Fins provide a large surface area to push against the water. This allows you to swim using your powerful leg muscles. This moves you more efficiently and frees your hands.
Also known as : fins, swim fins, flippers, blades
Open heel adjustable – Open heel adjustable fins are the main fins used for scuba diving. They have the power to push you and your gear through the water. These fins require you to wear wet suit boots (booties). Booties also come in handy for shore dives to protect the bottoms of your feet when entering and exiting the water.
Full foot fins – Full foot fins aren’t adjustable and don’t require wet suit boots. They go on like slippers. Most smaller fins suited to snorkeling or very lightweight scuba diving are full foot fins. These are fine for warm water diving, but chances are in cooler waters, you’ll want boots to keep your feet warm.
Ample blade size – Fins for scuba have evolved since their inception. Today’s scuba fin is relatively large (but available in sizes to meet individual size differences) to provide maximum power. Fins intended for other watersports may have blades that are too small for scuba diving. The majority of appropriate fins for scuba are open heel, but a few manufacturers make full size, full foot fins for scuba diving in tropical water. Your dive shop can help you find a pair of fins that suits you best.
Quick adjust buckles or spring straps – Some scuba fins have buckles that allow you to snug or release them quickly, which is very convenient when gearing up and getting out of the water. Spring heels use encased heavy-duty springs in place of rubber straps. They stretch to fit exactly right and never need adjusting.
Vents, splits and ribs – Fins have different modifications to improve their performance, depending upon the design. These include special vents, split blades or ribs that channel water flow.
All rubber or composite – Most of today’s fins are composite, meaning the foot pocket is made of neoprene rubber and the blade is made of a plastic. A few fins, however, are entirely rubber. Composite fins are lighter and have different swimming characteristics than all-rubber; these differences are a matter of preference.
Hand fins – It’s worth noting that people with physical challenges that limit leg use can get webbed gloves that make swimming with their arms more effective.
How to choose a fin
Unless you know you’re going to dive only in tropical water, you’ll want open heel adjustable fins. The most common mistake is buying fins that are too small. Here’s how to be sure you get the right size :
- Try the fins on wearing wet suit boots. If you don’t have any, your PADI Dive Shop or Resort will lend you some for sizing, but now would be a good time to get those, too. Have your dive shop or resort help you pick the right size booties.
- The fin pocket size and blade size correspond, so that for most people, if the fin fits your foot, the blade size is right.
Put your bootied foot into the fin pocket. You don’t need the strap. Your foot should go all the way in until the top edge of the pocket reaches just to your ankle. Your toes should not be touching the bottom tip of the pocket.
- If your foot slides only part way in either because it is too tight or your toes reach the end, the fin is too small, even if it feels fine. A fin that goes only partially onto your foot will overtire you because it has too much leverage against your ankle.
- Once you have the right size, adjust the strap to fit so it is snug but comfortable.
- If you dive in both a wetsuit and a dry suit you may need two pairs of fins. Dry suits have very large boots and you frequently need the next size up.
- Buy a spare strap. Unless you have spring heels, you can count on the strap eventually wearing out and breaking. Inspect and replace them regularly, but always have a spare because they will always fail right when you’re pulling them on for a dive.
- Mark the inside of the foot pocket. You should mark all your gear, but especially your fins, since they get tossed around and mixed in with others. This can be confusing on a crowded dive boat. But, you don’t want to look funny with hand-scrawled initials on your nice new fins. Use a gear marker to put your name or initials inside the foot pocket, which is invisible while you’re diving, but visible lying on deck.