Choice of my life – FINS!

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Photo by Simone Nicolini

In Russia there is a saying “the legs hinder to a bad dancer”… hahaha So I am in favor of that you can perform an efficient flutter with almost any type of fins. That “almost” refers to split fins that exclusively fulfill their function fluttering in traditional “scissors”, so I discard those fins in this article, as they do not meet the requirements for safe, effective and responsible with the environment diving.

Even so, today there are such many fin manufacturers that one can be lost. I will try to establish a common typology where everyone can find their favorite.

We will identify several categories of fins according to their type, their hardness, their buoyancy / weight and colors. Also, we will talk about different types of straps.

There are two types of fins – classic and “jet fin” fins. Classic fins are usually made of plastic with different degree of rubber addition and have a longer blade which gives them a higher speed (for what?!) when fluttering the traditional “scissors” style, “flutter” (high speed fluttering, which is used over short distances to reach something or someone or to fight a strong current for relatively little time) and “modified flutter”. For more efficient and powerful fluttering over long distances (from normal recreational dives to long-range dives) and more accurate fluttering like frog kick, back kick, or “helicopter” (turn on our axis) it is advisable to choose fins “jet fin” type. Jet fin are also the best for positioning, because of their precision, which is very important for putting ourselves under water for our comfort and safety, that of our buddies and our commitment to the environment.

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A historical fact. The jet fin was born in 1964 for the French Navy, its creator Georges Beuchat has managed to make those fins an immediate success. But these fins have reached their true maximum in the 70’s when Scubapro bought the rights to the design. They took the concept and proceeded to popularize these fins with the United States Navy and commercial diving.

 

 

The hardness of the fins is a rather personal choice. Let’s say there are 3 levels of hardness – soft, hard and very hard. This aspect of fins influences the precision and power of the flutter, being very hard ones very precise and powerful and the soft ones less. Clearly, we are interested that our fins are as accurate as possible, but here we must consider the physical form of each and more of the twins. The very hard fins can cause an overload in the legs so before buying some very hard fins I recommend that you try them. The fins with hard hardness level usually go well for any type of diver that maintains a normal and good physical shape. Soft fins would recommend them for divers who have some leg problems or have had some type of knee or cuff operation, but do not forget that fluttering with these fins will be less powerful.

The buoyancy of the fins is an important aspect that escapes from many divers and they end up with fins that are unsuitable for the type of diving they perform. Generalizing a little bit there are two types – negative buoyancy and neutral / positively neutral buoyancy. The rule is very simple – for dry suit we use fins with negative buoyancy and for wet suits we use fins with neutral / positively neutral buoyancy. The reasoning of this rule is simple. When we dive in dry suit – we have air inside, with which we can play, so an appropriate amount of air in dry suit should be just the amount necessary to remove the compression of the suit by pressure. Part of that air we send to the feet and in this way our heavy (negative) fins are maintained in neutral buoyancy like the rest of our body and equipment. However, when diving in a wet suit we do not have that possibility to create neutral buoyancy in our feet, so it is essential here to have a proper weighting and distribution of our equipment, and to choose well the fins that should be neutral or neutral pulling a bit to positive. The more neutral the fins are and the less they pull to the positive is much better, since this way they do not destabilize us, and we can have absolute control over our long-desired neutral buoyancy.

The choice of the weight of the fins is rather adapted to the saying “for tastes there are colors”. Obviously, the negative buoyancy fins have more weight than the neutral / positive buoyancy fins. And then there are the heavier, less heavy negative fins and the same with neutral fins. The choice over weight must be based on the constitution and physical form of the diver, and on the type of diving that he / she performs. Clearly, for travelling we would choose the less heavy fins, but only if they meet the necessary and adequate requirements for us, mentioned before.

A little comment about the straps of the fins. There are plastic coupling straps, metal buckle straps, rubber straps and spring straps.

  • Plastic coupling straps – these are the standard straps on the plastic fins. They need to be adjusted every time you put them on. Plastic couplings are unreliable and can easily break or disengage at the least opportune moment (Murphy never sleeps).
  • Metal buckle straps – are straps that are sold along with some brands of jet fins. They are quite reliable and tough. They still being rubber that with time deteriorates and can be broken at the least opportune moment (of course). Something uncomfortable to put on because of usually little elastic rubbery so we must adjust them every time. Sometimes the part of the fin where the metallic buckles are hooked will eventually break.
  • Rubber straps – is something relatively new in the dive market. Instead of using a spring, a very elastic rubber is used. They are very comfortable to put, but being rubber they still have a limited shelf life. And if it breaks at the least opportune moment (otherwise it could not be hahaha) it has no remedy at the moment (unless you take bridles under water like I do).
  • The spring straps – already became something classic for the jet fins. They are comfortable to put on, they are usually somewhat harder than rubber ones, but at the same time they are more reliable. Since the spring itself is difficult to break and what usually breaks with time is the cord that passes through the spring and maintains its shape. At the moment of the break the only thing that happens is that the spring loosens a little bit, but of course you will not find yourself in a rush losing the grip of the fin.

