tow snorkelers underwater

Can You Snorkel Without Fins?

Most people who have never snorkeled before ask this question. Looking at the basic equipment of snorkel, fins, and masks, the fins stick out somehow.

They’re bulky for travel, and it seems like you may not need them. A beginner may even look at pictures where they’re not being used. If they aren’t necessary, then can you do without them.

So, can you snorkel without fins?

Yes, you can snorkel without fins but experienced snorkelers will always use them. They use them to not only make the swimming easier but for safety. Open water has currents and tides which fins will assist you with. If you are going to snorkeling without fins it’s best in shallow water and an enclosed environment.

So, yes it is possible to snorkel without them.

However, a slightly better question is whether it’s a good idea to snorkel without fins. Fins have disadvantages for sure, but they also have some key advantages.

If you want to learn about those advantages, and what types of snorkeling might it be OK to not use fins, then please keep reading.

some snorkelers in shallow water on the surface

Advantages Of Fins

Fins come in many different shapes and sizes from short lightweight travel fins to the larger bladed split fins. While there are specific reasons for each, in general, a pair of fins will allow you the following advantages

Faster movement – The first advantage of fins is immediately obvious. With the larger blades, you extend the kicking power of a foot stroke. A kick will displace more water but require more effort.

The result will be that as you kick with fins on you propel yourself faster through the water. You can use this to travel greater distances over a set amount of time. A snorkeler can cover more of the aquatic world, and see more.

Quite effortlessly you can travel with 50% increased speed

Safety – The second reason, safety, is directly related to the first. You can use the ease at which you can increase speed to either lower your speed and thus improve breathing efficiency and oxygen intake or to kick fast to move faster through the water.

Why might this be important?

The ocean, unlike a pool, is not a static environment. Most bodies of water you may snorkel in will have tides and currents of water, A snorkeler, even staying still will move with the body of water.

In the case of a riptide, it will be whether you want to or not. A set of fins allows you more power to go against these natural currents. In a riptide, swim perpendicular to the tide not against it. The theory is to move into slack water nearby so you can return easier.

Diving – Once a snorkeler moves out of the shallower water the opportunity to dive becomes available. Most will duck dive and quickly be beneath the waves.

As the legs go beneath the water the small kicks can propel you down towards the daybed faster. This is handy for maximizing the time on the sea bed as you hold your breath, but also if you are not good at diving, the additional power is of great assistance.

Efficiency – Symmetry is the lifeblood of aquatic life. Look at any marine animal and you will see almost effortless grace as they glide through the water,

The opposite, aggressive movement sends the invisible signal of distress.

While using fins will strengthen your leg muscles, a snorkeler with fins can use less energy to achieve movement. This uses less oxygen, and assists in a smooth dive.

Stand on rocky ground – A snorkeler can certainly have a pair of ‘booties’ for walking around on land prior to entering the water, the fact is that fins can make it less harsh on the soles of your feet before you enter the water to swim around.

Buoyancy and swimming position – Fins are not made of a material that sinks or is neutrality buoyant, but plastic or rubber that slightly floats. This will assist those who think they sink a bit in the water.

Also, there is a natural resistance to the blade so kicking on the surface will elongate the body into the proper kicking position making a snorkeler more efficient.

two snorkelers against the surface and sun backlit

Disadvantages Of Fins

Of course, it’s only right that I mention some of the disadvantages, of which I think they are a triviality.

Cost – While not excessive in cost, with fins being available for less than a round of drinks at a gold club, nevertheless there is an additional cost to the gear, that you may feel aren’t necessary.

You may even have to purchase scuba footwear to make them more comfortable, but they aren’t that expensive either.

It comes down largely to whether you are snorkeling as a ‘one-off’ or whether the activity might be more sustained, or repeated.

Encumbrance – No doubt about it, they are easily the biggest and most annoying bit of the kit to travel with. The very quality that makes them essential when going up against a current is the trade off for having to find somewhere to put them.

The movement to the water – If the water isn’t easy to get to then you may have to put the fins on beforehand. If this is the case then they are a bit awkward to move in.

Cause natural damage – The bigger blades are more likely to cause damage to the things around you. Fish will avoid you, and dart out the way. Coral or other parts of the natural environment won’t.

Comfort – This is easily overcome, but having a pair of fins that fir you well, and don’t cause you problems is a blessing. If it does then you need to get the issue corrected.

a snorkeler in clear water near dive boat

Snorkeling Without Fins

A person can snorkel for various reasons. It can be a one-off on a holiday, it can be casual, or it can be an ‘every time I find myself with the opportunity’ kind of deal.

The nearer you are to just doing it to cross off a list, or it seems a good idea while you’re there, the more just renting a mask and trying it is attractive.

A case of ‘why bother with the fins?’ right?

Well, hopeful the advantages of them outweigh the disadvantages, and you’ll get a set, even if it’s just for the safety aspect.

It pays to do some research of anyplace you snorkel and ask a lifeguard on duty if you must to get their opinion. They can tell you local currents, and give you an assessment.

There are some things to think about if you decide not to use them, or wondering if you can get away without them.

Whatever you decide, just make sure you, and everyone you are responsible for are safe. I have seen people carried by riptides for snorkeling outside the designated areas, and have to be rescued.

That said, here are a few conditions you could easily get away without fins should you choose.

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