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Snorkeling Fins vs Scuba Fins: What’s the Difference?

Snorkeling Fins vs Scuba Fins: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re snorkeling or scuba diving, one of the essential types of swimming gear that you’ll need is your fins. And as we all know, fins come in different shapes and sizes. Not all pairs can be used for both snorkeling and scuba diving. With so many types of fins available on the market, it can be overwhelming for beginners to choose the right pair of fins.

Contrary to popular belief, larger fins are not necessarily better for every type of diving. Fins are uniquely designed for swimming at different depths, which in turn means how easily you can maneuver in the water relates directly to the type of equipment you’re using. That’s where knowing the difference between using fins designed for snorkeling and those designed for scuba diving comes in.

Snorkeling Fins vs Diving Fins

snorkeler diving with fins

Having the right fin is like having the correct tool for the job. That’s why trying to scuba dive with snorkeling fins can result in restricted movement due to a lack of propulsion, just like trying to swim with scuba fins can result in the feeling that you’re fighting them with each stroke.

That said, understanding the differences between these fins requires that you first learn the physical differences between snorkeling and scuba fins. We’ll discuss them below.

Snorkeling Fins

Cressi Light Short Swim Full Foot Fins

Since snorkeling is done at relatively shallow depths, snorkeling fins are designed to be more basic. They are typically shorter in length, so snorkelers can make small and flexible movements for easy maneuverability just below the surface of the water. This also results in a

lower risk of coral reef damage when swimming near and through them.

Short travel fins are 15 to 20 inches long while more traditional snorkel fins can reach up to 24 to 26 inches. Some feature an open heel design, but most will typically have a full foot pocket, eliminating the need for boots or socks. They can even have heel straps, which makes donning and doffing much easier.

Snorkeling fins can be used for swimming, but they are generally not recommended for scuba diving because they lack features that divers need for deeper depths and stronger currents.

Key Features of Snorkeling Fins:

  • Shorter in length
  • Simple, basic design
  • Open-heeled or full-footed
  • More portable and travel-friendly
  • Ideal for below-the-surface paddling
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Lowers risk of reef damage

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Scuba Fins

Mares Avanti Quattro Power Full Foot Long Blade Fins

Fins designed for scuba diving are typically longer or the same length as snorkeling fins. They measure between 25 to 30 inches, giving each kick more power to help you travel further while reducing the struggle against the higher pressure of deeper water.

High-quality scuba fins are typically specialized to integrate channels, which allow water to move along the fin (rather than against it) and the diver to move more rapidly, or a split fin design, which allows the diver to move with more power while reducing fatigue.

The other major difference with scuba fins is that they typically include designs that have closed or open foot pockets. Open pockets allow you to wear diving boots to keep your feet warmer in colder water, and closed pocket designs keep heat in your feet by covering them entirely. At the same time, they are stiffer and thicker to offer more durability and power for more challenging conditions.

Key Features of Scuba Fins:

  • Longer in length
  • More streamlined design
  • Stiffer and thicker
  • Closed or open pockets
  • Creates more powerful kicks
  • Reduces fatigue for longer dives
  • Offers space for diving socks or boots

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