And to finish – the color. I cannot not mention that aspect since nowadays appear many discussions that if it is good, bad or regular. The classic color of the traditional fins – still be multicolored and the fins “jet fin” – black. Historically it was thought that jet fins only serve for technical and cave diving, but little by little the dive community begins to realize that the precision and fineness of our underwater movements is just as important when we are diving at 12 meters watching fishes. Hence the “jet fin” of colors. Why black color in technical diving and in caves? So as not to dazzle our buddies who go behind. Why colors in recreational diving? Because that way we are more visible, and it is more fun 😊

From here I leave you the choice of the fins in your hands and it is very important to remember that the more comfortable our underwater equipment is, the more familiar we are with it, the safer and more fun our underwater adventures will be. Safe diving for everyone!

Sasha Karnilovich
UTD Instructor #165

456 km to professionalism

Dedicated to all professionals, especially Barbara Molina

First, I want to tell my story. I am a UTD dive instructor and head of the diving school at Rivemar Cabo de Palos, Spain and spend more time in the water than on the surface. One day it started to cost me to compensate, so I went to a health center of my town to look at my ear. He told me I had a wax plug and prescribed drops of hydrogen peroxide and drops of antibiotic to remove the inflammation. After 2 weeks, I was still in the same situation and I went back to see the doctor. The plug was still there so he sent me to the infirmary to have the wax removed. The nurse put water pressure on my ear and at first everything seemed to have gone well. Half an hour after leaving the infirmary I began to have a sharp and constant pain in the left ear that only was increasing intensity with the passage of time. I have called my health center where I have been told that they are occupy and I have been sent to another health center to the emergency. I went right away and the emergency doctor after seeing my ear and consulting with another doctor has gotten the diagnosis – eardrum perforated!

What is a perforated eardrum for a diver? It’s like a pianist without hands, a soccer player without legs… For me, diving is not just diving. It’s not just my job. It’s my lifestyle, my philosophy, my life, my future. When I heard this sentence, the world fell on me. It may seem exaggerated and pathetic, but a perforation of the eardrum can carry many negative and unpredictable consequences. Crying I called Fran who is the director of the dive center, crying, saying that tomorrow I start a course and I have another 3 until the end of the month… He tries to reassure me, and after a council of several friends I call Barbara Molina, who is a hyperbaric doctor and specialist in otolaryngology, good customer of Rivemar, and tells me to go see her. The next day I make those 456 kilometers to Madrid, to the hospital where she works. Along the way, from the accumulation of nerves and the stress that I had, I had a contracture in the back (the same day on the afternoon, I visited my physio and it took him almost 2 hours to remove it), well, I arrived at my destination and were waiting in the hospital with mind blank thinking about the coming months… Finally, Barbara’s room, full of tools and gadgets, makes me a tympanometry, an ultrasound of the ear and I don’t know what else, and her verdict is that it is not a perforation of the eardrum! It is a duct wound caused by aggressive cleansing, but it is not the eardrum. I did not know how to thank her for the news she gave me. I did not know how to thank her for the professionalism with which she treated me. A detailed report, drops to heal the wound and one week without diving. Then my trip back with music to the top, 2 hours with physiotherapist and then a beer with friends, with our yellow team that has supported me always. At that time in history I want to thank all the people who have cared for me, that day seemed like my birthday because of so many calls and messages.

To what I am going… From that moment, I have clear, if I have any problem with health related to diving – I do not care about the money nor the time that I will invest to see a professional. And the important thing is that this should be a rule. Regardless of the professional area of the person. And less when it comes to health. The professionalism should be sought, but when you find it you will never regret it. Nobody would like the electricity or the pipe in your house to make an incompetent?! Neither do we call an electrician to fix the roof. The same goes for the doctors and with everything in our life!

Why do we leave some things aside, why do we think that for some jobs we need a professional, but for others, whatever?

That’s right – the eternal question of diving forums around the world! The perfect instructor! It does not have to be perfect, it should be professional. And the professionalism is seen both in his own technique of diving, as in the treatment, in the equipment he wears, in the explorations or diving trips that he does…

I have learned a good lesson… And I give all the thanks of the worldwide world, of the universal universe and of the new alignment to the professionals of all the professional areas, who have invested their lives in their works, and especially to Barbara Molina, for the existence of people in whom we can trust our health.

I’ve done my 456 kilometers until I find the professionalism, are you willing to invest your time and effort in finding yours? It is a question that we should all ask ourselves.

