When we first start scuba diving we don’t put too much thought into how we kick underwater to propel ourselves. As long as we’re moving in the direction we want, divers just sort of kick their way around forgetting the finning tips first taught to them by their open water certification instructors. However, with time and experience we yearn to polish even our most basic scuba skills and rightly so, to be more efficient on air (scuba gold!) and become more refined, better divers overall.
So, going back to basics, finning or kicking underwater affects more than just your movement and propulsion underwater and has more than one technique. Various finning styles used at different times and according to the conditions could really save on effort which in diving directly translates to air consumption.
Here’s a look at the most common finning techniques-
The Flutter Kick
This is most likely the first style of finning you are taught when you’re learning to scuba dive. In this standard kick, the legs move up and down in opposing directions with a fairly straight leg. When performed properly, the action originates from the hips and provides propulsion and forward thrust on the downward stroke of each fin. The body position in this technique involves the hips and legs to be inline with the torso, the knees only bend slightly on the upward stroke of the kick and straighten on the downward stroke while the toes (fins) remain pointed.
The flutter kick works best with long, gentle strokes, using the muscles at the front of the thighs to do most of the work and is good to thrust yourself forward. Diving isn’t about speed though and this style is rarely used by advanced divers as it is more strenuous and could cause a diver to waste energy. Plus, this style of kicking can easily disturb nearby seabed or marine life by kicking up silt or sand, so is best avoided when near the seabed or along a wall.
Modified Flutter Kick
This is the most common and practiced by many. It involves a flutter kick with the knees bend. It still propels the diver but at reduced efficiency and less effort. Good for a slow and relaxed dive. Performed best by those with floaty feet!
The Scissors Kick
The body position in this technique looks like the flutter kick i.e legs straight,knees slightly bent. But, the leg motion is quite different. Instead of the legs crossing each other in an up and down movement, the legs are widened and then brought together sharply (like a pair of scissors closing) and held in that position for a glide count. One leg is dedicated to the upper part of the kick, the other for the downward stroke. This kick is also known as the split kick and is favored for it’s power without the effort of the flutter kick.
This is a great finning style to use when cruising and allows you to swim closer to the substrate without making contact with your fins or stirring up sand or silt.
The Frog Kick
This style of kicking is one of the most popular among cave divers to avoid kicking up silt or sand in confined spaces. In the frog kick the body and upper legs maintain a straight, horizontal trim but the knees are bent so the fin blades point upward on a steep diagonal. You are required to kick similar to the manner used in the breast stroke of swimming but you have to twist the ankle/lower leg at a right angle in order to achieve proper orientation of the fin. Many divers find it relaxing to use the frog kick as a general cruising kick, either by itself or alternating with the flutter kick every few minutes. The frog kick however, does not work very well with some types of fins like split fins.
Short Frog Kick
In this modified version of the frog kick, divers don’t move their legs as far out as the standard frog kick, instead restrict the movements of your thighs and knees while letting the the calves and a flick of the ankles to do all the work. This is a good gentle kick, with not a lot of thrust making it ideal for use in confined spaces.
As the name suggest this is for moving away from objects or moving backwards. It’s not an easy or elegant kick, but is useful in many situations. This technique is almost a complete reverse of the frog kick, the fins work through the first half when your legs move out and way from you then pulling them close to your body, scoop the fins forwards and stopped halfway to prevent you from moving forward. The legs are delicately positioned back to the start point and repeated.