Fins are one of the most overlooked pieces of dive equipment. Well-fitting fins suitable for the environment you’re diving in are about as important as a proper mask. As with any type of dive gear, fins come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. In this post, we’ll have a look at the best types of fins for underwater archaeological research.
One of the first decisions you have to make when buying a pair of fins is full-foot vs open-heel. Full-foot fins are the most straightforward type, with a silicone pocket that your bare feet can slip into, with or without neoprene socks. We love the simplicity of full foot fins. First, they have no moving parts (straps) and therefore don’t require any maintenance, and there’s a lower risk of anything breaking. Second, you don’t need any footwear such as dive boots to use them. This means less gear to travel with. Third, they are usually a little lighter and cheaper than open heel fins. Depending on the fit of a full-foot fin, there can be a lot of pressure placed on the top of the foot and toes or, worse, cause blisters and cuts if the fit is not right. An exact fit is therefore very important. When you are only doing boat dives in tropical water, full-foot fins are an excellent choice.
For any other type of scenario, however, open-heel fins are preferred. As the name suggests, open-heel fins don’t cover the entire heel. Instead, they feature rubber straps that can often be adjusted for a more comfortable fit, based on the thickness of your dive boots. For most shore dives, dive boots are an essential piece of kit, as they protect your feet from sharp rocks and sea urchins during water entry and exit. In cold water, they also keep your feet warm. Throughout their career, underwater archaeologists can find themselves in all kinds of different scenarios and environments. Open-heel fins with sturdy dive boots are therefore the most versatile option.
The next choice you have to make is paddle fins vs split fins. Paddle fins feature a single blade and are the most common type of fins, while split fins feature a slit which cuts the blade into two halves. Split fins are often made of a more flexible rubber, making them easier to kick. This can reduce muscle fatigue and cramps, especially on long dives or snorkels. Paddle fins, on the other hand, provide more propulsion due to their stiffer blades. They perform much better in strong currents than split fins do. They are also better for frog kicks and for maneuvering in confined spaces. Paddle fins are the obvious choice for underwater archaeologists. They provide the propulsion needed when surveying long distances in strong currents, and they allow for more precise maneuvering inside shipwrecks and caves.
If you want to go for open-heel fins, the last main decision you will have to make is tech vs recreational fins. Tech diving fins, or jet fins, are the thick, usually black fins that tend to be a bit wider and shorter than most other fins. They are optimized for diving in challenging environments and offer a lot of power, but are heavier and stiffer than most other fins. This increases the chance of muscle fatigue and cramps. Jet fins are substantially more expensive and harder to use initially.
Our recommendation for underwater archaeologists is recreational open-heel paddle fins. They are a bit more expensive and bulkier than full-foot and split fins, but less so than jet fins. They are the most versatile type and will enable you to efficiently conduct research in a wide range of environments. If you follow our recommendation, make sure to always carry at least one spare fin strap and to choose sturdy dive boots with hard soles (no water shoes). There are numerous open-heel paddle fins on the market these days. Some of our favorites are the Tusa Solla, Scubapro Seawing Nova, and Mares Volo. Whichever fins you choose, if they are from a reputable brand, they are likely to last for many years and serve you well on all kinds of underwater research projects.