Different names, different styles – finning techniques come in a few different forms. Which is better is down to the diver, after all, each diver has their favourite style like they do their own mask. Finning techniques that can be used in different environments, to conserve energy or save air, and even to escape a territorial titan triggerfish. We bring you six finning techniques that are good to know, and great to master:
The entry-level flutter kick is the go-to-technique for divers in their early days. It’s the simple up-down motion of the legs that we divers take to so quickly and naturally. The legs stay more or less straight, but a little bending is okay. The flutter kick works best with long and gentle strokes – any erratic kicking can prove ineffective and has more chance of disturbing nearby seabed or marine life. The flutter kick is easy to use, and can provide a good forward thrust. It’s best used on the surface, during a descent or ascent, when well clear of the seabed and when swimming into a current.
Avoid flutter kicks when close to a silty or sandy seabed, inside confined spaces like a wreck or cave, or when swimming close to delicate marine life.
Flutter Kick - © Diveidc
Considered a “step-up” from the flutter kick, the asymmetric scissor/split kick combines aspects of both the flutter and the frog kick. Much thrust can be generated by a long, lazy kick. The thrust comes when both legs come together, just like scissors, and this can propel a diver forward whilst saving energy. This power kick is great for relaxed propulsion, but cannot be speeded up, like the flutter kick.
Scissor/split kicks are great for powerful cruising, as an initial kick to get you going forward and to rest groups of leg muscles. We don’t recommend using it when close to silty or sandy seabeds, in confined spaces inside a wreck or cave, or when apex speed is required.
Scissor/Split Kick © Aquaputra Putrajaya
If the flutter kick is the underwater equivalent of the freestyle kick, then the frog kick is the underwater equivalent of the breast-stroke kick. Taking inspiration from the nimble amphibian, the kick uses the muscles of the back and insides of the thighs. Many divers find the frog kick relaxing – seeing it as an ideal cruising kick, to slowly alternate between that and the flutter kick to rest muscles.
Frog kicking is great for general cruising, when close to delicate coral, silty/sandy seabed, or marine life (providing you look where you’re kicking), and inside large caves. We don’t recommend frog kicking in narrow corridors of wrecks and caves, alongside walls or when swimming in a strong current.
Frog Kick © SDI TDI ERDI
Bent-Knee Cave Diver Kick
A frequent kicking technique for technical divers, the bent-knee cave diver kick is known within the industry as being the kick that causes the least disturbance of the environment. With bent knees the movement is very limited and the entire kick comes only from a small movement in the hips, combined with a kick of the ankles. With a limited kick-range, it means a limited propulsion – but decreases strain and air consumption.
The bent-knee cave diver kick works well in small areas such as wrecks and caves, and when close to silty/sandy seabed and marine life. We don’t recommend the bent-knee cave diver kick when in strong currents, or when you need to get away from something, quickly.
Bent-Knee Cave Diver Kick © Diveidc
Allowing you to pivot or rotate and stay in the horizontal and trimmed diving position is beneficial for quickly changing direction. The helicopter turn allows you to turn and look behind you without changing water position. Slowly moving your fins apart horizontally in an opposing back and forth motion, whilst rotating your ankles and fins, is one of the most efficient ways of turning around.
We recommend the helicopter turn when in confined spaces like wrecks and caves, or over a delicate seabed. It’s one of the most efficient ways of changing direction.
Helicopter Turn © SDI TDI ERDI
Reverse or Back Kick
The reverse or back kick is a top skill to master. Able to move away from a subject whilst still being able to face it, is perfect for underwater photographers, instructors and for divers who are fixated on a subject. It’s almost a complete reverse of the frog kick, and requires your fins to scoop water to start you moving backwards.
We recommend the reverse or back kick when you need to move away from something whilst still looking at it (with a camera, student etc.), to reverse out of holes or for stability when you want to hold your position. We don’t recommend using it against a current, when speed is needed and over long distances (although that would be quite incredible.)