How to select a pair of scuba diving fins
Scuba diving fins should be in the first three items you should purchase once you start taking your scuba diving seriously. The other two are a good mask and dive computer.
A good pair of scuba fins can provide better thrust than most rental fins, make propulsion easier thus reducing effort and providing better air consumption. I recall my first pair of quality fins improving my air consumption by 30%.
One of the first things you need to consider before buying a pair of scuba diving fins is where you will be wearing the most.
As you will read there will be two types of fins. Open heel and closed heel. If you will be doing any cold water diving you will most definitely require open heel fins with boots. If you will only ever be doing warm water diving then you may be able to use closed heel fins.
Take your time in selecting a good pair of fins as probably every new diver has experience, incorrectly can provide some nasty blisters.
OPEN HEEL FINS – Boots
In most cases open heel fins require either boots or shoes to be worn with them. It is always a good idea to select you boots prior to purchasing the fins. Scuba boots or shoes are like a normal pair of shoes. You want something comfortable so that you feel comfortable through a dive. Further the boots need to suit the waters you will be mostly diving. Boots can be quite simple and mostly come in 3mm, 5mm and 7mm. The colder the waters you are diving the thicker the boot you will need.
One of the biggest advantages with open heel boots is that they can be worn in both cold and warm climates.
Further a lot of equipment manufactures will only make their top end range in open heel design.
FULL FOOT FINS
Full foot fins are made to be worn barefoot and without boots. The fit like a normal shoe would. They are a lot easier to use, are often lighter. Often you will find a lesser range of full foot fins and tend to be on the lower end of performance. As previously mentioned, because you don’t have the warmth of a boot, closed heel fins are not appropriate for cold waters.
PADDLE, JET FINS and SPLIT FINS
Jet fins tend to be solid pieces of compressed rubber. Originally designed in the 1950’s and some manufacturers still make them the same way to day. A favourite with technical divers and dive professionals. They are less popular with new diver given their extra weight. They are often a very powerful fins and don’t require a lot of leg movement to get thrust. Their down side is their weight which can be stressful on those with weak knees or ankles and does not make them a good travelling fin. If taken care of there would be no reason why these fins would not last 20+ years. Best fins for frog kicks.
It is often said that once a diver wear jet fins they will never go back to another fin again.
Paddle fins a flat blade type fin. No frills but very popular. Some models are still going strong after being releases in the 70’s. A popular fin with professionals, they tend to be lighter than jet fins, provide good thrust and tend to be durable. Definitely a crowd favourite.
Basically a copy design on real fish fins. These fins have a split down the middle dividing each fin into two blades. They are reported to provide as much thrust as a blade fin with less effort. Some divers report that they are too floppy in the water (agreed by the writer) and although popular a number of years ago are now less appealing to divers. It is recommended that you try these fins (as with all fins) before you buy. They will not appeal to all divers.
Force fins look like a fish tail. Very small and provide good thrust. They tend to be quite expensive and now very popular with the navy.
Combination fins. There a multitude of fins on the market that combine the above. Some are designed with hinges or pivot points.
Take your time selecting fins. The same as buying shoes you need to get the right fit. If possible try and use the fins first. A pair of fins should last you many many years and you want to be comfortable with them.
If you are having trouble deciding between open heel (boots) and closed heel, go open heel fins. They are more versatile.
If you look after your fins you will have them for many years. Always rinse them with fresh water, don’t store them until they are dry and always store them flat. Take good care of your fins and they will take good care of you.
All the best and happy scuba diving.
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