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The Miracle of the Fin: SCUBA with the Freediving Fin

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

I've been scuba diving for many years, but this year it came to my mind for the first time, why not SCUBA with a freediving fins?

As almost all divers know, fins are basically divided into two; open heel and closed heel fins. Open heel fins are Scuba fins that can be worn with booties, the back heel is open and fastened at the back with various plastic or metal buckles. Closed fins are Scuba or freediving fins that can be worn barefoot or with neoprene socks.

If you are aware, we have also classified the fins as Scuba or Freediving fins. So what are the features and reasons that separate a fin as free diving or scuba?


The answer to this question is actually very simple in theory; While the blades of free diving fins are narrow and long, the blades of scuba diving fins are wide and short. The reason for this is that when the blade expands, it carries more load, and as it gets longer, it allows us to go faster. For this reason, there is an acceptance that scuba divers carrying heavy equipment such as air cylinders, regulators, lead weights, BCDs need fins to carry this heavy material. For this, it is necessary to use a relatively wide fins. Especially if dives in technical diving discipline such as twin cylinders are involved, the blade should be expanded even more (!). Let's expand the blade, this time it becomes very heavy and bulky, difficult to control. So let's keep it short too...


Considering that speed is not a big deal for scuba divers, this approach seems quite logical at first glance. In fact, it seems so logical that we continued our diving life with scuba fins for years without question.


Why Not?

During a dive I did in Madeira, Portugal, one of the divers on the boat was using the familiar freediving fins. This guy was shooting underwater videos like me. When I asked him why he used a free diving fin, I got an interesting answer: "When I shoot while swimming, I can get more stable images and it's like I'm more comfortable in the current..."


This question occurred to me once, can I really be more comfortable in drift dive? I called my uncle, my instructor Rıza Birkan, right after the trip. I remember very well when I was a kid, he had both long blade and open heel fins that he used for diving. Especially he did his deep dives with these long blade fins. His general comment was that he was actually quite satisfied with them for years, and then switched to Mares Avanti Quattro pallets, which had become popular at that time, with some "fashion trends". With a short evaluation, we came to the conclusion that if long bladed fins are used in a sport such as free diving, where every molecule of air is valuable, of course, they are much more efficient in terms of air consumption. He immediately said, "I'll send you my Oceanpro brand fins."


First Impression

Cressi Gara Impulse model serbest dalış paleti ile tüplü dalış yapan bir dalgıç

As soon as I received the long fins from Rıza Birkan, we made a Saros diving plan with my friends. Ömer Çakır, Sinan Eruçar, İbrahim Fazıl Çelik and I sailed in the Gulf of Saros. I did not take my underwater camera in this dive. While dealing with the camera, if I had a problem with the fins, I said that I would lose my taste underwater, and I just wanted to try the fins.


As someone who has been wearing open heel fins with booties for years, I also had a concern that it would be very uncomfortable, especially since we will be entering from a rocky area. I put on my neoprene socks, walked along the shore and wore the fins with ease in the sea. Of course, it's not as comfortable as a bootie, but frankly, it wasn't as uncomfortable as I expected. It was obvious that it would be much more comfortable if I wore something to protect my feet, such as a sea slipper, etc., all the way to the shore. Then we dived...


The first feeling I felt while diving was to be much more flexible in the water. I really can't say for sure, maybe it's the feeling of the closed fins, but at first it started to feel quite fun and really light. Since my other friends in the group were shooting more videos at that time, I usually went ahead of the group. From time to time, I get in contact with the group, I think they are stuck somewhere while shooting the video, I wait and continue again when they get closer. When we got to the place where I knew that there was a current, I tried to examine it and I can say in one word "amazing". Of course I understand that there is current, but I was able to get through it without much effort. As soon as we finished the dive and took our heads out of the water, Sinan and Ömer started complaining;

"We tried to catch up with you during the whole dive, you just notice and wait, we say we are close, you turn and hit a fin and you go on and on. We got cramps in our legs because we're going to catch up with you."


