Updated: 10 Mar, 2021
What fins do I recommend for divers?
There are few key things you’re looking for in a good fin:
- Comfort / fit
- Ease to put on, and take off (don and doff)*
- Suitability for your diving conditions and kick style
* This can be important for entry in strong surf, or climbing up a boat ladder
I don’t want to get into the Jetfins vs everything else war that some divers rage on about. I will briefly touch on them though.
Jetfins (and their ilk) are short, stiff planks strapped to your feet. They’re good for confined space diving – such as a wreck or cave. They are good for frogkicking. They are often heavy and solid and often negatively buoyant, so good for divers with “floaty legs”, or who are heavily positively buoyant (as in the case of some drysuits).
They are not “do everything everywhere” fins, and I don’t like those who say otherwise. No fin is. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the style – but this is a personal preference, and I’m not against these fins in general.
If you travel, you will find the size good, but often the weight awful. If you are in current, you may find them exhausting. If you want to change kick styles, you may find them limited in some ways, and better in others. However, an experienced diver who is comfortable with these fins will have much less of an issue. There is a learning and comfort curve to deal with.
For all other fins, there are five I wholeheartedly recommend.
Not all are for everyone, and not for every situation. If you are like me – a warm water diver who travels and likes things easy – here are five fins that may be for you.
- Mares Avanti Quattro Plus
- Scubapro Seawing Gorilla*
- Tusa Xpert Zoom Z3
- Tusa Hyflex Switch
- Apeks RK3
These are the fins that everyone loves. You ask any Divemaster what fins they use – most of the time, it’s Mares Avanti Quattros. They’re tough, long lasting, comes in some surprisingly visible colours (their red fluoresces, making it the only red fin that looks red at depth. It’s like magic if you like red.) Easy to find and buy.
- Tough as hell.
- Weight is not bad. Lighter than most.
- Very easy to put on and take off, thanks to the smooth foot pocket and rubber strap.
- Basic blade style makes it a very versatile fin – any kick style can be done adequately. Not bad for kicking in a current. Good at everything, not great at anything.
- Neutrally buoyant – they won’t sink or float.
- …It’s not special, fancy or unique?
- Slightly longer than most other fins – not necessarily a con, but is a consideration for travel and packing.
- There’s a weird “snap” in the kick as they change shape (flex) from up to down kick. Once they’re in their new shape, you get power, but you feel it. It’s odd.
Cost: $110USD to $160USD
Do NOT buy these in Europe or Australia. These are expensive, and very popular fins. They are smooth and powerful in the water, pushing you along with ease. Once you try them, you will love them. But they’re not perfect. Their hinge is much improved, but still a weak point. If you get these, buy them new (or get the receipt), so you keep the North American lifetime Scubapro warranty. For purchases in Europe or Australia, they only have a two year warranty, and normally only have a two year life span (as claimed by an Australian dive shop, which has to replace its staff’s fins every two years).
- Good for current.
- Light weight for travel.
- Positively buoyant, making them amazingly good for shore diving entry, or if you’re just clumsy.
- Very easy to put on and take off, thanks to the smooth foot pocket and bungee strap.
- Lifetime, North American warranty (but hard to find the Gorilla version in Asia).
- A poor choice for instructors, as you should not use this fins to self-release calf cramps. Demonstrating that skill by pulling the tip of the fin towards you flexes the hinges the wrong way, and can break the fin.
- Limited colour options to purchase in, but the orange is brilliantly visible underwater.
- The weird shape can make it difficult to pack.
Meh: There’s initial soft power as the blade flexes, and then it gets stiffer. It’s a nice curve of power through the kick cycle (distinctly different to the Mares ‘snap’ of power as their blade changes shape).
They have an unusual shape and curves, which makes them awkward to pack around for travel. Only two colours (graphite and fluoro orange [though I’ve now seen grey and dark green]). Nowhere near as durable as the Mares Avanti fins. Hard or impossible to find or replace in Asia.
