How to Choose a Pair of Fins

Along with the mask and snorkel, a pair of fins is often the first equipment purchase that you will make as a snorkeler or dive student, and the choice can be a crucial factor in your enjoyment of the sport. Fins come in many sizes, shapes, styles, degree of stiffness or flexibility, designs and working principles, so choosing the right one can be a confusing task.

1. What type of diver are you?

In order to find the right pair for YOU, you must first have an idea of what you will do with them. Years ago, the basic flutter kick was the most popular, but now as the more sophisticated kicking techniques of technical, wreck and cave diving are being taught at basic scuba certification levels, you should look for a fin that performs well in all these categories.

New divers

Compare the benefits and drawbacks of the various styles of fins. Paddle fins are basic and do the job, and split fins are generally comfortable. Ask an instructor or more experienced diver what they look for in a fin. Make sure the fin that suits you now can grow with you as you increase your experience and demand more from your gear!

Experienced divers

Will look for a fin that can provide peak performance under more demanding diving conditions that new divers may not be exposed to. Cold water, currents, longer dives requiring more stamina require a more versatile fin that excels at all kick styles. Photographers and videographers especially require instant response for accurate positioning without damaging their subjects.

Technical divers

Any diver operating outside the accepted realm of open water dive qualifications, especially wreck or cave divers, will need a fin that can be used without stirring up silt or mud in an overhead or confined environment. Reliability is crucial to these divers, as due to depth and decompression requirements, or cave or other overhead restrictions, immediate surfacing due to a failed piece of gear is often not an option. Everything that takes you in must also get you out.

2. Categories & Comparing Fins

Paddle

The most common style of fin, paddles come in many forms, shapes, and performance levels. Some of the more powerful models have very thick and high side rails, making them less efficient for frog kicks etc.

Split

A patented design breakthrough in the 1990’s with new “propeller fin technology” the split fin concept has been very popular, but now many divers report they lack true top end power, and are not as good for technical style kicks.

Open heel or full-foot?

For decades divers in warm waters have used full foot fins. These days however, many tropical divers complain they have no protection walking barefoot over rocky or coral beaches, that they get sand in them, and chafe marks or blisters if the foot pocket is too loose or tight. More and more, warm water divers are switching to strap fins as they can wear a good boot for protection and comfort, get less sand inside, and enjoy the ability to accurately adjust sizing with a rubber or spring strap.

Fin choice has also historically been based on how much propulsion you require for the type of activity you expect in the water. A diver in a shorty wetsuit snorkelling in tropical water needs much less propulsion power than a fully equipped cold water drysuit diver in a current. It’s always been easy to find soft and comfortable fins, or big, stiff, powerful fins, but you’ll never get full top-end power from the soft pair, or every-day comfort and easy kicking from the stiffer ones, so it’s always been a compromise.

3. What to look for in a fin

The aquabionic warp1 fin uses revolutionary new patent pending warp technology that automatically adapts to a divers strength and style of kick. warp stands for “water adapting responsive propulsion”- and defines a new category for underwater propulsion. As you kick harder the blade geometry responds by generating a three-dimensional profile required to achieve maximum efficiency and power. The fin has very low side rails, allowing it to slice cleanly through the water on the outstroke of the more technical kicks like Frog, Scull, Back-fin, and Helicopter. This reduces resistance and improves efficiency on these kicks.