In fact, the shortest summary of the first impression was this complaining :)


Long Blade Fin in Open Sea and Current

The fins Rıza Birkan sent were a little big for my feet even with neoprene socks. It wasn't big enough to get out of my foot, but still big enough for my feet to move it in. We had a short Red Sea dive plan on our return from Saros. I should definitely take a long blade freediving fins to the Red Sea. I immediately took my breath in Karaköy, Istanbul where you can find several diving stores. I bought exact size fins for my feet of Cressi Gara Impulse model fins. Of course, when we started the preparations for the Red Sea, the long blade fin had a problem, as expected, not being able to fit in the standard scuba bag. Luckily, we also had a slender and long free-diving bag, so we were able to fit it in. I wrote this aside as a point to consider for long-bladed fins.


I still don't want to take any risks when sailing to the Red Sea and took both my standard Scuba fins and my new Cressi freediving fins. I wore my standard Scuba fins on the first dive. As of the second dive of the day, I switched to my freediving fins. Since it was necessary to jump into the water rapidly, especially in the drift diving areas on the boat, everyone wore their fins where they sat and walked with them to the platform. I thought if my fins would be a problem because of its long blades, but frankly, it is managed somehow, and I neither had a hard time nor bothered anyone on the boat while getting in and out. Of course, it is not possible for these fins to fit only in the boxes on the boats, it is necessary to determine and put the most ideal place in the fins storage compartments at the stern of the boat, behind the air cylinders or in the residual environment.


I can honestly say that the miracle of my free diving fins became more evident when the dives started to take place in areas with slightly more open water and currents. It was so comfortable in the parts where it was necessary to swim against the current, that I enjoyed it. Of course, it seems that there is a current, but I can get rid of the current by hitting a little. Drift dives became more and more enjoyable. The dive guide says "we're going to have to swim against the current for a while on this dive" but it's fine for me. I'm now in let the others wit standard fins think.


I'm not sure if it had any positive or negative impact on the air consumption issue. Logically, I expected a positive effect. This was our first guess with Rıza Birkan. Maybe we need to look at it a little longer.


After four or five dives, I decided to try my standard Scuba fins again; I can say it is totally dissapointment. I got so used to the comfort, general lightness and flexibility of freediving fins in the current that I never used my standard fins again during the trip.


Frog Kick?

Especially those who are familiar with the technical diving discipline know that there is a fin kicking method called frog kick, which is made by opening the feet a little outward and tilting the fins and beating the water from the outside inwards. Once you get used to it, hitting a normal fin can even feel tiring. Especially if the fins you use are relatively heavy.


This was one of the issues that came to my mind when I first started thinking about the freediving fins. Will I be able to Frog kick? Because I was so used to frog kick that I asked Rıza Birkan if not being able to frog kick would bother me. His comment was like, "When you wear your free diving fins, you will naturally not want to frog kick, you can still shoot frog kick if you want, but there is no need..." It really came out as he said, hitting frog kick didn't even occur to me for a long time. I was quite surprised that I didn't think of it. When I wanted to give it a try, I was able to shoot a frog kick very easily, and in this way, I was able to move underwater. After seeing that I could do it, I immediately switched to normal again :)


Underwater Video Shooting and Freediving Fins

Kızıldeniz'de serbest dalış paletleri ile balık sürüsü videosu çeken dalgıç
Photo: Ayşegül Azaz

As someone who produces video content underwater, of course, it was impossible not to take my camera for every dive in the Red Sea. This was the situation that first brought the subject of freediving fins to my mind; Capable of shooting stable videos while swimming. By stable I mean fluid videos where the frame hardly ever shakes.


I can say that I did not feel that much difference in shooting stable videos. Accurate buoyancy skills seem more important underwater. I was of the opinion that the diver with good buoyancy could get the images he wanted with both fins. The thing that worries me about video shooting is that even though I have a housing system that becomes almost neutral in the water, would the freediving fins cause problems when swimming underwater? After all, I was expecting the freediving fins to be a problem as the weight increases. Fortunately, my worries about this were completely unfounded. I was able to dive very comfortably with all my camera, housing, arms, light, wet lenses.


