June 2006



Diver Down Flags

The Lakes Belong To All Of Us

By Bobbie Nicosia

Aqua Blue Sports

As SCUBA divers, we often share the local lakes with boaters, jet skiers, and swimmers. To let others know where we are, and to warn watercraft and skiers to stay away, we anchor or tow a dive float and flag.

The appropriate flag for inland waters would be a rectangular red flag with a white diagonal stripe.

When people are diving from a boat, the dive flag is usually flown from the mast or the most visible part of the boat. Divers entering from shore will fly their flag from a float.

Since our local laws do not regulate how close divers must remain to the flag and how far watercraft and skiers must stay away, a common recommendation is that divers remain and surface within 50 feet of the flag and that boats remain at least 100-200 feet away.

Many boaters are unaware of the laws concerning the use of the diver’s flag. Even the Arizona publications differ as to the definitions.

The Arizona Boating Safety Handbook states —

Diver Down Flags:

Scuba divers or snorkelers must display a "diver down flag" that marks their diving area. The flag must be displayed whenever someone is diving below the surface.

Vessels should stay as far away from a "diver down flag" as is reasonable and prudent for the circumstances. The suggested safe distance from a flag is 100 yards.

Whereas, the Arizona Boating Laws and Regulations by the Arizona Game and Fish Department states —

Diver Flags:

A red flag with a single white diagonal stripe, running from staff head to opposite lower corner, shall be recognized as a diver down flag, indicating that there are divers below the surface. In this handbook, no distances are mentioned.

Arizona Revised Statues Title 5 Chapter 3 Article states —

5-362 Diver Flag:

A red flag with white diagonal strip from staff head to opposite corner shall be recognized as a diver flag and shall be displayed when a person or persons are actually diving below the water surface and are equipped with apparatus to allow such person or persons to breathe underwater. Again, there is no mention of distance.

We divers would be happy to the 50-60-foot clearance other boaters should give each other. So, next time you see a diver down flag, whether flying from a boat or anchored off shore, please give it at least 50 feet of clearance.

Remember, the lakes belong to all of us!

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