The creation and advancement of swim fins has become a science. Without them scuba diving is almost impossible; with them scuba diving is a dream of fluid underwater movement. Swim fins allow you to propel yourself through the water with the least amount of energy and effort. When you are fully clothed in your scuba diving attire, including: wet suit, buoyancy compensator, air tank and weights – moving in the water can be almost impossible and extremely tiring. The right pair of fins will allow you to go further and swim faster using the large muscles in your thighs.
There is an incredible selection of swim fins to choose from. There are swim fins shaped like a dolphin’s tail, swim fins with channels like the webbed feet of a duck, split swim fins, curved swim fins, stiff swim fins and flexible swim fins. The choice is almost overwhelming, but advantageous for the wide variety of scuba divers. Each pair of swim fins will perform differently on different people, so you want to choose the right scuba diving fin for you. You want to make sure you choose swim fins that are comfortable to wear, will allow you to kick/swim for long periods of time without cramping your legs and which don’t pinch your toes or heels.
Not all swim fins are made of the same material, but they all must withstand the effects of sun, salt and sand. To ensure your swim fins last for many years you will want to purchase a high quality pair of swim fins.
Swim fins are worn over neoprene scuba booties. The booties offer durable, pliable padding and protection so that you can strap the fins securely and comfortably to your feet. Swim fins have an open back and a thick strap which buckles behind the heel.
Choosing Swim Fins
When shopping for swim fins the most difficult decision you will need to make is between a split fin or a non-split fin. A traditional swim fin is a simple, elongated flat foot extension (like duck feet). Split fins are a newer design where the swim fin is split in two parts by a lengthwise slit. Split fins are more expensive and offer slightly better propulsion. It is up to the scuba diver whether the higher price justifies minimally improved performance. Suffice to say that while split fins are a nice luxury a properly fit non-split fin is perfectly effective.
Buy your swim fins and scuba booties at the same time. You will want to try both on at once and be absolutely certain they are comfortable together. Once you have both swim fins on sit in a chair and flap them around vigorously. A well-fitting swim fin and a scuba booty will not rub or chafe, it will be snug and secure, but not tight.
The other feature to insist upon is a good strap. Fin straps should be attached on both sides with quick-release buckles which allow you to loosen the strap without detaching it. When loosened, your foot should slip out easily and when tight should be snug and secure. The straps should be thick and durable and the buckles should be equally durable and release with just a little push – easily, but not too easily.
Swim fins come in sizes similar to your shoe size. They should fit like your shoes, snugly without pinching your toes or heels. If your swim fins are too large they will easily be kicked off during a dive. If you plan on wearing scuba booties with your swim fins you need to try on your swim fins while wearing your scuba booties to ensure your swim fins fit properly. You will most likely need to get swim fins that are one size larger if you plan on wearing scuba booties with your swim fins.
Swim fins will have one of two types of foot pockets; full-foot pocket fin or open-heel pocket fin. The full-foot pocket fin encloses your entire foot just as a slipper encloses your foot. The open-heel pocket encloses the front portion of your foot and uses a heel strap to secure the fin to your foot. The heel strap on the open-heel pocket fins can be either adjustable or non-adjustable. Non-adjustable heel straps have an amount of elasticity and hug your heel very closely. Adjustable heel straps have buckles on either side of the foot which allows you to adjust the swim fin to fit your foot, whether you are barefoot or wearing booties. Most scuba divers who dive in cold water prefer the adjustable swim fins because they are easier to use and an easier fit when wearing booties.
Do many scuba divers write on their fins?
No, actually it’s not that common. Most people buy new fins and keep them looking clean and new-looking. Fin graffiti is, as far as I know, a fad that may have originated in Hawaii, or perhaps it started elsewhere and was just more popular among Hawaiian divers than elsewhere. Depending on the society you keep, a pair of well-decorated fins increases your scuba-cred.
The best markers to use on plastic and rubber are the ultra-permanent “Sharpies”. Some divers write the names of famous reefs on their fins after they dive them, a practice reminiscent of the WWII flying aces stenciling symbols on their planes.
Other divers go for a kind of tattoo-flash embellishment on their fins that would look just as fitting on the bottom of a skateboard. No major manufacturers have released “flame-job” fins or “8-ball” fins or highly stylized designs, so the decoration of scuba fins is still a home-grown artistic pastime.