Sasha Karnilovich // UTD Instructor #165

Walking diver

A few days ago, in one of the bay of Cabo de Palos, Spain, I could see these images of a diver (in technical diving configuration – he was with a double tank) alone walking through the bottom with fins in hand. The first reaction I had – God, what’s going on here? Immediately I asked him if he was OK, he said OK and he continued his walk direction to the beach by the bottom. I was with my REC1 students, so my students obviously afterwards began to ask me what it was that we have seen. Of course, in the theoretical classes we talk a lot about the importance of maintaining good buoyancy and a good trim for several reasons, one of which is to be respectful to the environment, to be “ocean friendly”.

What reasons did this diver have for walking in the background? I have no idea. And the truth is that I don’t want to know it, because he has “killed” many underwater bugs along his way and in this case, he has no excuse. Yes, it’s just a bay, it is not a reservation area, but we should worry about marine life where we are intruders all time. In the same bay, thirty seconds before I saw the walking diver I saw some babies of octopus and moray. We are visitors who have come uninvited. So, at every moment we should be aware and responsible for our actions.

Diving is fun! Yes, but we should have fun in common sense respecting the environment in which we find ourselves. When we have fun on the streets and if we have fun excessively – we get a penalty fee or attention from a cop, right? Well, it’s a shame that there are no policemen under water, and since we are the lucky few we can enjoy the immensity of the world ocean, we are going to be our own policemen and take care of the environment in which we find ourselves.

I don’t want to say that it’s a crime to touch or get caught up in the bottom when you’re a novice, or when you come across an emergency, but whenever possible you should avoid it. And every day you should improve your skills as a diver to avoid those “emergencies”, you should dive more often, if there is no possibility to dive more often – every time you go to the water after a long time of inactivity you should ask in your dive center for a “refresh”, and then, of course, continue to advance in your training as a diver taking courses, to become a more conscious, safer and more responsible diver with each “step” (strikethrough) kick you do.

Good diving for all!

Sasha Karnilovich // UTD Instructor # 165

Some secrets about buoyancy

Fortunately, because of my work (or unfortunately) I find many divers who don’t know how to control their buoyancy. But a few days ago, I came across a case of a diver who had totally uncontrolled buoyancy. He dropped in uncontrolled descent followed by an uncontrolled ascent and followed by another fall like a lead almost to the bottom (-45m). In every moment, I had to intervene “putting hand” to his BCD and inflator, otherwise it would be dangerous for the diver.

Who is guilty? The diver? In part yes, but this problem really has roots in the first day when one is presented to the world of the diving, in his course of initiation. The importance of teaching buoyancy from the first day is the same as the ability to empty the mask. So why not everybody does it? All manuals of diving initiation talk about buoyancy, but how many instructors teach it? How many divers with 5 dives can say that they control their buoyancy and can descend, ascend and dive having the perfect control of it? And with 500 dives?

As I always say, buoyancy is the ability to be under water where you want to be. Do you want to ascend 30 centimeters? You ascend it and stay there. Do you want to descend 1 meter? You come down and stay there. Without sudden movements, without constantly using the BCD, maintaining control always.

Before figuring out how we do it, we should discover the causes and symptoms of poor buoyancy control.

Symptoms of negative buoyancy (uncontrolled):

1. If you stop and stop moving, you go down.
2. If you stop and constantly do the movement with your hands down like the rappers.
3. If you stop and you need to flutter to stay on the same depth.
4. During the ascent, you need to flutter up.
5. During the descent if you fall with a horizontal trim and to stop you need to stand upright and flutter.

Symptoms of positive buoyancy (uncontrolled):

1. When diving you have a trim with a negative angle (head is lower than knees) and you have to flutter constantly.

Symptoms of uncontrolled buoyancy:

1. You constantly need to inflate or deflate your BCD.
2. You change the depth before controlling it more than 1 meter (both up and down).
3. You constantly need to move your legs and / or hands.

And now, without discovering America, how do we do it?

1. Knowing the capacity of our lungs and USING THEM!
2. Knowing our equipment (in this case BCD and dry suit) and using all its potential correctly (to know when to use the inflator and when the dump valve, when we must add or remove gas from the dry suit, to know how strong and how long we must have the button pressed or pulling the valve cord, “feel” the amount of gas that we add and that we take out).

Let’s go to the important thing. How is it achieved?

1. Training in shallow waters and controlled environments.
2. Constantly training in each dive. Because during any dive you can enjoy it at 100% and train the skills without taking away the part of the fun.
3. Record you on video – we will always have a better reference of what we do well or badly having some visual support.
4. Having a proper diving education. A good instructor will always tell you tips and techniques that you by yourself will take a long time to discover.

I want to pay special attention to the fact that in this article I have not touched the theme of a TRIM which is just as important and is linked very closely to the buoyancy. It has been the purpose, it is so that you are willing to wait for my next article about the trim 😊 And still you can have an exquisite buoyancy and not have a good trim, in this case the buoyancy costs much more, it is more difficult to maintain it and it’s much less efficient… But we’ll talk about it later.

I hope this article has been of your interest! Have a safe dive and always enjoy it! See you under water 😊

Sasha Karnilovich // UTD Instructor #165