How To Choose Scuba Fins? A Beginners Guide
Having the right pair of fins can make the world of difference when it comes to the enjoyment of your dive.
Believe it or not, your scuba fins are directly linked to the amount of energy, and air you will consume on your dive.
You can dramatically increase your bottom time just by having the right pair of scuba diving fins.
However, there are a vast number of fins available on the market today, which can sometimes make the task of selecting the right pair overwhelming at times.
But, when choosing a right pair of fins you need to consider your level of diving experience, your leg power, and the type of divining that you will be doing in order to find the best scuba fins which suit your diving need.
Therefore I created this quick guide to help you make the right decision. At the end of the guide, you should be able to choose the right fins for your diving needs.
Style of Scuba Fins
When choosing a pair of scuba diving fins the first question you need to ask yourself is, what style of fins will I need?
There are only tow basic style of scuba fins, Full Foot Fins, and Open Heel Fins. Where you dive will greatly influence which style of fins to choose.
Let’s look at some of the advantage and disadvantage of each Style and which type of diving they are best suited for.
Full Foot Fins
These types of fins have a closed heel and are generally worn barefoot or with thin neoprene fin sock for added comfort.
Because you cannot use these fins while wearing booties, they are generally for diving in worm tropical waters or snorkeling on the surface.
They are also, generally lighter and cost less than open heal fins.
Because you generally use less diving equipment while in warmer water, you will find that most full-foot fins are a bit more flexible because there is less mass that you need to move through the water.
Open Heel Fins
Most scuba diving fins you will find are adjustable open heel fins and require you to wear neoprene boots(dive boots) to use them, which makes them ideal for diving in colder waters.
They are designed with an open foot pocket and an adjustable heel strap to keep your foot secure in the pocket.
Because diving in colder water requires you to wear more diving equipment, which in turns equates to more mass to move through the water, you will find that open heel fins are generally stiffer and made from stronger materials.
A very important thing to note when buying open heal fins is, you must buy your booties first.
Booties come in different sizes ranging from 3mm to 7mm, the thickness of your booties will decide the size and fit of your fins.
(You need your booties to get a proper fit, learn how to choose the best Dive Boots here)
Scuba diving fins have definitely evolved over the year. These days fin blades are relatively larger and more efficient than their predecessors and join mixtures of bade technologies (more on this below) and material to increase performance and dramatically cut the effort needed to move your body through the water.
Below is the different type of blade types available today
Standard Fins (Paddle Fins)
Because the bade is flat, water spills over the sides of the fins reducing efficiently and creates turbulence which can make them unstable. These are the simplest in design and generally, have a flat blade surface. They work pretty much the same principle as an ore, propelling your forward with every kick cycle.
Vented Fins are a step up from the standard fins. They are paddle fins that are vented at the base of the foot pocket. The vents allow water to pass through the fin during the recovery stroke of the kick cycle and prevent water from passing during the power stroke. This reduces efforts during the recovery stroke increasing kick efficiency. Some vented fins are also designed to stream water over the length of the fins blade, which in turn increase propulsion.
Channel fins use different types of materials in the blade allowing it to flex along the width of the blade. This is normally done by using rigged fin materials with softer materials. When you kick, the fin forms a “U” shape channel that captures and contain the water more efficiently than just having ribs on the side of the fins. This channel creates a focus “Jet” of water greatly increasing propulsion.
Split fins have a split running down the middle of the blade with stiffer sidewalls for support. Unlike other fins that use recoil to give thrust by pushing water backward. These type of fins work similar to the wings of a plane or even boat propellers. Rather, you are propelled through the water by “lift” created by water passing through the splits in the fins. This makes kicking the fins very easy and greatly reduces the load on your ankles and leg. One of the main concerns with these types of fins is that they can sometimes be hard to maneuver in tight areas, and are not ideal for use if you use the frog kick.
Examples: Atomic Split Fins
Fairly new to fin design, hinged fins have a point on the blade that hinges. The hinge in the blade allows it to move to the best angle of attack on the power stroke which greatly improves performance. This technology is used in many ways. Some manufacturers use bungee bands, narrow sections in the blade and flexing bars, as well as standard or channel blade to create a more efficient pair of fins.
Buckles & Straps
Fin Buckles and straps are designed to make putting on and taking off your fins as easy as possible. The simplest of design allows you to adjust the fin strap to suit your liking, by allowing you to either tighten or loosen the strap.
Quick Release Buckles
Quick release buckles allow you to remove the fin strap from the fin with without having to loosen the strap, allowing you to keep your desired tension without having to make adjustments before every dive, saving you precious time.
In some cases the buckles themselves can be folded out, extending the straps so you can take off the fins, then folded back in place to restore the normal strap tension before your dive.
Spring Straps basically replace the robber strap and buckle system. It uses either a stainless steel spring or bungee to give the strap tension automatically. There is normally a loop in the back of the strap which allows you to pull the strap over your heel. The tension from the spring or bungee keeps you foot snug and secure it the foot pocket and aromatically adjust when you dive boots compress at depths.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is not all fins are created equal. As simple as they look, a great deal of science and research goes in to designing each pair scuba fins. Manufactures sometimes combine many material and blade design to make sure the right amount of energy is transfer from the leg to the fin with each kick cycle.
However, the one you choose with be determined by your personal preference, the type of diver you are, and the environment that you will be diving in. It is good to try a variety of fins type and style to find the one that works best for you, barrow your buddy’s fins if you have to. Try a few out first before settling with just one.
What type of fins do you use? What do you like or don’t like about them? Tell us in the comments below