Hmm: If you want a softer fin, to be easier on your calves, the Seawing Nova is the exact same fin, but more flexible. Also comes in about a dozen amazing colours. Easy to replace everywhere.
There is a closed-heel version of the Nova, which is crazy light weight. Amazing for travel. Combined with a neoprene sock, they are the lightest fins you will ever encounter.
I love these fins. I just wish they were more travel friendly. I’ve had people say “splits stir up the bottom!”. This is not true. Bad divers stir up the bottom. These fins even help you keep off the bottom, due to their distinct 27 degree bend.
- The best split fins ever designed. Ignore all other splits in favour of these. Even the other Tusa splits. The most efficient fin on the market. Very little effort to get more than expected power.
- Heavy & negatively buoyant. Hard to travel with, and hard for shore entry.
- Big. Longer than most other fins.
- Bad in current. Not great for helicopter or reverse kicking (but can be done).
- The heel strap it comes with is not great. Upgrade to a spring (or similar) heel as soon as possible.
Meh: The power output will be higher than you expect for your effort, and so it can be hard to judge pace initially. Once you hit maximum power (early on, compared to other fins), you might be frustrated by its limitations.
These are very similar to the TUSA Z3 fins – heavy, solid and well made. They lack the steep bend in the Z3 fins, however. Some may prefer these despite being about double the price, so I’ll include them as an alternative option. Spending the extra money for the version with the heel spring will make them much easier to use.
Cost: $210USD – $260USD
This is the new travel fin for everyone. It’s not heavy and very portable. It’s portability is it’s shining quality: it has bolts on each side of the fins to separate the blade from the foot pocket. Splitting each fin into two pieces makes it very easy to slip into a carry-on sized bag!
It’s not as powerful as a Gorilla, not as tough as an Avanti, or as efficient as an Xpert Zoom. But it can hold its own. It won “Testers Choice 2017” at ScubaLab.
Combine it with an Aqualung Zuma/Outlaw BCD and Mikron regulator, you have a very small travel pack.
- Separates into two pieces for travel, allowing it to fit into carry-on.
- Good for a variety of kick styles.
- Negatively buoyant.
- Soft; maybe too soft for some.
Meh: Just not as good as the other fins above, but not bad at anything.
Cost: $180USD – $220USD
- Good weight (not too heavy)
- Positively buoyant (great for shore entry)
- Flexible enough to comfortably flutter kick and stiff enough to frogkick, backkick, etc. Probably the only fin of this style you can do an easy flutter kick in.
- Good bend rate; gives an even flex throughout the kick cycle (unlike the Nova or Avanti).
- Easy to don/doff, thanks to the heel strap and smooth pocket.
- Comes in some good colours.
- The orange fin turns mustard-yellow at depth. This can be confusing when there are many groups / divers, and you identify your buddy or guide by their fin colour.
Weight: 1.8kg – 2.5kg
Cost: $160USD – $199USD
Pros: Very light weight, small and do not need booties to use. Still have a heel strap for easy donning & doffing. Great for travel. Inexpensive.
Cons: Too small if you need a boot for other reasons (like shore entry), but fine for neoprene socks. Better than all other fins like it, but could still be limiting in strong currents.
The best advice I can give a diver looking at fins – either get jetfins, or ignore everyone who uses them. It’s like Apple vs Microsoft or Ford vs Holden. Lots of very strong opinions with a lot of misinformation about the other side. You’re just wanting to go diving and have fun. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life.
Slightly more seriously though – talk to people who are using the fins you’re considering, and ask to borrow and try them out in the water. Listen to what they say about their fins – and only their fins.
And if you’re not sure what to get… just get the Mares Avanti Quattro Plus fins. You really can’t go wrong with them.
For those who prefer a Jetfin style, there are a few to consider – and I provide them without further commentary or recommendation between them:
Hollis F2 Fins
Dive Rite XT fins
Cost: $100USD – $160USD
Cost: $150USD – $160USD