Finning is a term that means generating enough propulsion by moving your scuba fins. In a sense, it is a fundamental skill for diving, and it’s likely one that you learn immediately when you take a dive course. However, it can take some practice to do, especially if your body isn’t used to the motion.
As such, it is important to learn about the various finning techniques out there. Here, we list them down and explain them, as well as describe how essential it is to use the right kick.
Choosing the Right Kick Based on Circumstance
The right finning technique is important because it can increase efficiency for your dive. There are a variety of options out there, and all of them are good and used for different purposes. Therefore, it’s helpful to learn about the circumstances you might find yourself in so that you can be prepared to know which kick is ideal.
Of course, your goal is to decrease air consumption and physical fatigue you’re likely to experience from diving. In this way, you can extend your dive time and get more pleasure out of it.
Picking the right technique can also help you decrease the amount of environmental disturbance generated from your diving experience. You’ll kick up less silt when you dive in caves or close to the bottom. Not only are you protecting the environment for future divers, but you’re also making it easier for you to see and do what you need to do.
Finning Techniques: Three Most Common
Here, we will talk about the many fin kicks available. The scuba frog kick and scuba helicopter turn are essential to know. Also, we will discuss flutter kicks, bent-knee cave diver kicks, and the reverse-fin/back kick, among others.
1. Flutter Kicks
A flutter kick is one of the most basic techniques that divers use, and it is usually the first one you’re taught. In a sense, it is similar to the leg movements of freestyle swimming. It’s also easier to learn because you’ve probably done something similar before. In fact, it’s what 90% of divers use.
Some people believe that this kick is so popular because it’s one of the strongest techniques available and that it generates more propulsion. In the past, diving was made a lot harder because you didn’t have all the fancy products. Therefore, you had to maintain buoyancy through speed.
The kick itself is quite forceful, so it’s suitable for moving at fast speeds and can help you fight a current. Your legs move vertically up and down, which means it can also be used in wall diving, especially if the wall is covered with coral. With this technique, there’s less of a risk of damaging or destroying marine life.
Of course, every kick has its benefits and disadvantages. As such, this method has drawbacks that are partly related to the advantages.
This kick is so forceful that it also takes a lot of work to complete. Therefore, you increase your air consumption because of that. Plus, the vertical leg movement kicks up more silt, which can be dangerous if you’re diving in a cave or close to the bottom. While it’s quite annoying in open water, especially for the divers behind you, it’s downright dangerous in a cave.
Along with such, the continued movement might lead to you using more motion to create buoyancy instead of the right scuba technique.
The bottom line here is that the flutter kick is powerful and fast, which is good for fighting currents or short speed bursts. However, it shouldn’t be used in close quarters or when you’re with other divers that follow close behind you.
2. Scuba Frog Kick
Frog kicks are so named because of the leg movement involved, as it looks like that from the swimming breaststroke. It’s a large, wide kick that utilizes your full leg strength. As such, it’s an excellent, general technique to use in open-water diving, such as close to the bottom or in the water column.
However, propulsion and movement aren’t continuous with this kick, so you need to know a good buoyancy technique too. The motions are horizontal or near to it, which means that there’s less disturbance to the bottom of the ocean. As such, any divers that come after you won’t have to worry about being unable to see, though the kick width means that it isn’t suitable for dives close to a wall or in caves.
This kick is likely to become the go-to technique when you get the hang of it because it can decrease air consumption significantly. If you are properly positioned in the water, you can take advantage of its gliding sensation before you have to start the next kick. Therefore, you save energy and air!
Again, the scuba frog kick can be used for a variety of purposes and might become your favorite. However, you will need to have a suitable buoyancy technique to use because propulsion isn’t continuous. As such, it’s not ideal for caves or for use by walls.
The wake of the kick goes backward instead of up and down, which can be more environment-friendly; you won’t disturb the wildlife or silt. It is also ideal when you might need to stop suddenly because you can do so in mid-stroke. Drag from the fins can also slow you down, which can be safer in a group.
This kick is extremely powerful and can be highly efficient once you have mastered the kick-glide aspect of it. It’s perfect for mild currents and open-water diving, but it isn’t best for strong currents or when you’re near a wall.
3. Scuba Helicopter Turn
The scuba helicopter turn is a handy technique because it helps you rotate or pivot about the axis through the center. As such, you don’t have to move from your diving position (flat, trimmed, or horizontal); you can just change directions and look behind you without moving.
