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Finning Your Way to Smoother Dives

Finning involves creating propulsion by moving our scuba fins. In this regard, it's arguably the most fundamental skill in diving that many of us already possess before embarking on our first diving course.

For those who have spent a significant part of their childhood in and around water, it comes as naturally as walking or running. However, similar to running, just because we can do it, doesn't necessarily mean we do it well, let alone optimally. Therefore, much like runners can enhance their running enjoyment and efficiency, many divers can achieve great improvements by working on their finning techniques.


Enhancing your finning technique, especially by selecting the appropriate method for specific situations, can heighten the efficiency of your dive. Consequently, this will reduce your air consumption and the physical exhaustion you endure during a dive, extending your dive times and enhancing your overall enjoyment. Moreover, making the right choice in finning technique can reduce the extent of environmental disruption you create. Employing the correct finning technique can lead to fewer disturbances, such as harming corals, or kicking up silt when diving near silty seabeds.

Finning Techniques - Pros and Cons

Flutter kick

The flutter kick is a basic finning technique adopted by most novice divers, resembling the leg movement found in freestyle swimming. The benefit of this kick lies in its forcefulness. It proves highly effective for achieving relatively high speeds and is particularly valuable when contending with strong currents. However, the drawbacks of this kick are related to its advantages. The forceful nature of the kick demands significant physical effort, leading to increased air consumption and exhaustion. Additionally, the vertical motion can stir up substantial silt, particularly when diving near loose sediment on the seabed. During open water dives, this can be bothersome, especially for fellow divers following behind you. In a cave environment, it can be outright hazardous. Furthermore, continuous leg movement can inadvertently substitute for proper technique in maintaining buoyancy.

Modified flutter kick

This modification of the typical flutter kick can prevent contact between your fins and coral or silt. It enjoys popularity among cave and technical divers but is also relevant to recreational diving. To execute this kick, maintain relatively straight thighs, sharply bend your knees, and propel yourself using only the lower part of your legs and ankles.

Frog kick

The frog kick closely resembles the leg movement seen in breaststroke swimming. It's an expansive kick that leverages the full power of the legs. This technique is well-suited for open-water diving, whether in the water column or near the seabed. However, due to the non-continuous motion and propulsion, it demands proficient buoyancy control. Consequently, newcomers might encounter challenges, and we advise everyone to learn proper buoyancy control before delving into other aspects, including finning techniques. Excellent buoyancy control is the most important fundamental skill you should cultivate as a diver. The motion involved in the frog kick is predominantly horizontal or very close to it. It means that when swimming near the seabed, there is minimal disturbance of the bottom, which will maintain the visibility for any divers following you, and protect your surroundings.


When you become accustomed to it, this kick, matched with proficient buoyancy control, is likely to become your preferred technique. The key to maximising its efficiency lies in maintaining a well-balanced posture in the water and capitalising on the gliding phase before initiating the next kick. This approach conserves both energy and air.

Modified frog kick

This technique is the preferred method for cave divers and is the one causing the least disruption to the underwater environment. Essentially, it's a condensed variation of the frog kick, involving the same movement but excluding the extension of the legs. The bent knees in this technique result in limited movement, with the entire kick originating from a slight hip movement combined with ankle flicks. It restricts propulsion but reduces strain and conserves air.


The minimal movement makes it particularly effective in confined spaces like wrecks and caves. When executed correctly, it can nearly eliminate any disturbance of sediment, maintaining exceptional water clarity. This is why we recommend using this technique when diving near a highly silted seabed.

Back kick


Experienced divers utilise the reverse-fin or back-kick technique, enabling them to move backwards efficiently in the water without awkward body position changes and energy-draining hand movements.

Learning the backkick enables you to approach delicate marine life safely and withdraw without disrupting the surrounding environment. This approach is environmentally friendly and allows you to observe creatures or capture photos without harming the reef. You can reverse out of tight spots or navigate in close quarters with fellow divers. Whether you find yourself too close to another diver or reconsider entering a swim-through or wreck, the back-kick technique provides an effective means to retreat.

Mastering it requires dedication and practice, but once you've perfected the technique, your dives will become noticeably smoother.

Start with your legs extended straight backwards and your ankles close together. Then, flex your ankles and lower legs outward. By spreading your knees and pulling the fins towards your upper body, you can pivot the fin tips outward at an angle, propelling water towards your torso.

Helicopter turn

The helicopter turn allows you to alter your direction or turn around and look behind you while maintaining a horizontal and streamlined diving position. It proves particularly valuable when navigating confined spaces like wrecks or traversing delicate seabeds where finesse with your fins is essential. It's also practical when you're diving in a drysuit, as a vertical posture could disrupt gas distribution within the suit, negatively impacting your control and buoyancy.


When using setups such as twin sets, side mounts, or technical configurations with substantial weight shifts, the helicopter turn empowers you to preserve your optimal trim. Additionally, it facilitates keeping an eye on your dive buddies or the rest of the dive team without compromising your positioning.

Here's how to do it: Move your fins apart horizontally in an opposing back-and-forth motion. Simultaneously, rotate your ankles and fin blades around their own turning point.

Summary

Each finning technique comes with pros and cons, making them effective for some individuals and less so for others. Additionally, their suitability can vary depending on the type of diving you're engaging in. The key is to experiment with various techniques and identify the one that best suits you, then strive to master that particular method. Regardless of your choice, the aim is to perfect its execution to maximise the enjoyment and benefits of your dives. You can practise these techniques on land by lying on the ground or on a bench to mimic the movements. It's advisable to have a buddy record you, or if possible, record yourself both on land and underwater. Reviewing these videos will provide valuable feedback, highlighting areas you may need to improve. Achieving mastery in these finning techniques won't happen overnight, but with dedicated practice, you'll not only enhance your diving finesse and safety but also increase your enjoyment.


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