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The good news about scuba fins is that there are more styles and choices than ever before. The challenge for divers is finding the right fins for their body type and diving needs.
The early-generation, full-foot diving flippers are still used by a lot of people. But there are newer, angled styles that allow for more efficient movement through the water.
Scuba divers usually prefer adjustable heel straps and a range of styles -- angled, split or force fins. Snorklers often use paddle fins, which allow for leisurely swims over reefs.
Comfort should be choice No. 1. Dive fins that feel uncomfortable or awkward won't work well for you.
Fins range in designs, from the stiff and forceful paddle to the more flexible split. There also are fins that are full-footed or open heel with straps. Some fins are made of polypropelene, others of natural rubber. Dive fins are not only affordable. They should be among the first equipment purchases a new diver makes. Your new dive fins should fit snugly and feel comfortable.
When shopping for dive fins, consider brand names that have a reputation for quality and performance: Mares, Ocean Master, Oceanic, ScubaPro, Cressi and TUSA. Mares fins are the world's top-selling dive fins, with special patented designs that allow for more powerful kicks and swifter movement.
Fish and dolphins have it easy. They don't have to choose their fins. They are born with them.
With the range of dive fins on the market, how do landlubbers choose the best flippers? Most of us cannot expect to glide like Flipper through the ocean, but new engineering and designs are offering swim fins that allow for a better kick and thrust in the water.
Force fins are catching on in scuba diving. The blades on these swim fins are loved by swimmers whose kick have a forceful punch. Now scuba divers are using force fins for their toe-free foot pockets and upcurved blades that allow for swifter motion with less effort underwater.
Force fins are smaller than traditional scuba fins and made of polyurethane. They are designed to mimic the tail of a tuna or dolphin. Force fins have a growing but loyal following that is cult-like in its devotion to force fins.
Force fins are supposed to fit so well to the contours of a diver's foot that a strap is not needed to hold them on. The recoiling blade is touted for a snap and flexibility that stiffer blades lack.
Consumers will decide whether force fins are a fad or have a toehold in scuba diving. The bottom line is that buying swim fins is a personal choice about fit, comfort and a design that works best for you.
Buying scuba equipment can be a big investment. So it is a good idea to take care of your equipment. Basic maintenance does not require a lot of work. It ensures you are ready -- and you will not have any last-minute delays -- on your next dive.
Expect to pay anywhere from $25-$200 for a new pair of dive fins. That's quite a price range, but with diving equipment you often get what you pay for.
It's better to focus on quality rather than savings. Chances are you will be returning for replacements if you choose a cheap brand of scuba fins that doesn't hold up well to the elements and use.
After you settle on a style and brand of swim fins, choose a pair that fits well. There are some basic tips to follow for just the right fit:
Fun dive fins to try are new versions that promise better kicking force and underwater efficiency. These fins are not the traditional duck-footed dive flippers. They have splits, cutouts and vents to help divers swim faster.
Split fins are the most common and popular. The fins are forked or bisected, with a thin piece missing from the middle. It's like having twin fins on each foot. Divers who use split fins boast of having stronger and more forceful strokes. But there are other divers who still swear by the paddle scuba fins.
Your scuba fins are your wheels in the water. Kicking with flippers allows divers to move with ease. Unlike swimmers, scuba divers do not use their arms much to propel themselves. So it is critical to get swim fins that help you thrust and move with efficiency.
Veteran scuba divers are familiar with the top brands in the industry. Each brand offers distinctive styles and designs. These days there is more science and engineering behind new styles that emerge. Besides sporting cool-looking angles or gill-like vents, this new generation of swim fins is providing unprecedented comfort and speed to open-water diving.
Individual body type and preferences have resulted in several brands that are popular with scuba divers. But there is no one set of fins that tops them all.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|