Which Type of Fins for Scuba Divers?

They come in all shapes and sizes!

Basics

Have you ever taken your fins off underwater, then tried to swim, with full scuba equipment to the exit ladder? As you will know, it is incredibly hard to move! The main purpose of fins for a scuba diver is to aid forward propulsion. Fins allow us to efficiently move underwater, with the least amount of effort. Less effort means less air consumption and more comfort. Without fins, the scuba diver would be dependent on hands and arms, as a means of movement.

Scuba fins come in all shapes and forms. People refer to fins as diving fins, blades or even flippers; which only dolphins and the diverse seal families have!

The change made over the years

Over the years, fins have evolved along with all other diving equipment. Decades ago, fins were made out of wood and were tied onto the feet of the swimmer or diver. In some parts of coastal Asia, fishermen still use this method today, albeit some fins are still made of wood, others of plastic waste! Through decades of research and innovation, the scuba fin has become more comfortable, flexible and streamlined. Today, most divers enjoy a pair of fins which provide maximum efficiency with a good comfortable fit and cool design. Modern-day fins are generally made of polypropylene, plastic or even rubber. Along with a mask and snorkel, fins are usually the first piece of diving equipment new divers purchase. The basic ABC kit is more affordable, compared with BCD’s, Regulators or wetsuits, which divers tend to purchase farther down the line.

Buying fins

Buying fins is not always straight forward, especially for new divers. Scuba fins come in a wide range of forms, sizes and designs, the more technical and advanced they are, the higher the price tag. Here are a few tips that might help you with your decision.

What to look for

Keep in mind, a fin that is inefficient will increase your air consumption and the amount of energy you use. New divers, who are not as relaxed in the water as experienced divers should look first for a good, standard basic fin. This task can be confusing, fun and overwhelming at the same time.

Comfort

This is an important criterion. Open heel fins must fit on the dive boot that you wear, and not pinch your feet, or be too tight across the width of your foot. The boot should fit easily inside the fin, with only the heel of the boot outside the fin pocket. The fin pocket should fit nice and snug around the boot, with the fin strap up around the heel of the boot. Boots will provide warmth and protect your feet from sores and blisters. They are also an asset when you need to walk over rocks, rubble, or sand to the entry of the dive site. Open heel fins are the best choice for shore dives and cold water dives. The fins and fin pockets are made of sturdy material, while the fin straps are the weakest point on open heel fins.

Closed heel fins

Often used by snorkellers and divers, and can be seen frequently on boat dives. These fins have a smaller foot pocket; no boots are required. They are a slip-on version, often lighter in weight and not as sturdy as its counterpart; the open heel fin. Closed heel fins offer no thermal protection, best used in warm water only. They are not adjustable, may cause sores or blisters if they do not fit correctly. Remember, when your feet get cold, you might find that the fins become slightly loose on the foot.

Paddle fins

This type of fin is the most traditional of fins. They have a paddle like blade, moulded in one piece with no split in the middle. The paddle fins come in both forms, either open heel or closed heels. Scuba divers usually choose open heel, while snorkellers and swimmers choose closed heel models. The motion of paddle fins is created by leg movement, generally an up and down movement, propelling the diver forward. These fins require strong legs and are the most common form used in scuba diving and free diving.

Split fins

This form is basically the same as the paddle fin, but has a split down the middle of the blade. The leg movement is the same as above, but the split blade is set at a specialized angle to make the diver’s kick more forceful and efficient. Less energy is required to use this model. The diver will feel less resistance on the downward force kick. Some divers prefer the split fin, others find them to soft and floppy, with little water resistance.

Force fins

This form is basically the same as the paddle fin, but has a split down the middle of the blade. The leg movement is the same as above, but the split blade is set at a specialized angle to make the diver’s kick more forceful and efficient. Less energy is required to use this model. The diver will feel less resistance on the downward force kick. Some divers prefer the split fin, others find them to soft and floppy, with little water resistance.

The latest model; The Flip-over fins

This type allows the diver to walk on the surface, climb ladders or stairs while still wearing fins. The blade section of the fin can be flipped upwards and locked into place, leaving the dive boot to walk on. On entering the water, the process is reversible, the fin blade is unlocked, it is brought down and covers the dive boot ready for the dive. The flip fins are often shorter than paddle fins, recommended for easy dives and less strenuous dive activities.

How to fit a pair of fins?

For Open Heel Fins: If you wear dive boots, make sure you take them with you, because different brands of boots have different widths; even if they are the same foot size. In a seated position, push the dive boot into the fin pocket. The heel of the boot will protrude a few inches out of the pocket. Place the fin strap up over the heel, above the fin strap stopper if one is available. Adjust the fin strap, so it feels snug but not overly tight.

Closed Heel Fins: If you intend to wear neoprene socks inside your fins, make sure you have them with you. When barefoot, fins should fit firmly around the width of the foot. Allow enough room for your toes, if not this will result in sores and blisters.

After the fins are in place, shake your foot and check if they are tight enough. Stand upright on your feet with your full weight on both fins, check here for any pressure points on your feet. Grab hold of the fin tip and flex the fin with a straight leg; as you would do to relieve a leg cramp. If your foot slides partly out of the fin pocket, maybe you should look for a size smaller. If your heel slips out at the back of a closed heel fin, they are most likely to big.

Remember, comfort is important when you dive for 60 minutes or more underwater. Ill-fitting fins can be the make or break of your dive. If you decide on a pair and they do not have the correct size, or colour you want, do not purchase them, go elsewhere until you find what you require.

Compromises will come back to haunt you on the dive! 

Come and enjoy the beautiful underwater world now, at the Blue Hole with us at Dive Smart Gozo