Whistle commandd

What are the whistle commands to be used on the water

I’ve seen different lists. The only signal that seems to be consistent is 3 blasts for “help, I’m in trouble”.


I only use a blast as a way of calling attention, then followed by some sort of hand signal saying what we want (usually either come to the whistle blower, as a person has gotten too far away, or calling for the person to turn thier radio on).

Different schemes have been used by different groups. Most common in my experience is as follows:

One long blast “Heads Up, something going on”

Three long blasts “Help urgently needed”

In some circles on short blast is used to signal “All clear” after one of the two above signals has been used.

If you can hear the whistle ? Our club stragglers, aka picture takers, have tried blowing their whistles for attention. It is amazing how close you can be and not hear the blast.


I would carry a whistle to be legal and didn’t expect anyone to hear it…

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We could require Morse Code.


(and no, I don’t know it, but I sorta want to learn)

I seldom if ever paddle with a group, but if I were about to release a blast, I would paddle away from the group.

Seals spray skirts have whistles built into the grab loop. The sound is very shrill.

Just looked and they do have whistles.
Can you reach it to blow it?

We would carry the small air horns if we were in the small winding channels that powerboats used.

In the lifeguard world, one short blast means “hello, excuse me”, three short blasts means “Hey!”, and one long blast means “STOP!”.

In my experience as a Lifeguard and WSI
we used three toots as an emergency clear the pool/water. and to let our fellow guards of an emergency.
Granted that was years ago has it changed

Actually I can reach to blow it but pretty sure it’s there for convenience if you’ve capsized and need to make make noise.

I was most recently taught to use one long blast to clear the pool but I have no idea if that’s a real standard. We were also taught to use one long blast before doing a rescue.

I found this one reference but I also see other references that differ.

I just found this https://www.rivergator.org/paddlers-guide/safety/whistle-signals/

Seems decent enough.

Since @Lillyflowers and I often get separated, looking at different stuff, I wonder if 2 might mean, “Come heer but it isn’t an emergency”

Rivergator link above posted by @NotThePainter is the standard:
1 blast: Attention to me; look over here
2 blasts: Stop
3 blasts: Emergency

As a general rule repeated 3’s of anything (flashes, blasts, pounding, horns, etc.) signals emergency. Shorthand from Morse code “S-O-S”

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In my experience paddling in different parts of the country with different clubs there are only two whistle signals that I would consider “standard”. These are:

Three long whistle blasts: Emergency. This does not necessarily mean come right away. This means help is needed, come if you feel you can do so safely and offer assistance in an effective way. Otherwise stay put.

One long whistle blast: Heads up. Something is going on. Be alert for further visual signals. This for example might be used to signal a swimmer who is not really in any imminent danger.

I have seen two whistle blasts used in different ways and I have been a member of some clubs that recommend not using two blast signals at all because of the potential of having missed the first blast of a three blast signal. If you use two blasts, make sure everybody in the group knows what it means.

There is also the need for an “all clear” signal. If you use a stop signal or heads up signal it is nice to be able to notify individuals upstream that the situation is resolved and it is safe to proceed since they may be in a position where they cannot see a visual signal from downstream. I have known some clubs to use a single short whistle blast for this purpose. Again, make sure everyone knows what it means in advance.