Buy the right fins!
Print media may be on the decline, but when I’m killing time waiting for my flight in the airport newsstands, I’ve noticed a few universal truths with magazines. Every issue of Men’s Health must feature something on your abs, every issue of Cosmo must have a list of ‘10 things he isn't telling you,’ and every issue of a scuba magazine must have a page or 2 on the latest dive equipment. (Seriously, editorial rooms in these places must be like groundhog day.)
There is no shortage of fin reviews in scuba magazines. The latest trends are always covered in various degrees of detail and “tester” reviews. Fins equipped with turbo-flappers, speed vents, and strap override fittings. The newest designs in seedless polymer rubbers with the lowest coefficient of friction, yielding the most thrust per newton... Yeah I’m not talking about that stuff. Nor am I talking about the debates of split fins versus blade fins that rage on endlessly on Scubaboard. You wear what you like, regardless of what everyone else thinks.
You don’t have to be a divemaster very long before you notice one universal truth amongst divers. Most of them have bad fins. That’s not to say they are old, worn, of a bad design, or cheap. So what do I mean?
Experienced divers have fins that are easy to get on and off quickly and with minimal fuss. Specifically what I’m talking about are 2 things - does the fin pocket fit your dive bootie, and is the strap easy to tighten?
There is nothing worse than watching someone flounder for 11 minutes trying their best to get their oversized boot into a fin pocket that’s too small, only to follow up with an 8 minute display of trying to pull their straps tight because they are a poor design and the diver can barely reach them. Divers seem to forget they are not as flexible as they were 20 years ago. And when they finally can reach the strap, they can’t pull it in the right direction.
At the end of the dive, the inverse applies - watching someone struggling at the dive ladder (particularly during rough seas, getting their teeth knocked out) is most frustrating. Some of these end with the customer totally exasperated, throwing their leg up on the swim platform for the boat crew to yank their fin off.
Contrary to what our name and reputation might imply, the bulk of Divetech's business is new and inexperienced scuba divers. One day when working the boat, I had the pleasure of guiding a brand new diver on his very first open water dive after class. I'm going to call him Dave. I patiently watched Dave perform the fin contortion act, and when he was done - exhausted, he looked up at me.
“Do you want to see a better way to put on your fins?” I asked. He replied “Yes! Please teach me!” I threw my fins on the deck and stepped into them in less than 2 second without using my hands. (It actually takes me longer to put on flip flops.) Dave looked up at me like like it was the 11th century and I had just shown him electricity.
It’s not a party trick. Divemasters who have been in the biz for over 6 days know the value of being able to get into and out of equipment quickly and easily. Fins are no exception.
Really what this boils down to is having the proper sized fin pocket, and if you are using open-heeled fins, using something called spring straps.
Here are some examples of Divetech instructor's putting on their fins:
Tips for buying open heeled fins:
Visit your local dive shop to try the fins on. Yes we know they will be more expensive, but this is a price that's worth paying. Plus it lets the owner of the dive shop put gas in their car that week.
Bring your dive booties.
Make sure the booties fit easily inside the fin pocket. (While wearing them!)
If they don’t have spring straps, keep looking.
If you can't put them on as easily as in the above .GIF, keep looking.
Tips for buying full foot fins:
Make sure they fit your foot (seems pretty simple, doesn't it? You'd be surprised.)
They don't need to be super-tight! We often see divers with full foot fins so tight, it cuts off blood flow to their toes. It just needs to not fall off, and fin pockets can be surprisingly loose for this purpose.
Tips for dive shop owners
Stop selling fins to your customers that don’t fit, and get some spring straps in stock!
Please for the love of all that is holy, avoid fins that have straps like this:
At the end of the day, diving is supposed to be fun. The more you struggle with your equipment, the less fun you are having.