Did you make a mistake when buying your first pair of scuba fins, opting for the first pair you saw or the least expensive? If so, you’re not alone!
Many novice divers make the mistake of buying fins that aren’t designed for scuba diving or are better suited for other types of divers. This can lead to a less enjoyable diving experience.
Why? Because the type and shape of your scuba fins has a large impact on your air consumption, comfort and energy.
Just like your mask, your fins are one of the most important elements of your diving gear. Choosing the right pair of fins can be daunting if you’re a beginner, or just haven’t needed a new pair in a while. We’ll break it down here.
Before you swipe or type that credit card for a fins purchase, consider your swimming / kicking style and ability, where you’ll be primarily diving and your physical size and strength.
For example, generally the stronger the leg, the longer and stiffer the fin should be. Scuba fins shouldn’t be too short, like boogie board fins, or too long and cumbersome for your size. Novice divers also tend to “bicycle kick” too, which can be harder in certain types of fins.
Snorkel fins are not designed for scuba diving, period. When you’re snorkeling, all your fins need to do is ensure you’re hovering on or just under the surface and moving with ease. Snorkel fins are light and basic, and work great for, well, snorkeling!
But scuba divers descend to deep depths and need fins that will propel them in deep water, sometimes against strong currents. Snorkel fins won’t give you the propulsion you’ll need, meaning you’ll need to kick harder and burn more energy — and consume more air.
Above all else, avoid the bargain “all in one” packages from chain or online stores that don’t specialize in scuba diving. The mask, fins and snorkels in these packages are not designed to hold up in rigorous underwater environments. They often don’t fit well or won’t work with dive booties, etc.
Scuba fins come in two basic styles: open heel, where just a strap covers the back of the heel. Open heel fins are worn over dive boots or booties. Full foot fins have a built-in “shoe” that fits over your entire foot.
Each has advantages and disadvantages, although most divers prefer open heel fins. Open heel fins tend to be more expensive and heavier, whereas full foot fins tend to not fit well, keep your feet warm or offer as much propulsion.
The other advantage scuba fins have over snorkeling fins is the technology and design that enables better propulsion.
Scuba fins can be either split, meaning the blade part of the fin is split, allowing water to pass between the separated blades on the upward fin stroke and creating a vortex — or paddle where the blade part is solid.
The advantage of split fins is they require less effort, so they are more efficient. You’ll consume less air and won’t tire your legs as quickly. Anyone with knee, ankle or back problems should consider split fins. They tend to work better for snorkeling and are a little easier for novice / casual divers to use.
The advantage of paddle fins is they offer more propulsion. If you’ll be diving in currents or need to be able to move places quickly, you’ll usually get more thrust from a paddle fin.
Different divers have different preferences so you may want to talk to your local dive shop if you’re undecided. You can stop by or call us at Scuba Toys (877) 728-2243 and we’ll be happy to help you decide. We have a large selection of dive fins in our shop and online.
Which fins do you prefer for diving? Let us know in the comments section below!