This technique is ideal for a variety of circumstances. For example, if you’re in a confined space and have to be careful where your fins go, you can easily shift about without fear. It’s also good for when you’re wearing a drysuit and moving vertically.
Gas is allowed to travel around your suit, which doesn’t adversely affect buoyancy and control. As such, you can also maintain trim regardless of the setup you’re in (twin-set, technical, or side-mount). Regardless of weight transfer, you can turn when needed and can check up on the dive team without position compromise.
How to Do the Turn
While in the spot you’d like to be in, move the fins apart slowly and in a horizontal motion. Make sure the fins feature an opposing back/forth movement. As you are doing this, rotate the ankles and blades around their turning points.
The movement does seem like it would be hard to do, and it does take some concentration. You aren’t likely to master it in one session, but you can practice at home or at your local pool to get better.
Of course, this technique is primarily utilized for turning. It is ideal when you’re in a confined space or over delicate wildlife. This allows you to change direction more efficiently and will not help with propulsion or movement.
It’s important to understand that those three are by far the most common techniques to move and turn. However, they aren’t the only ones you should know. It’s also important to master the initial methods first before trying out other options.
With that said, we are also going to talk about reverse/back and bent-knee cave diver kicks. In this way, you have a better idea of more advanced options that you can practice.
1. Reverse Fin (Scuba Back Kick)
The goal of this kick is to facilitate a backward motion while in water. This can help you avoid embarrassing arm or hand flapping to help you go back without turning. Along with such, arm and hand movements aren’t energy-efficient and can cause you to fatigue too early.
The Reverse Fin technique allows you to move away from the object while still being able to see it. Some people need to do that for their jobs, such as instructors and photographers. Others may find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation and need to be able to back away from a predator or danger while making sure they stay safe.
In a sense, this technique is almost completely reversed of the frog kick because the fins have to scoop the water to help you move backward. It has a variety of benefits, which we discuss at length.
When scuba diving, your goal is likely to get close enough to marine life to see them and/or take pictures. Of course, it’s easy to use flutter kicks or frog kicks to get near the wildlife without disturbing them, but you also have to move back without upending the environment.
This helps you observe the creature and take pictures without damaging the reef with your hand. Plus, you’re being kind to the environment so that it is pristine and ready for the next set of divers.
Another benefit is that you can easily back out of a confined space. It also works well when you get too close to another diver. You can back out or away from a wreck that you decide not to venture into, which is also safer and easier to do.
Of course, you also have the helicopter turn available to you, but it might not be suitable when you’re in a cramped space. Along with such, you might be heading straight but get too close to someone else. You don’t want to go in the opposite direction, but instead, you want to move away from them a little.
How/When to Do It
Mainly, you should start with the legs straight back with the ankles together. The next step is to flex the lower legs and ankles outward. Start drawing your angled fin tips out (spread the knees and pull the fins closer to the body), allowing water to be moved toward the torso.
It’s recommended to use the back kick when you’re trying to move away from something and still look at it. You can also use it to get out of holes and keep stability and hold your position. However, it isn’t ideal for backtracking over a long distance or working through a current.
2. Bent-Knee Cave Diver Kicks
The bent-knee cave diver kick is a technique that’s used primarily for technical dives. Of course, it’s quickly becoming a popular option because it creates little disturbance in your environment. Movements are highly limited because your knees stay bent, and the kick comes from the hips and a bit of flip from the ankles.
With such a limited range, the propulsion isn’t significant, but it can help you decrease air consumption and strain. Of course, such a small movement can be ideal for cramped areas, including caves and wrecks. When it’s executed correctly, you can also minimize silt that’s kicked up.
Since it uses a slower movement, it can also help you reduce your speed. This means that it can also work for nature or muck dives where you’re searching for small creatures.
Of course, it’s a low-propulsion kick and is designed primarily to move slowly and not harm the environment. As such, it’s not a good idea to use this technique when swimming against the current.
You may find it a good option for use in a cave, especially if you have enough room for your body to perform the kick. This is because it won’t aggravate the silt and wildlife, allowing you to go further without worrying about visibility.
The bottom line here is that it’s a minimal-impact kick suitable for cramped and silty spaces. It can also help you conserve air and slow down during a dive.
We know that it can be a challenge to learn everything there is to know about scuba diving. However, you want to be safe and understand what you’re doing. Dive classes can help you achieve your goals, but instructors might focus on one or two kicking styles only.
It’s helpful to know a variety of finning techniques so that you are prepared for almost any dive or situation you might encounter. We have talked about five common and helpful methods so that you have a better idea of what is available. In this way, you can learn and practice to get better.