By. Diane Francis
It’s a beautiful day under the water. The visibility is 200 feet, you’re loving the contrast of the brilliant yellows and deep purples against the great big blue. You're kicking and kicking and kicking, but yet, you're not getting very far--very fast.
All right, speaking as an Instructor. We want you to do the best that you can to make sure you're efficient and conscious of your movements. So here are a few things to help you get better with your fin kick.
1. Your Equipment Makes a Difference
How fast you go and how much air you consume is directly related to what type of fins you're wearing. I have a lot of divers ask me if their snorkeling fins will work for their class and if they can use them for their check out dives. The answer? Most likely, "No". The reasoning being with regards to how the fin is constructed. Lets compare the two.
On the left, we have the shorter and smaller fin which are designed to take up little space but still give you a bit of a kick. On the right, we have diving fins which are a heavier, longer and slimmer fin. The long slim design transfers power better, creating a reaction that propels the diver through the water. The snorkeling fin (see left) does not. Its job is to coast an unencumbered snorkeler along the surface and occasionally a few feet below. These aren't sufficient to push a diver through the water who is wearing tank and weights. Invest in a great pair of fins and you'll be a happy diver.
2. Quit using your arms.
Sometimes divers get overwhelmed with the equipment that they're using. They tend to rely on their arms in order to push themselves through the water. This isn't very hydro-dynamic when you've got beautiful long fins attached to you. Make sure that when you're in the water, your arms stay close to the body. I prefer to either have my arms crossed (tucking in any dangly bits) or my hands out in front of me. One hand crossed over the other. Being horizontal in the water, this is going to give you the most control over where you are and where you're going. Here are a couple pictures to help you understand.
3. The Flutter Kick
This is the most common kick to use. When kicking, make sure that you're moving from the hip; not the knees. When we use our whole leg, the kicks are straighter and tend to give the most power. It's going to reduce stress on the knee and is going to make it a lot easier to get from A to B. What is the major benefit of this kick? It's the easiest to do. Most people who have spent time in the water will use the flutter kick because that's what they've learned since they were tikes. What's the draw back? Tends to use up a little more effort, can stir up any silt and you cannot back fin with this kick.
Check out this video:
Let's take a look at what's going on. The diver on the left has what we call "The Bicycle Kick". He's kicking with his knees and forcing his foot straight out as if pushing down on a bike pedal. This doesn't work in the water. You can see that despite his best efforts, he still resorts to using his hands to get him going. The diver on the right, is a little bit better; however is still doing tiny kicks. You need to straighten out the leg, allow your knee to bend slightly and power from the hip.
4. Use the Frog Kick
In some cases, the frog kick can be a better option. This is more so the case when we get to cold water conditions. The reason why this kick is favored is because it lowers the energy out put by the diver and allows them to reduce the chance of silt ups. The idea of this kick is that you bring your legs to about a 60 degree angle. With your feet flat (bottoms of the fins facing the surface) you're going to swing your knees out to make a V. From that V position, turn your heels so that when you pull your legs back together, the side/sole of your heels meet. This causes the water to push away from the heels straight back. So the water movement is higher than the silt. Making it so you don't stir anything up. This kick is also nice because once you've got the technique down you can move to the back-fining and helicopter turns which will, undoubtedly make you the hero of every Divemaster you encounter!
And there you have it. Just a few ways you can improve your fin kick... Or, you could just get a DPV.