We will talk about 4 finning styles that every diver should learn to get the most out of their dives. We’d previously gone over the reasons why every diver should strive to improve their fin-kicking techniques. If you missed it, read the article here.
The benefits of improving your fin-kicking techniques
1. More manoeuvrability
2. Safer dives
3. Longer dives
4. Better wildlife encounters
5. Protecting the environment
6. Looking cool
The standard kicking technique that every diver does when they are first learning is the flutter kick where the fins cycle up and down. This is a fast kick that gets the diver moving faster than nearly any other kick but it is somewhat inefficient as while one fin is pushing the diver forward, the other is simply creating drag. There is nothing wrong with this kick but relying exclusively on this kick is like driving a car but only ever using the third gear. Knowledge of different kicking styles provides the diver with an arsenal of “gears” from which to choose. Perhaps a slower but more efficient kick would be more appropriate for a more leisurely dive. Maybe you found yourself right up against a wall to observe a small octopus and need to back out. A reverse kick would allow you to pull back without using your hands which would otherwise disturb the octopus. I will describe 3 kicks in detail and what their applications can be but online videos may be better for demonstrating how to do them.
Types of Kicking techniques
The Flutter Kick
This is generally the fastest kick for getting from one place to the other though slightly less efficient in terms of energy usage, meaning you will probably go through your gas supply faster with this kick. The reason that this is the kick that beginners rely on the most is that the forward thrust can help compensate for poor trim or buoyancy skills. This is why old footage of early divers shows them using only the flutter kick as BCD’s had not been invented yet and divers could keep level if they kept moving forward as quickly as possible. While the flutter kick is the favourite kick of beginner divers, it should not be overlooked. Beyond just moving fast, advanced divers will still use this kick in many circumstances (including simply preference or habit). Because the profile of the kick is vertical, it may be a more appropriate kick in vertically tight spaces such as between the pillars of a jetty or next to a reef wall.
The Frog Kick
The next kick is the one that I use most frequently. The frog kick is performed by pointing the soles of the feet towards each other and pushing them together to propel forwards then spreading the fins apart again with the blades of the fin turned horizontal again to reduce drag to get back to the starting position.
This kick may take a bit of practice as it uses muscles and motions that don’t come naturally to most people. Because the fins are not creating undue drag, this kick is the most efficient for long-term finning and will help to conserve energy and gas throughout the dive. An added benefit is that it has a horizontal profile meaning that if you plan on swimming near the bottom, you are less likely to have your fins damage the marine life or stir up sediment. This, of course, means that it may not be the most practical for tight spaces which is why it makes sense to use either one depending on the circumstance.
The Helicopter Kick
The third kick is not one that you’ll use as often as it’s not meant for moving straight. The helicopter kick allows you to turn in place without having to move your hands. Yes, you can still turn with your hands if need be, but being able to turn while in trim position will come in handy as sometimes our hands are busy doing something else (holding a camera, writing notes, etc.) or if we’re worried about hitting some fragile surface with our hands waving around.
Once you’ve learned the frog kick explained above, the helicopter kick is just a small modification. Simply perform the frog kick but with only one foot, keeping the other foot still. The propulsion of just one foot will turn your body in the direction opposite the foot that did the kicking and voila!
The Reverse Kick
Using the reverse kick or back kick, it is entirely possible to move backward while in the trim position and without using your hands. With fins flared out either out to the sides or downward, pull the knees in quickly keeping the angle of the fin blade fixed so that it catches as much water as possible. Think of paddling a canoe or kayak. While it is much harder to move the oar/paddle through water if the broad side of the blade is against the direction of motion, but the boat wouldn’t move if the strokes were effortless. This kicking technique will take some practice but once it can be executed, you won’t have to rely on your hands to push off of walls which will reduce your impact on the environment when diving.
These are only a few of the kicks that divers have to choose from, there are plenty more like the bicycle kick, modified flutter kick, and modified frog kick. Join us for a PADI specialty course specifically designed to improve buoyancy control and fin kicking technique called Peak Performance Buoyancy.
It’s always a great idea to sharpen our dive skills and continue improving, be it to reduce our air consumption, reduce the risk of personal injury, show off our skills to other divers, or most importantly help limit our impact on the marine environment!