Best Diving Fins 2018
Compared to regulators, fins are a simple piece of gear but read the product descriptions, and you could be more confused by the technical puffery than you would be any regulator information. Flow rate, material composition and scientific justification all combine to overcomplicate a simple but essential bit of kit. Let’s streamline things.
NAME OF FINS
Two Main Choices
There are two main styles of fin, open heel or closed foot.
A closed foot fin has a foot pocket with a heal cup that you fit your bare foot directly into. An open heel fin has a foot pocket that covers the forward part of your foot and a strap, which goes around your heel to secure the fin onto your foot.
You wear a bootie on your foot inside open heel fins. Your bootie offers comfort and warmth and protects your foot on the boat or shoreline plus it helps prevents cuts and blisters. For this reason, the open heel fins are the choice of most scuba divers.
As you don’t wear booties with closed foot fins you can only wear them in warm water, couple this with their lightness and suitability for snorkelling and they do make a great holiday fin. The downside is that their lightness means you don’t get as much power from them and they are prone to causing cuts and blisters.
All open heel fins will come with adjustable fin straps, which make the fit suitable for a range of sizes. The straps attach to buckles on the fin, which, once you pull them tight, stay in place due to ridges on the strap. To release them you have to pop the buckle or release the strap. The system works, but when your hands are cold and wet or if you are wearing gloves it does make life a little more complicated. If you struggle with reaching your fins, then the adjustment and securing of the strap can be troublesome. In more recent years manufacturers have come up with the idea of a stretchy heel strap which eliminates the fuss. You just pull open the spring to get your foot in and then release to secure your foot in place. These do not come as standard in all fins but can be purchased to replace the straps on most fins, whether they’re pin style or buckle style strap attachments and there’s even a bungee option as well.
Blade design for propulsion efficiency is where the men-in-white-coats set out to bamboozle. There are many different choices and designs can include channels, blade edging, vents, varying flexibility, and materials, and then, of course, there is the polarising split fin debate.
By its very nature, a fin with a split is going to offer less resistance and the design favours a flutter kick versus a frog kick. Split fins are great if you suffer from knee or joint problems, but they do take some getting used to. A traditional blade does require more power, but it rewards you with greater propulsion.
Many fins incorporate channels, which are created by using alternating materials to create a u-shape. The U is most often created, by including a rubber panel into the blade; this design captures more water and therefore offers greater propulsion.
How to choose
Feelings tend to run deep when it comes to fin choice and most divers have a favourite but don’t obsess. Remember that the heavier, larger, or more rigid a fin, the greater power you will need to push it through the water; buy something with consideration to your size, strength, and ability and also where you want to use them.
Cressi Frog Plus
These Cressi fins are light in weight for an open heel fin which makes them an excellent choice for those that don’t dive very often or are new to diving. If you are smaller and usually get cramps with heavier fins, then this is another occasion when these fins would be a good choice. They perform well in most conditions, but if you know you will be diving in very strong current, they won’t do the job as well as a fin with a stiffer blade. If you are used to a heavy fin and have powerful kicks, then these will feel somewhat weaker. The buckle and strap can be a bit tricky at first.
Cons: Tricky buckle
Mares Avanti Quattro Plus
Often heralded as the ‘instructor’s choice’ this fin is a solid all-around choice. It’s been on the bestseller list for 20 years which should tell you everything you need to know about this product. It’s comfortable to wear and has a blade stiff enough for powerful strokes however this might not suit those divers used to a softer and easier-to-kick-with fin. The blade design includes the alternating materials to create the u-shape for extra water capture and propulsion. The foot pocket is comfortable, and the bungee heel strap makes them very easy to use. The fin is available in many different colours. The only downside to this fin is that you need to write your name on them as there’s always more than one pair on the boat.
Cons: Not suitable for those with a weak kick
These fins are a design that is often called ‘military style’, but they mimic coast guard fins. The style is tough, short and heavy with holes or vents within the blade that assist with water flow forcing water back like jets. The short but wide blade gives good power and manoeuvrability. The blade features a slight curve towards the tip to enhance the thrust. A standard buckle and strap comes with the design, but this can be replaced with a spring strap although this is an additional cost. These fins are the cheaper end of the range for this style and suffer in terms of comfort, fit, and flexibility versus their competitors.
