Just like masks, fins are one of the first things that a snorkeler or diver needs to acquire, but the new diver will discover that there are many options to choose from. Fins are an extremely important piece of equipment. With the extra weight and drag of the scuba diving gear, it becomes critical that divers wear fins to move all that gear through the water.
Fins have huge variances in size, shape, material, weight, and of course, color. Let’s take a look-see at the differences and which is best for each type of diving.
There are primarily two types of fins; full-foot designs and adjustable strap designs. Each has its unique attributes and benefits.
Full-foot fins are essentially shoes, with fins connected. They have a heel and you slide them on like a pair of shoes. They are usually one of the most comfortable, but they need to fit well as there aren’t any type of modifications. Full-foot fins are largely used for snorkeling or free diving. They are simple to put on and off, as well as there is no need to wear booties.
Adjustable fins are what are typically worn for scuba diving. They do not have a heel built in, instead, there is an adjustable band around the heel that maintains the foot in place. Adjustable fins are usually worn with diving booties or drysuit boots, which are often necessary when diving in cooler water. This requires trying them on while wearing the boots to ensure a good fit while diving. A big advantage of the adjustable fin is that the heel strap can be replaced. If the strap breaks, you don’t lose the investment in a set of fins. Within this style of fin there are different types of straps. One is a standard rubber strap and the other is a spring style. The spring style is beneficial while diving as the feet stay snug inside the boot of the fin even as the pressure constricts the boot and they may be easier to don one-handed. Adjustable fins are usually a lot more durable than full-foot fins, as well as they provide more power in the water. In order to do that, their blades are stiffer and are generally bigger.
While all fins are developed to provide forward, or backwards thrust underwater, there are numerous blade styles. Different characteristics include the blades may/may not have side rails and or ribs to provide extra firmness and maintain the strength and shape of the fin. They may also incorporate soft and also firm areas in an effort to provide maximum thrust. The blades may have vents to decrease drag. In addition to the full blade, there are split fins that are exactly as they sound. These fins have their place but are not ideal with cold water diving.
When buying fins, do your research and understand what type of fin is best for where you’ll be diving. A lightweight full-footed fin is almost useless in cold water and the heavy and stiff fin that is best for cold-water diving may be too heavy for a tropical warm water dive. Ask your local dive shop or local divers for recommendations, or just look at what the divers in your area are using.
When it comes to your final purchase, make sure you buy fins that will help you and are made for the type of diving you have in mind.