Last Updated: March 23, 2023
If you are looking to go snorkeling, having the right equipment is something you should go to great lengths to achieve.
Snorkeling has experienced tremendous growth over the decades, and still, more people are getting to love it. As such, many snorkeling equipment manufacturers have upped their game, producing a wide range of gear, including fins, for every person’s needs and preferences.
Talking about preferences, should you go with short fins or long fins?
Well, it depends on what you need to achieve. But generally short fins require more power to produce thrust compared to long fins, which are generally easier to maneuver.
Let’s delve deeper into the similarities and differences of these snorkeling accessories.
Do You Need Fins For Snorkeling?
For most people, especially experienced swimmers, fins are unnecessary. The most important equipment you’ll need is a snorkel mask, which helps you see inside the water.
So, you can snorkel without fins.
However, they are a valuable addition. They help you improve your water mobility and conserve energy. So to have a better experience and be more comfortable, you’d rather have them.
Fins also give you more thrust in the water. They have a larger surface area than your bare feet, so you’ll exert more force with each flick. With them, you can snorkel longer without straining your leg muscles. This force will also enable you to swim against waves and currents effortlessly.
Another benefit you get by swimming with fins is more control. You can use them to perform the frog kicking technique, the most efficient technique for most snorkelers. If you are a casual snorkeler, you can use the fins for the flutter kick, which is simply moving your legs up and down opposite each other in short but rapid strokes. You’ll save energy and avoid the sand and corals below.
Another advantage fins will give you is you won’t need your hands to swim. Just a few flicks of the fins can help you turn corners, pivot in a place or even move backward, all without doing a thing with your hands. They help you see the underwater world quietly and gently.
Fins will also help you streamline your body and reduce movements. With them on, you won’t need to swim as you do without them (kicking continuously and waving your arms).
How Long Are Short Fins and Long Fins?
Fin length is measured in terms of inches. Short fins are generally less than 25 inches long and are designed for swimmers and snorkelers.
On the other hand, long fins are more than 25 inches long and designed for scuba divers.
There are also fins longer than 40 inches – these are designed for freediving and spearfishing.
Types of Snorkeling Fins
Since snorkeling has been gaining popularity over time, manufacturers have developed a variety of fins to suit every user’s taste, preference, or intended use.
Understanding the different types can help you choose the most suitable fin. Here are some common types of fins.
- Open-heel fins
They have stiffer and larger foot pockets since they are used together with dry-suit boots or neoprene dive booties. They have adjustable bungee or heel straps that secure the area behind your heel, thus providing a more secure fit. You can use them in a wide range of water temperatures. Some have adjustable blades to fine-tune the amount of thrust they provide.
- Closed-heel fins
These fit perfectly like a shoe. They are designed to be worn over soft neoprene socks or bare feet. They are comfortable to put on and provide a good amount of thrust. They are mostly designed to be used in warm waters, so they may not be suitable for use in cold water.
- Split fins
These fins allow the blades to flex in the middle, thus reducing the amount of kicking force required to move in the water. They are ideal for a wide range of water temperatures but not rough waters or strong currents.
- Blade fins
They are designed to give snorkelers more propulsion and thus are ideal for those who want to cover a lot of area fast. They are made using stiff materials resulting in less flexibility, so they may not be best suited for beginners.
- Adjustable fins
These fins allow you to adjust their blade shape and size to suit your needs. They can be adjusted to fit a wide range of foot sizes and are suitable for various water conditions and temperatures.
Each fin has unique features that make it ideal for different needs. So before settling on a fin, consider your needs and preferences and choose one that will serve you best according to your needs.
Short or Long Fins – Key Differences and Features
Both short and long fins will help improve your snorkeling experience. But they have some differences and unique features that set them apart.
Thrust, Power, and Speed
What is thrust?
It is the force that pushes you forward in response to the backward pressure of your kicks. The more the backward pressure of the kicks, the greater your thrust, which translates to faster acceleration and more speed.
Bother short and long fins produce thrust, but long fins are more efficient in this than short fins. This is due to their larger surface area that pushes more water back.
However, to experience the ultimate potential of the long fins, you’ll need more power from your legs and the correct finning techniques. So if your legs are not strong enough or you have not mastered proper techniques, you’d struggle using the long fins.
You can generate more thrust using short fins, but to do this, you’d need to kick more and at a higher frequency. But you’d rather use the short fins until you develop more strength or master the appropriate technique.
Flexibility and Stiffness
Long fins and short fins have varying degrees of stiffness and flexibility. But generally, long fins are stiffer and less flexible.
Long fins need to move more water, so they experience higher resistance from the water. They are therefore made stiffer, so they can handle the resistance without too much bending. With it, you’ll be able to move faster but need more leg power to scoop the water.
Short fins do not move as much water as long fins, so the resistance from the water is much lower. Because of this, they are made less stiff, making it easier for you to kick but not generating so much thrust.
Since long fins are more efficient in providing thrust to propel forward movement, maneuvering with them can be difficult. It takes a lot of practice to learn various kicking techniques.
Using only the standard flutter kick with the long fin won’t afford you absolute usability. You’ll need to master techniques such as helicopter turn, frog kick, and reverse kick for awesome maneuverability. Scuba divers use the long fins since they get more control over their movements, even when bogged down with equipment.
On the other hand, short fins are easier to maneuver because they are small and more flexible. This makes them ideal for less experienced users. But with practice, you can maneuver with a long fin as well as you do with a short fin.
When a Longer Fin is Better
Long fins are definitely not for everyone, especially non-experienced snorkelers, since they will find it difficult to use them. They still don’t have enough leg power causing them to strain their leg muscles, which can easily break their snorkeling experience.
Only experienced snorkelers should use a long fin. But if you get to this level, consider scuba diving or free diving since the long fins are recommended only for such activities. This is because they provide more thrust and control, which scuba and free divers need during their adventures.
But if you are more experienced in snorkeling and want to move fast to cover a greater area, you can also use the long fins.
So What Kind of Fins are Best for Snorkeling?
Now that you know about long and short fins, including their differences and features, which is the best for snorkelers?
By considering various aspects of fins, short fins are the best for most snorkelers.
Here is why.
They are easier to kick and give less fatigue, so you won’t have to strain your leg muscles. Each stroke of a short fin is easier to make; thus, you need lesser power to use them than longer fins. Though they provide less thrust, they still do the job. Moving fast shouldn’t be a thing for snorkelers since your main aim is to chill on the water’s surface most of the time and not swim long distances, trying to go against currents.
With short fins, snorkelers are less likely to kick other snorkelers, corals, and sea life. Beginner snorkelers can get clumsy with long fins as they learn to kick. In addition, short fins are also easy to maneuver, meaning that if you have them, you are less likely to hit other snorkelers, corals, or sea life accidentally.
Short fins are also easier to walk with on the shores as you head for the water.
Finally, short fins are also easier to travel with since they are smaller. There are currently a lot of restrictions on luggage in air travel; so many airlines are keener on luggage size and weight. As a snorkeler traveling to a snorkeling destination by air, a short snorkel will take up much less space in your luggage, helping you keep your luggage below the limits.
So if you want to go snorkeling, get a short fin. It will serve you just right.
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.