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What dive fins should I buy..?

To effectively answer this question, we need to consider 3 main factors; strength and endurance, kick style and lastly, what type of diving you will be doing. Each individual diver is different and where as one style of fins may work well for one diver, it may not necessarily be the best one for you. In terms of strength and endurance, if you lack a lot of power to your kick and have a low stamina, you may want to look into some slit fins for they can propel you through the water with less effort. Some fins are stiffer in flex than others therefore making them harder to kick. Also to take into consideration is the dive conditions you will be scuba diving in, such as currents and if there will be long swims. Lastly the actual type of diving each person will be doing is very important. For example wreck, technical and cave divers need to be able to do a wide range of fin kicks, where as recreational and ‘holiday’ divers will generally need and use one style of kicking throughout their dive.

What styles of fin kicks are there..?

Fin kicks should only be made when you are neutrally buoyant and streamlining in the water with your knees bent at 90 degrees, ideally in a sky diver ‘free fall’ position. This makes any effort you put into kicking the most efficient in propelling you forwards. Your body position should only differ if when you’re descending or ascending. For more details on how much weight buoyancy (trim) you need, can be found in my other article (see here).

  • Flutter kick (traditional kick where legs move up and down)
  • Frog kick (breast stroke leg kick)
  • Helicopter turns (scull with one foot to turn around in a circle)
  • Reverse frog kick (frog kick done to move you backwards)
  • Modified flutter kick (just ankles and foot move, knees kept still and close together)
  • Modification of the above kicks, can be done with straight legs (mainly used for advanced cave diving or wreck penetration when passing through areas with height and width restrictions).

The 3 common styles of fins are shown below: 

 

Open heel fins (require boots)

This style of fin is most common and is used for anyone wearing a wetsuit or drysuit. A good tip is to carry a complete spare strap, including buckles in your spares. Should one break or you lose a buckle, you’ll have a ready replacement.

 

Full foot fins (pool or freediving fins)

This style is very common in tropical warm water diving, where divers don't require boots. Most dive schools around the world use this style of fin for divers learning to dive in swimming pools. Longer bladed full foot fins are commonly used for freediving.

 

Split blade fins

This style of fin is becoming more popular and is good for divers that have knee or ankle injuries that prevent use of "traditional" fins, as split fins require less efforts from a diver.

My general thoughts:

Try before you buy, is the key to finding the ‘perfect’ set of fins. It is very important before you buy any dive fins, that you try the various types mentioned above to see what best suits you and the type of diving you do. With ‘you’ being the operative word, do not take another persons word on which fins are the best ones. If however like most people, you don't know what you’re looking for, then I suggest you find a good dive instructor. The instructor may recommend a fin to you, after asking you a series of questions similar to those mentioned earlier. Another option is paying a good instructor (preferably a cave/technical dive instructor, for they know how to do a wider range of fining techniques) to teach you different fining styles, while testing out a series of fins. If you are able to combine that with diving in different conditions, you will be able to find the "perfect" diving fins for you. However if you do not have any injuries and are relatively fit, then I suggest you stick to full blade fins. I find that when I use split fins, they do work for the traditional flutter kick although you have to kick double the amount to get anywhere (similar to putting your bike in first gear- it’s easier to pedal however you need to cycle more to maintain speed and distance). I also feel they do not perform as well when diving in currents. As most "seasoned" divers use the frog kick for over 90% of the kicks they make on every dive, I have not yet found a pair of split fins that I can kick efficiently in.

What fins do you use now and why..?

I get asked this question quite frequently and I can tell you that, honestly over the last 10 years, there are only two fins that I recall using consistently for a number of years. They are the Mares Avanti Quattro and the Excellerating Force Fin. The Mares ones speak for them self as I am still using them and am on my second pair. As for the Force Fin, they are very good fins when using a wet or dry suit, for they are quite heavy and negatively buoyant. The material will last longer than any other fins, however they are 3 times more expensive than most. I also found that when using the Mares over the Force Fin for doing frog kicks (90% of the kicking I do), I can go much further with less effort. Lastly, I found it quite difficult to do a reverse frog kick with the Force fins while it was easily done with the Mares Quattro.

Any new fins I test, I make at least 2 separate dives in differing conditions (if possible). During the test dive, I do not change any other dive equipment I am wearing. As the fins are the only new piece of equipment, this enables me to test out the fins fairly. I then complete all the different styles of fin kicks to determine how that particular set of fins performed.

From all the fins I’ve tested to date, I would recommend the Mares Avanti Quattro for all types of diving and attire (wetsuit or drysuit) or the Scubapro Jet Fins when diving in a drysuit, as these fins are heavy. My suggestions are influenced by two main factors. Firstly would be that these fins are ‘the preferred cave diver’s choice’, meaning that they are brilliant in all kicking styles and are very efficient in their ‘power per kick’ ratio. Secondly, they’ve been tested and work well in many different dive conditions worldwide.

You most likely will not catch me diving with a different set of fins other than the Mares Avanti Quattro, unless I am making a fin test dive. If you are a manufacturer reading this and you’re sure you have a better "overall" performing fin based on the criteria above, please let me know and I will make a point of testing them. I will then update this article accordingly.

I hope by writing this article, I have given you more insight into how to go about selecting a set of fins for your future diving. Please let me know your thoughts on this piece by dropping me an email. If you would like to see another article on a specific topic, please email me your suggestions.

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Calendar shows where I will be and duration of my time there. If I am in your area and you want to join a course, contact me for locations. If you see any dates free and would like me to visit your dive centre or location, drop me an email with location, course interest and possible dates.
Want to know more about how your cylinders weight changes during a dive..? Video has information on what effects the weight change and has tests showing cylinders at different air pressures during dives in salt and fresh water. It displays whether they have Negative, Neutral or Positive Buoyancy. More details found at www.sidemountscubadiving.com
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