Finning underwater is one of the most basic scuba skills – and one we don’t really put much thought into. As long as you’re going in the correct direction then you’re happy right? But knowing what fin kick to use at the right time will provide a more comfortable dive as well as conserving both your energy and air.
The Flutter Kick
The flutter kick is the most basic and commonly used technique for divers during their Open water course as it is the easiest to use. To perform this kick you simply move each leg up and down in opposing directions. The thrust is provided from the downwards fin.
Your legs should be slightly bent at the knees and in line with your hips moving in a long gentle motion to provide the most effective stroke. Exaggerating movement will decrease efficiency meaning more effort is needed to propel you forward; also letting your legs drop below your hips will create an ineffectual bicycle kick.
This is a good kick to use if diving in a current, on the surface or when you are away from the bottom. A big disadvantage of this kick is the downwash created with the motion. If diving close to the bottom this can stir up sand/silt or even worse – damage corals.
The Scissor Kick
The scissor kick starts off by looking similar to the flutter kick as the body and leg positions are the same, but the kicking motion is different. Instead of a constant kicking motion with the fins passing each other, the legs are widened and brought together in a sharper motion, hence the name the scissor kick. Thrust is generated from the downwards kick and is favoured for giving divers a gliding motion which reduces effort and improves air consumption.
This technique is demonstrated to students divers enrolled in an ‘Adventures in Diving program as part of the Peak Performance Buoyancy Adventure dive where efficient fin kicking techniques are covered as part of the performance requirements.
A good technique for general cruising around when fun diving, the ‘scissor kick’ has its drawbacks as it creates a big downwash which can disturb the bottom.
The Frog Kick
The most popular kick among more experienced divers especially PADI Divemasters when leading certified divers on fun dives is the frog kick. A great kick for cruising around a dive site in a relaxed manner. The frog kick is very efficient and effective giving you a more relaxed dive, with reduced effort. It has been likened to an underwater equivalent of breast stroke – although you don’t move your arms!
Whereas the flutter and scissor kick is run vertically the frog kick is performed on a horizontal axis. This means you are able to get closer to marine life without the risk of disturbing the bottom.
When utilising this kick your body and upper legs should be in a straight, horizontal position with your knees bent meaning your fins are pointed upwards. You then kick your legs as if you were using a breast stroke while rotating your ankles at right angles to generate forward thrust.
A shorter variation of the frog kick is ideal for diving in confined spaces, such as diving in a wreck or a cave as this prevents silt being stirred up. To perform the stroke divers should limit how far out they position their legs compared to the normal frog kick thus meaning a smaller movement and gentler kick.
Not the easiest kick to perform by any means but very useful when wishing to move away from objects and reduces the risk of potential reef damage. This is one of the key skills that are taught on the Peak Performance Buoyancy speciality course.
It takes a little practice to master and can be awkward at first, but is very useful for divers who are keen photographers or people wishing to take part in Eco diving courses where monitoring the health of coral reefs means getting very close. This is pretty much a reverse of the frog kick, using the upper side of the fins to push water forwards in a scooping motion then return the fins to the starting position with minimal resistance.
The Right Kick At The Right Time
As you can see there are a number of different finning techniques and the ability to switch between them, depending on the situation and environment is an important part of a scuba diver’s education. As you start to master the different kicks and employ the most efficient technique at the right time you will see that your air supply lasts longer and you start to enjoy your dives even more!
Author: Matt Bolton (PADI CD #463559)