orange color with a position for the red and white flag and other accessories to ensure you’re safe in the water. The good thing with this flag and buoy combination is that it’s very easy to use in terms of setting up and folding it up after you’re done with it.

The torpedo’s outer later is made with 420D nylon which is much stronger than common PVC. The inside is made with inflatable PVC. With a size of 16 by 8 inches, the torpedo is very easy to spot in the water. Add the red and white flag and you’re safe as you dive in the water.

It also comes with an orange string for diving allowing you to move around with this warning sign. You can use it for bowfishing, surfing, spearfishing, scuba diving, free diving, snorkeling, swimming , surfing and many other water activities. It comes with several D-rings for attaching the line on your body and the buoy.

Pros

  • High quality 420D nylon used for longevity.
  • Easily inflatable torpedo.
  • Torpedo comes in bright orange color to increase visibility besides the red and white diver down flag.
  • Comes with a bright orange colored line for diving.
  • D-rings for attaching the line.

Cons

  • The line tangles easily.

For a simple torpedo and flag buoy combination that does the job, this is a good option.

8.      Rob Allen 12 Liter OVERBLOWN Foam Spearfishing Float and Optional Dive Flag

While most of the options on the list have been inflatable ones, this Rob Allen option is a hollow and stiff material that is made with the same Polyethylene material kayaks are made of. That is a quality guarantee as it can take some heavy abuse.

Its shape allows it to cut through the water quite efficiently as it’s also glossy thus having very little friction to deal with. At the top is the spot where you can attach the diver down flag which, together with the bright orange torpedo, make the diver very easy to spot.

Measuring in at 61 by 19 by 10 centimeters, the torpedo will easily fit into the trunk of your car. This is important given that it doesn’t deflate like the other options on the list. You also get several clips and a strap for attaching it to your diving gear. This way, you can use it for a majority of the underwater sports.

Pros

  • Highly visible flag with bright orange torpedo.
  • Torpedo made of high quality polyethylene material for longevity.
  • Hollow and rigid torpedo shaped well to cut through water for smooth motions.
  • Comes with diver down flag, strap and clips for attaching to diving gear.

Cons

  • Not deflatable

The rigid shape is an advantage since it ensures that no function will reduce your visibility in the water.

9.      Trident Aqua Deluxe Flag & Float Combo

One of the simplest flag and flat combinations you’ll come across is this one from Trident. You don’t need to inflate it or prepare it in any significant way. Instead, it’s a flag with a simple float that stays upright thanks to the weighted end.

The diver down red and white flag comes on a 2-piece pole which can be folded for storage. The flag has a stiffener across it as required by the law. The pole goes at the top of the float which is a cylindrical yellow object with a hole in the middle. This pole is highly durable as it’s made with quality fiberglass.

While you add the flag on one end, the other end has a pole with a weight emerging from it. The weight keeps the float upright no matter how turbulent the water is. At the end of the weight is a hole through which you can attach the line that keeps the float above you as you dive.

Pros

  • Simple yet highly effective structure.
  • Highly visible red and white diver down flag and bright yellow float.
  • Pole can be collapsed into two pieces with the float and pole detachable as well.
  • Has hole for attaching lines as you dive.

Cons

  • Diving line not included for diving.

This setup is one of the easiest to work with.

10.  Scuba Choice Scuba Diving Deluxe Diver Below Inflatable Float and Flag Buoy

This float and flag combination is a round float which lies horizontally on the surface of the water and, instead of having a vertical flag mount, the one on this float is horizontal. This means that the red and white flag hangs from the top side of the float for easy visibility.

The circular buoy is 22 inches wide and is made with highly durable materials for longevity. It provides great stability for the flag and has a bright yellow color with the writing DIVER BELOW written in bright red color. You’re thus safe having this on the water as you dive below.

The pole for holding the flag up is collapsible while the buoy is deflectable. This ensures that you can easily store it away once you’re done diving. It also comes with various attachment points for a diving line so that it moves around with you for safety.

Pros

  • High quality materials used for all parts for longevity.
  • Highly visible buoy and flag combo.
  • The buoy is very stable even in turbulent waters.
  • Various attachment points all-round the buoy.
  • Deflatable buoy and collapsible pole for ease of storage.

Cons

A bit costly.

This flag and buoy combination is a great addition to your diving gear.

Buying Guide

When going for a diver down flag, these are the the aspects to consider:

1.      Size

If you’re going to display the flag on a buoy or float, the minimum size of the flag should be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. On the other hand, if you’re to display it on a vessel or other larger structure, the minimum size required is 20 inches by 24 inches. This applies to both the blue and white and red and white flags.

The flag ought to be large enough to be seen by a person at a distance that’s safe for them to maneuver safely away once they see the flag.

2.      Quality of Materials

The material chosen for your flag and any other parts it’s attached to should be strong enough not only to withstand the harsh water conditions, but also the weather. As such, the nylon should be at least 200D and the other parts be resistant to corrosion especially the metal parts.

Besides that, the color of the buoy and flag should be good enough to see from afar and last throughout the flag’s use. For this reason, go for nylon and other variants that are manufactured with the color and not the painted ones.

The flag should also remain stiff at all times. This requires a stiffener that doesn’t break or collapse in turbulent weather.

3.      Stability

Having a good diver down flag and float mechanism with an unstable base defeats the need for the flag since it’ll topple over and leave you exposed to harm from other users in the water.

The law requires that you use the flag in an upright position at all times. The point of attachment of the flag to the buoy should thus be strong enough to hold the flag up even in a storm.

4.      Ease of Use

The flag and float combinations come in all manner of designs. No matter what you’ll settle on, the structure has to be easy to use. This entails how to prepare the equipment and how to store them once done with the diving.

In our experience, the collapsible types were quite easy to work with for most designs. We loved the fact that even the rigid ones were easy to carry around as they were a small size easily movable.

The focus should be on features that make the experience better but don’t compromise the quality of the experience of using the equipment.

5.      Accessories

The flag and float mechanism needs to have some additions such as the provision to replace the flag if the original one malfunctions or is smaller than required by the law. Also, it should have the provision to attach to your diving gear so that you can swim with it above for safety.

Some come with lines to attach the buoy to the diving gear which is an addition to look for. Look at the quality of the additions as well.

These aspects will guide you to the right buoy given your situation in terms of how you’ll be using the flag and buoy.