The only thing I had to pay attention to while shooting because of the free diving fins was that in a place famous for its corals such as the Red Sea, I had to check more if my fins harmed coral or other living things. I can say that this situation is a bit tiring because I want to get as close to the object as I can while shooting a video. I think it takes a little getting used to, getting familiar with the length of the fin.


In general, I was able to dive very well while shooting underwater videos with free diving fins.


Impressive Speed!

Let's talk about speed. I mentioned above as one of my first impressions. You can actually go pretty fast. Especially when you do sprint, no one can hold you. You can really feel the speed in the force of the water hitting your face. It may be an idea to use a freediving fins, especially for instructors who lead dives to groups of relatively inexperienced divers, or for 3-star divers. I can say that it is perfect for catching divers who fly away. Of course, due to its length, it will not make you very comfortable while sitting on the ground during training dives, but it can be considered in group diving.


Let me tell you about an incident that I experienced while diving in the Red Sea. On one of the dives, a large stingray was seen passing close to the reef from the open water side while we were watching coral near the reef. In order to shoot the video, I quickly swam behind the stingray, made a hard landing from the top right in front of the stingray and had the opportunity to shoot the stingray from the head. I guess I wouldn't have been able to catch up without my freediving fins. When the dives were over and we got on the boat, everyone started talking about my sprint. I realized while swimming that I was really fast, I can say that freediving fins really provide an impressive speed that can be seen from the outside.


Let me exaggerate a bit more: Twin Cylinders and Freediving Fins

Serbest Dalış Paleti ile tüplü dalış (scuba) yapan bir dalgıç

The Red Sea, video shooting and so on is good, but I wondered what would happen if I increased the weight on me a little more, for example, the twin cylinders. On the weekend back from the Red Sea, after I was so satisfied with my free diving fins, I immediately bought my 2*12lt steel double cylinder to clear the last question mark in my mind and set off for Saros Bay again.


When using a double cylinder if I am wearing a 5mm wet suit, I can normally do my dives without any extra weight. As a matter of fact, since I have a steel backplatet, there is no need to take additional lead weight with the weight of double cylinders. In this dive, I took 6 kilos of additional weight with me to push it a little more. Even though I fully inflate the BCD as soon as I got in the water, it was worth it to see the result. In this dive we entered from the shore, we swam from the surface to the area where we were going to dive. Even then, I realized that freediving fins would not upset me here either. When we dived into the water, everything became even more enjoyable. Again a sweet current, even though I have a double cylinders on my back, thanks to my fins, it didn't upset me. I swam back and forth on my back underwater, hit the fins quickly and went fast, tried frog kick... The result was still very pleasing in all of them. Even the double cylinders and that extra weight didn't stop me from using my freediving fins.


What Have We Decided Now? I think it's pretty obvious

Apart from the fact that I started scuba diving with freediving fins so late, I was generally very satisfied with all these trials and reviews. I can say that the thrust provided by the freediving fins (for the same example, horsepower) becomes much more dominant compared to the carrying power (torque if we consider the car engine example) with the wide blade of the standard Scuba fins.


If we summarize the advantages and disadvantages of using a free diving fin in scuba diving;


Pros and Cons

PROs

CONs

Swim against the current with less effort

Difficult to sit on the seabed

Speed

Have to pay attention more to the underwater environment while shooting videos

Light

Unable to fit into standard scuba diving bags

Flexible

Considering all of these, especially in terms of current and speed, and considering the pleasure I get underwater, it's like saying goodbye to my standard Scuba fins unless there is a special reason from now on. I think I will continue to dive with my freediving fins as much as possible, I hope. I recommend everyone to try it at least once.



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1 commentaire


ibrahim cengiz
ibrahim cengiz
27 juil. 2023

valuable information, thanks a ton for sharing your experience!

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