Fin kicking to explore the underwater world
One of the many highlights of exploring the underwater world is inarguably the astonishing and almost alien wildlife flourishing just below the surface. These beautiful creatures move in ways unlike any animal on land. The elegantly streamlined bodies of fish allow them to dart to and fro through their viscous liquid surroundings leaving our clumsy, land adapted bodies in their dust.
Water is denser than air, meaning marine animals are lifted by buoyancy and are not bound to the ground the way that we humans are on land. Indeed, their ways of moving and surviving are far removed from the plants and animals that we encounter on land and as land animals, we can be quite ignorant about how delicate marine life can be and the damage we can inadvertently cause when scuba diving.
Humans spent the last few millennia evolving on land and the animals whom we hunted either learned to avoid us or went the way of the dodo. Any time throughout history and prehistory when humans suddenly arrive in an area where the local fauna have never before encountered such a deadly and sophisticated predator, those animals are quickly exterminated due to their lack of fear for humans. We can draw a comparison to marine animals upon the advent and popularization of scuba some 50 years ago. Though humans can indeed swim and have been able to explore reefs for a long time, our ability to remain at depth for extended periods is a new phenomenon and ecosystems that would have likely never been seen by humans just 30 years ago are now being visited daily.
Why do we have to think about our fin kicking as divers?
All divers must understand, be they novice or veteran, that we are but guests visiting an alien ecosystem. Fortunately, the vast majority of divers are merely interested in seeing the animals and not eating them but a diver can still cause damage to the environment if they are not careful.
Many marine animals can easily evade humans as they merely regard us as another predator, albeit one that moves more slowly and exhales bubbles. Other animals, however, are completely at our mercy. Sea Stars, Sea Cucumbers, Sand dollars, small crabs, corals and many other animals are unable to readily move. Many divers disregard the well-being and comfort of marine animals for the sake of a picture, even just touching the bottom has the potential to cause harm. Remember, these animals are adapted to life underwater where everything is lighter due to buoyancy. A heavy blow from a knee or elbow is more than enough to break off a piece of coral or injure an unsuspecting bottom-dweller. This could even be dangerous for the divers themselves as some reef inhabitants may bite or sting if they perceive a threat.
This is why the best divers practice good buoyancy control. The first step in being a safer and more responsible diver is to understand those wild animals should not be handled by humans and we have to accept that a vivid and memorable experience can be had with wildlife without ever coming into physical contact with it.
Proper fin kicking for skilled divers
The next step is to become a better, more skilled diver. A diver with more experience, comfort and technique, is far less likely to touch and therefore damage the sensitive marine life that exists on coral reefs and what makes them magical. Skill doesn’t come with experience alone. There are divers with hundreds or even thousands of logged hours that still rest their whole body on the reef to take a photo, scull with their hands to turn or literally push off the reef to back out of a tight squeeze.
This article is not meant to shame as a lot of us used to make these mistakes! That is until we discovered the magic of advanced fin kicking. Every diver should aspire to improve their fin kicking technique as the list of benefits is long and varied. Here are just a few reasons you should want to refine your finning and buoyancy skills.
Mastery of the back kick and helicopter kick will inarguably make you a better diver as it allows you to navigate tight turns and back out of small spaces with ease. Soon enough, you’ll be propelling your way through a shipwreck with as much ease as you would walk down an average hallway.
Having these abilities will make you less likely to get stuck or find yourself in a difficult situation. There’s a certain satisfaction in pulling out an unusual technique that’s just right for the circumstance to solve a problem. A good collection of kick techniques is like a swiss army knife. You won’t need every tool on every dive, but eventually, you’ll be glad that you had that modified flutter kick in your back pocket.
Being a better and more confident diver will result in both lower stress levels and your resting heart rate, causing you to breathe slower and save on gas. In addition to this, some kicks are more streamlined than others which will allow you to move through the water more efficiently and with the less overall effort, saving you even more gas. More gas provides both a greater margin of safety and reduces the chance that you’ll have to end a dive due to being low on air.
Better wildlife encounters:
A lower breath rate will make you more silent diver as bubbles are the loudest part of diving. Some kicks will allow you to move more gracefully and in a way that reduces wildlife disruptions meaning you won’t scare away the fish so easily. Being able to get close those skittish animals will make wildlife viewing and photography so much easier.
Protecting the environment:
If you care about preserving the reef for future generations, having better buoyancy and kicking techniques will ensure that your fins do as little damage to the sensitive reef as possible.
It’s not exactly the best reason to pursue better dive skills but let’s face it, nobody wants to look like a terrible diver. We’ve all seen that one diver that’s always in perfect trim position and never touches the bottom and thought “Man, I’d love to dive like that!!!”. With a little bit of work, you too can dive and kick like a pro.