Fins, there’s a time and place for each kind, but how do you know which is right? I got my first pair of fins in back in 2003 when I was twelve. They were a hard plastic fin made by Scubapro. At the time they were perfect for the cold water quarry diving I was doing and the once a year vacation dives I went on. As time went on getting new fins was the last thing on my mind and in 2013 when I moved to North Carolina to teach, it became immediately apparent that I was behind on my fin game.
They were tossed almost a week later.
In their place I was given (for free) neon pink Scubapro split fins. I thought they were awesome! They were great for my frog kick especially when diving on all of the wrecks present in the NC waters. They weren’t too heavy and come on, who doesn’t like neon pink! It never really seemed odd to me that I was always had to kick harder than my students on shore dives, fighting the incoming or outgoing tide, I just figured my college swimming days were over and I was out of shape, so I continued to dive them for the 8 months season I was there. The neon pink made it easy for my students to find me in limited visibility and they seemed to work well with my frog kick; just not against any major current.
I moved to Florida in the late spring of 2014 and it was made obvious that split fins were not welcome on dive boats, let alone neon pink split fins. Drift diving was a new breed of diving for me. I was used to mooring balls and anchor lines in the cold, limited vis of New Jersey, the shore entire of our quarry in Pennsylvania, and the Carolina Rigging system
that you NEVER let go of in North Carolina. I was not used to stepping off a boat, sinking to the bottom and letting the current take you away. It’s a relaxing experience which any pair of comfortable fin is appropriate for BUT the problem surfaces with you; getting on the boat. As you float on the surface waiting for the boat to get you, you are still being carried by the waves and current, captains try their hardest to get as close as they can to you, but sometimes you still need to fight against the current to at least get one hand on a ladder. Split fins …. Don’t quite cut it. You can kick as hard as you want, but your split fins will not get you to that ladder with a ripping surface current, and I learned that the hard way. I’ve also found that my split fins are extremely difficult to remove. With two hands,
one hand, or someone else’s hand, they are awful to take off at the end of a dive especially when try to stay on a ladder! The rubber is too soft and the fin pocket creates a suction to the boot making is super difficult to remove in-water. After a month of struggling with this on Florida dive boats, and the embarrassing moment of showing up on a hard-core spearfishing trip with them, I ditched the split fins.
From there I was given Jet fins and the Dive Rite fins to try and compare.
Initially I was split between the two (no pun intended). The Jet fins are sturdy and rigid and give great propulsion with little effort. However, the first dive in them after transitioning from the split fins was super sloppy. If you’ve ever seen the youtbe videos of “dogs with socks on” … that’s what I looked like .. if you haven’t seen it … well, you want to. Once I adjusted to having a solid rubber on my foot the dives went more smoothly but in a 3 mm wetsuit with 5mm booties, my feet felt heavy. Super heavy. I was concentrating more on keeping my feet up in the prone position for frog kicking instead of the actual scenery of the dive. The Jet fins got me back to the boat no problem, but your legs are exhausted after a long dive trying to keep your feet from dragging.
After a few dives in the Jet Fins, I switched over the Dive Rite fins, again the switch in fins made me all sorts of wonky on the first dive (it looked like amateur hour). With the Dive Rite fins, I wore converse sneakers instead of booties because I was afraid my feet would be too buoyant with wet suit booties on sins the Dive Rite fins are substantially lighter than the Jet fins. The converse sneakers in the fins worked really well, and the sturdy long
fin blade also moved me through the water quickly.
A few weeks later I transitioned into diving in some colder water which required a heavier wetsuit. I dove a 7mm wetsuit and maintained the 5mm booties. The Jet fins seemed slightly less heavy with the positive buoyancy from the additional neoprene. For the second dive I wore the same 7 mm suit and 5 mm booties but with the Dive Rite fins. This was a great combo, my feet felt a little floaty but considering I was diving sidemount in a cavern it was not a bad problem to have.
This past weekend, I dove a drysuit with the Jet Fins which was the perfect match. The weight of the Jet fins worked well with the dry suit. My feet did not feel like they were floating and they did not feel like they were dragging. The only problem I encountered was the straps were adjusted to fit my wetsuit booties which I tend to wear loose, so throughout the dive it felt like I was going to lose a fin (but I didn’t).
So where does this leave me with my fin debacle?
Split fins – are great for no currents, frog kick, easy dives (aka my celebratory beer fin)
Jet fins - are a heavy sturdy fin, great for thicker wetsuit booties and dry suits, good propulsion in currents and cold water diving
Dive Rite fins – are much lighter and longer; they are great for heavy current, thick or thin wetsuit booties, warm or cold water diving, and traveling
With this being said, I’ve come to the convulsion that my split fins have the perfect pocket to hold beer and make a great celebratory beer fin. My Jet fins are going to be perfect with my dry suit especially because the pocket is big enough for dry suit booties and the weight helps to prevent float feet. For all other dives, warm, cold, traveling, fun, instructional, sidemount, etc, I will be rockin’ the Dive Rite fins!