Snorkel fins have evolved a fair bit over the years. As they are used for not just snorkeling, but scuba diving and swim training as well, you don’t just have one type of fin available to you. While you can choose specifics when it comes to the straps and the foot pockets, there is no feature more important than the blade type of your snorkel fin. The different types of blade produce different effects while in the water. Some require less effort when kicking while other specialize in providing maximum thrust.
Do you know what the difference is between the blade types on your fins?
Also referred to a “standard” fins, paddle fins are the most typical blade design. It is designed to propel you forward without a second thought to anything else. As the blade is flat, it allows water to spill over the side which reduces the stroke efficiency of the fins. This also causes turbulence in the water, otherwise known as splashing, that may disturb some marine life while snorkeling. Essentially, paddle fins are like the canoe ore of snorkel blades. It gets you around, but it doesn’t make it as easy as it could be.
A step up from the standard fin, the vented fin is essentially flat paddle fins which are vented at the base of the foot pocket. These vents allow water to pass through the fin during the recovery stroke while still keeping water out during the power stroke. If that doesn’t mean much to you, simply put, it reduces the effort needed to kick so you can have a powerful stroke without tiring yourself out as fast.
Channel fins may look like a standard fin, but they typically use less polymers and more silicone on the blade which allows it to flex better while in the water. When you kick using a set of channel fins, the blade forms a ‘U’ shape that captures water and channels it out the flipper of the fin rather than over the sides. This jet of water not only creates some great thrust, but you can get quite a bit of speed out of it as well.
Split fins are one design that heavily deviated from the design of the standard fin. Like their name suggests, they have a split running down the middle that effectively make them two fins supported by stiffer side walls.
This type of fin blade works similar to a boat propeller or the wings or a plane. Instead of using recoil to give thrust, you are propelled by the lift created by water passing through the splits. It is this design that makes kicking vastly less exhausting and puts less of a strain on your legs and ankles. However, the trade off of easier thrust is that they can be more cumbersome for maneuvering around in the water.
These are a relatively new type of blade design, and one you are more likely to see if you are into scuba diving rather than snorkeling. These bent fin blades allow divers to get the best possible angle of attack on a power stroke, greatly improving the power and speed of a thrust. While this is good for frequent scuba divers, because these fin blades are usually a little larger, they are not opportune for snorkeling in shallow spots.