Like any newcomer to a sport, there’s often a bewildering array of equipment that you have no idea whether you need, and if you do, which sort are the best.
Does making the wrong choice matter?
While fins can look the same and it might appear as if you can pick a set and away you go, there are a few options that might make a difference to your choice.
Split fins have been around for a while, but are they a good choice? And in particular, are split fins a good choice if you are beginning snorkeling?
Split fins are an excellent choice for a snorkeling beginner. Split fins allow for a shallow flutter kick more practiced by beginners to be more efficient and use less resistance to the water. This will reduce leg fatigue and minimize the risks associated with leg cramps. They provide less power than a full bladed fin so aren’t as good in snorkeling areas with stronger currents or tides.
Split fins aren’t the only choice for a beginner, there are many options available.
The Split Fin
Fins, in general, are used for the purpose of making progress quicker and more efficiently through the water. Less energy is expended to move and there is a safety issue, allowing a snorkeler to counter a current.
Getting anything to fit your feet comfortably can be tricky, but add the necessity to move water to aid propulsion, and a whole new set of problems occurs.
Rental shops or beachfront dive shops will often sell you a generic option for fins that are designed for large overall use.
Taking the time to get yourself kitted out with a good set of well fitting fins will be worth the effort though, as they are much more comfortable, and stop you from getting tired more quickly.
A wholly more pleasant experience.
Snorkeling fins are less than ideal for scuba diving. While they can be used, scuba fins are normally made from a stiffer material and are longer.
Scuba diving is time dependent and can be over in 45 minutes or so. Fins can be longer and the duration may be shorter.
By contrast, snorkeling can be done for hours. Snorkeling fins tend to be more flexible material and shorter to take into account these facts, as well as the more technical aspects of scuba, aren’t necessary.
Snorkelers also often find themselves in environments over coral and shorter fins do less damage, not only to the environment but against other snorkelers in popular locations.
Snorkeling fins are designed for several hours of use without fatigue.
Split fins in particular should be considered by beginners because they build on these concepts. The split fin system doesn’t displace water so much as twist the blades and cause a propeller-type forward motion.
A shallower kick cycle can be used further extending usage while reducing the risk of cramps and aching leg muscles.
Common fin problems for beginners are leg fatigue, cramps in either the calf or ankle and blisters. Comfortable fins will limit these issues.
Advantages Of Split Fins For Snorkeling Beginners
Split fins allow a shallower fin kick more commonly observed with casual snorkelers and make use of this with good energy efficiency.
Thus split fins are good for the following people
- Vacation snorkelers
- Inexperienced snorkelers or those who prefer the flutter kick
- Those with limited mobility
Simply put they’re easy to use and are efficient with the normal flutter kick.
There’s less displacement with split fins so there is less joint pressure. The motion of kicking your legs and feet is easier with them.
So a snorkeler with bad ankles, knees, or hips will probably find split fins easier to use than the full bladed paddle fins.
Those who are new to snorkeling tend to use the flutter kick like they would with freestyle swimming and split fins make maximum use of this tendency. Shorter, faster strokes are the hallmark of the split fin.
The ability of a person new to snorkeling to extend their snorkeling time, and make it easier to do so makes these types of fins more suitable. It seems reducing the likelihood of cramps is attractive to newbies.
Limitations Of Split Fins For Beginners
While split fins are ideal normally. the trade-off is that professional divers will argue that the efficiency of split fins make them unsuitable for combatting stronger currents.
The trait of being easy to use makes them suitable for calm and tranquil waters, but in tidal areas, you may need more power.
So, if you are unsure check with people who have been to the location you are visiting before.
If the snorkeling location you want to visit is known for strong currents, then you might want to get the full bladed fins for safety. They give you that reserve should you need it.
Full bladed fins work on the push against resistance so kicks can be done for maneuverability. Minor ankle movements can produce small pushes in direction easier with full bladed fins.
Final Thoughts – Parting Waves
In essence, a set of split fins for beginners is advisable. They’re certainly not a bad choice. Making forward propulsion more energy efficient allows you to conserve oxygen on a dive.
While you may get a lower speed out of split fins and have to power faster to keep up with someone with full bladed fins, they are easier on the calf muscles, limiting the risk of cramps.
They’re much more suitable for beginners and calm waters where you might not anticipate the need for power.
As long as you have your wits about you while snorkeling, and choosing a good beginner location then the full advantage of a full bladed fin shouldn’t be needed. Ask where the stronger currents are, and when they might do so from a lifeguard if necessary.
A split fin can’t be said to be better than full bladed fins as so much depends upon the use, and there’s a lot of personal preference in there as well. It’s not unknown for experienced divers to have a set of both.
On a personal level, I wouldn’t overthink it. Split fins are a fine choice for a beginner. With a sensible snorkeling location choice, it won’t matter that you don’t have a full bladed fin.
In most vacation spots a full-bladed fin isn’t a definite necessity, and a split fin is fine.