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.
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!
UTD Instructor #165