Scuba divers, freedivers, snorkelers, spearfishers, and many others who partake in underwater activities use a variety of equipment, and diving fins are an important piece of an underwater diving outfit. Split fins are a new variety of fins, as opposed to the traditional bladed fins.
Choosing the wrong equipment has a number of consequences, so we are here to help you by reviewing two of the most hyped split fins on the market.
Split Vs. Bladed, What’s The Difference?
The purpose of swim fins is to aid in swimming and increase efficiency. As humans, we did not evolve to swim particularly well, unlike other aquatic or amphibian creatures. Bladed swim fins have been around for quite a while now, but one day engineers thought that split fins could better replicate a fish’s fins and thus enhance swimming even further.
How Do Swim Fins Work?
Swim fins remedy the decreased thrust that is caused by the small size and shape of human feet. Thrust is especially important when carrying other equipment, such as a scuba tank. It is defined as the forward propulsion that, as humans, we create by kicking our legs in the water.
The force of the water that slows a swimmer down is called hydrodynamic drag, and it is an opposing thrust. Because equipment causes more drag, scuba divers need more thrust than usual to avoid tiring out their legs.
The difference between split fins and bladed fins is the prominent slit down the center. It creates a swirling motion, or a vortex, that increases propulsion. Consequently, this means that water resistance is decreased and the amount of force needed to propel forward is less.
However, they do have reduced maneuverability when compared to bladed fins.
I was very excited to dive with these fins to see what all the fuss was about. I noticed that they were firmer than expected but very flexible when compared to bladed fins. Of course, with all the fuss the diving community makes about split fins being ‘wimpy,’ we were surprised by their rigidity. They are very big, which can intimidate beginners, but that’s part of their design.
They were easy to put on, and even without neoprene socks, they felt comfortable. I usually get a rash when I try new fins, but the rashes were negligible this time. Taking them off was easy as well with their one-hand buckle. I got mine in blue (typical for me), but there were so many colors to choose from, which was a nice touch.
What diving equipment review would be complete without testing it in the water? So we got suited up and dove for about half an hour in a pool to keep things pretty standard. The first thing I noticed was the ease with which you can glide with these things! And because we weren’t kicking so hard, the entire group wasn’t easily tired out this time. It would be interesting to test it further and see how much extra time we could spend under the surface.
It’s worth noting, however, that if you’re already used to diving with bladed fins, they may need some time to grow on you. They allow you to glide easily, but you may not know how to maneuver them at first.
They’re very light, and I guess if you’re the kind who travels a lot with your scuba gear, this would be a definite advantage. This may also be the reason they are so comfortable.
Overall we liked this model and would recommend it – especially for beginners. Gliding with them is more akin to regular swimming and maybe be easier for those who aren’t used to diving.
Nothing is perfect, and that’s alright. They are a little over the budget for most divers, which is arguably not worth the few advantages it has. They also take some getting used to.
For those of you who never feel comfortable with an open heel feel, Atomic Aquatics gives us their full-foot model with – wait for it – open toe design. I’ve never put on a full-foot swimfin that didn’t make me constricted, so this model felt like a breeze (well, wave) in my feet. They were incredibly soft, which was also nice.
As for our little dip in the pool to test it out, it wasn’t all that bad. They did the job they were tasked to do, which was to increase the efficiency of their kicks. We weren’t tired by the end of the dive either. The split fins expertly propelled us forward, and I guess we were already used to moving with split fins because we could maneuver them better. We expected the open-toe design to make things feel awkward, but that wasn’t an issue at all. They were very light as well.
We all noticed that the absence of a strap meant that some of us had swollen feet as time progressed underwater felt. They quickly became uncomfortable and constricting then. Also, this makes them harder to take off or put on. When comparing the two models, the open heel was slightly wider, and we perceived them to be more efficient, but we may need to go on another dive to be sure. The difference is not that obvious, though.
We enjoyed this model, but admittedly not as much as the open-heeled model.
Summary And Final Verdict
I must say that although we enjoyed both models, the open-heel was the far superior model. Nonetheless, I would recommend both models, especially for beginners, because they may need some getting used to experienced divers who use a bladed fin.
If you are a beginner and don’t know which Scuba Fins to choose, I recommend you read the full Buying Guide and find out the 5 Best Scuba Fins for Beginners.