Tuesday, May 26, 2009

traditional vs. split fins

Being that I'm a scuba diver I figured I'd give my input on gear. The gear of the day is fins. Believe it or not what kind of fins you have makes a difference. Though there's at least 20 brands of fins there's two different types: traditional and split. (both are shown below). I personally prefer traditional, because for every type of diving other than getting certified in a pool traditional works better.
First let me tell you about why people like split fins. When people start diving they generally do the bike kick. This, needless to say is extraordinarily ineffective. Split fins allow divers to do the bike kick or a similar modified flutter kick (both inefficient) and gives them some propulsion. Many divers like the fins because they allow the divers to do as little work as possible with some result. For most divers it's all about doing the least work necessary->the less work the less gas used->the longer you can stay underwater.
But here's the downside. Though a diver with bad form can get some propulsion out of those fins they are not able to keep up with the pace of a correct diver with traditional fins. In its core the traditional fin is better than split simply because of physics. The split fin is two flimsy pieces of plastic that bend significantly when pushed against water therefore creating little resistance which means little propulsion. As opposed to a traditional fin which is a rigid single fin that resists more, which gives the diver more power to move in the water. Another point can be proved by looking at every other kind of divers other than recreational divers. No one: including naval, salvage, research, and especially not cave divers use split fins. One reason is because of its inefficiency, as stated above, another is because traditional fins allow the diver the power and control to kick in many different ways.
One instance: for survival cave divers do the 'frog kick.' It's nearly impossible to explain so here's a video. It keeps the divers feet and fins off the silty ground of the cave. It's as simple as this, if your fins hit the bottom and silt flies everywhere and your hand comes off the line you're dead. It is nearly impossible to find the line again, and without visibility there's no way out. Split fins do not from a physics standpoint have the ability to allow divers to do the frog kick.
It is all a matter of personal preference. Split fins sell quite well because they are lighter and "easier" for a lot of divers. But I've had two pairs of fins in my whole diving career they have both been dive frogs (shown below). They work extremely well and the only reason I had to get a new pair last year was because I grew out of the old pair. I suggest traditional fins for diver or snorkler. But like I said it's a matter of personal preference. I know plenty of people that love their split fins, but I also know plenty of people who are tired of them.

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