Pros: Cheap for the style
Cons: Not as comfortable as other brands.
Apeks RKS Military
One of the top products in the military style of fin, the Apeks RKS Military fin comes complete with an easy to use and comfortable spring strap. The buckle and stainless steel nut and bolt are incredibly secure. The blade is short and wide with three water vents to assist in propulsion. The material is tough and rugged and will stand up to much; this does make it on the heavier side though. This fin adds weight when travelling and might not be the best for those with a not so powerful kick. There are holes towards the tips of the fin which allow you to attach a carabiner to them for safe storage.
Pros: Handy Storage
Tusa SF 15 X-Pert Zoom Z3
This fin is as scientific as they come. It’s a split fin design that incorporates three materials which combine to offer increased performance versus its competitors. The foot pocket has been engineered to ensure the greatest power transfer to the blade. The blade itself is angled at a patented 27 degrees; this feature aims to curtail any lost propulsion caused by natural finning position. The outer edges of the fins are reinforced which increases fin stability because it reduces the separation of the blades. This feature means that this split fin is more amenable to different kick styles. The buckles and straps are easy to use and adjust however overall the fin is quite heavy.
Pros: Great design
Apollo Bio Fin
Apollo spearheaded the split fin technology that other brands now emulate, and their fins always make the grade. These split fins are angled at 20 degrees to work with your body and reduce strain on your knees. The split fin design aims to offer the best propulsion versus effort so much so that the manufacturers claim wearing them will reduce your air consumption. The blades rigidity responds quickly for manoeuvrability and works well with all finning styles. The fins are durable and offer a smooth, easy kick and they are kind on your ankles during giant stride entries.
Pros: Great for divers with knee problems
Cressi Reaction Pro
The Cressi Reaction Pro closed foot fin has a slightly longer blade than usual, couple this with their lightweight design and you have a fin that’s great for scuba diving, snorkelling, and free diving. The foot pockets are created with the use of elastomers which offers excellent comfort. The blade design starts part way along the foot pocket to transfer maximum power to the blade. The blade itself tapers to the tip and uses a silicone based material to create a channelling effect for increased propulsion.
Cons: Long blade can take some getting used to.
Oceanic Viper Full Foot Fin – Warrior Edition
The Viper fin’s blades have thrust channels that efficiently direct water to the tip of the blade. The blades edging helps keep the water on track to the tip to ensure that no power is lost by water slipping out over the edge. They are responsive and efficient and make great snorkelling and scuba fins too. They are lightweight and suitable for travel. The proceeds from the sale of this fin benefit the Warrior Scuba Program which aims to empower and rehabilitate veterans.
Pros: Good for travel
Cons: Not suitable for powerful kickers
Mares Superchannel Full Foot
These fins are compact which make them great for travel. The foot pocket has been moulded with varying thickness and offers excellent comfort. The blade design incorporates three channels which has been dubbed the Superchannel effect as it provides the most efficient effort to propulsion performance. Not only does the design drastically reduce water spillage over the edge of the fin but it maximises the amount of water moved. The design was created by observing marine mammals.
Pros: Great propulsion
Cons: Heavy comparative to other closed heel fins
Scuba Pro Twin Jet Full Foot Split Fin
Scuba Pro Twin Jet fins describe their design as propeller technology. The blade’s split, shape and flexibility allows for maximum water flow. The blade starts close to the heel which offers increased power transference and vents reduce drag. The design provides stability and requires minimum effort. The foot pocket is soft and comfortable. These fins are great if you are looking for split fin technology with a closed foot design.
Pros: Great propulsion
One fin does definitely not fit all, and you need to buy based on what you need. If you are buying open heel, then I would recommend the Mares Avant Quattro without hesitation. However, if you have knee or joint problems then look at the Apollo Split Fins. For closed foot the Mares Superchannel are the favourite pick if scuba diving is all you will use them for, otherwise consider the Cressi Reaction Pro as an excellent all-rounder for scuba, snorkelling, or free diving.