Make it easy on yourself, swim efficiently
While snorkeling, the majority of energy you expend will be from your legs. Snorkeling fins are just a way to make sure you expend that energy wisely. Fins efficiently propel you through the water, getting you from here to there, faster and easier.
It seems there are about as many different types of snorkeling fins as there are fish in the ocean. No wonder when it comes to purchasing a pair there’s so much confusion.
Don’t get sidetracked by all the technology stuff. For the typical snorkeler, it won’t matter. When that turtle turns to look at you and flashes his big green smile, you won’t even remember what color your fins are, much less what the salesman in the dive shop told you about your fins being the latest and greatest blah blah blah.
When it comes to casual snorkeling, comfort is king.
With that in mind, here’s some fin basics so you’ll know exactly what to look for, or just as importantly what to avoid, when choosing a pair of snorkeling fins:
Try on your fins before you buy them – Getting a foot cramp because your fins are a little too tight are the worst. Even if you know your shoe size, every manufacturer makes their fins slightly different. Sizes not only vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but even from model to model. Fins are made from durable polymers. In other words, they will be stiff and will not have as much give across your lateral arch. Fins that are the wrong size for your feet will not be as forgiving as a pair of tennis shoes.
Fins should be snug but never tight to the point where your foot is squished laterally – Typically, the foot pocket will feel a little tight when you’re wiggling your foot in. As long as once you get your fins on, your feet feel comfortable in the foot pocket, don’t worry too much about the effort it took to get them on. When you’re actually sitting on the shore, the sea water will make the foot pocket slipperier and easier to get into. Along that same line of logic, don’t choose a fin that slips on too easily either. When the fins get wet, they will come off when kicking.
Full foot pocket or strap? Fins come in two types, full foot pocket or heel strap. A full foot pocket covers the entire heel area of your foot kind of like a shoe. A heel strap fin, as the name implies, simply has a heel strap to hold the fin onto your foot. For the casual snorkeler, I would definitely recommend a full foot pocket. Most strapped fins are designed to be worn with dive booties. Dive booties are “shoes” made to wear inside your fins. A full foot pocket eliminates the need for booties making for one less piece of gear, just slip on your fins and you’re off and snorkeling.
Insider Tip: When exiting the water, most people waddle onto shore with their fins on. This makes for a great impression of a sugar-covered doughnut as they roll around in the sand trying to pry their fins off. Here’s how to look like a pro at the beach: Just before climbing out onto shore, stop where the water is calm and about waist deep. Bend your knees and float to use the buoyancy of the salt water to help take the weight off of your feet. Now slip off your fins, tuck them under your arm, and confidently stroll up onto the shore looking like Jacque Cousteau. Rolling your eyes at the people who weren’t lucky enough to find this website is optional *wink*.
Ok, that’s the long and short of it. Get out there and enjoy all the wonderful snorkeling in Hawaii.