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Scuba Fins VS Snorkeling Fins – Easy Traceable Differences

Scuba fins vs snorkeling fins, what is the difference? Whether you are going snorkeling or scuba diving, you need a pair of fins. Both types of fins serve the purpose they are designed for, and they rarely find fins that serve either purpose.

But are fins not fins? In this article, we outline the critical differences between snorkeling and scuba fins. Read through as we explain why fins are not just fins. 


Key features of snorkeling fins

  • Shorter in length compared to scuba fins
  • Simple design 
  • Full-footed or open-heeled 
  • Not susceptible to reef damage 
  • They are easy to maneuver 

Key features of scuba fins 

  • Relatively longer than snorkeling fins 
  • Often stiffer and thicker 
  • Designed for more powerful kicks 
  • It offers enough space for diving  boots 
  • More streamlined 
  • Closed/open pockets 

Scuba Fins VS Snorkeling Fins – Kye Differences 

01. Length, Portability

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between snorkeling and scuba fins is their size and portability. On average, the scuba fins tend to be longer and bulkier than the snorkeling fins.

The main reason for this design difference is that the two fins types are designed for performing purposes. 

Snorkeling fins are designed to be more portable, and lighters offer swimmers tremendous underwater thrust enabling snorkelers to move with speed.

They are designed to provide snorkelers with maximum propulsion with little effort. For instance, snorkeling mainly occurs slightly below the surface of the water.

Additionally, lighter gear is easy to carry and navigate within the water since even if the snorkel allows you to dive into deeper waters, one must return to the surface faster for air. 

Conversely, scuba diving is a bit engaging. Unlike snorkeling which only allows swimmers to swim on the water’s surface, scuba diving lets you descend deeper into the water with the help of a scuba.

Scuba diving requires more power and energy, and scuba fins are purposely built to offer this functionality. 

The fins are relatively longer, or sometimes they come in size as snorkeling fins. Typically, they measure 25-30 inches, long enough to give each kick enough power to move against the high underwater pressure. 

02. Design, Flexibility

Scuba fins are designed to give more turgidity. They are designed for more challenging conditions as compared to snorkeling fins.

Although their features vary from one manufacturer to another, scuba fins are more flexible and offer a higher kick efficiency and control.

Scuba fins come in two options on flexibility and stiffness- stiffer and a bit more flexible fin. More rigid fins are popular with divers because they work well for backing up and helicopter turns and work well for advanced propulsion styles such as frog kicking. 

Similarly, stiffer fins can propel a swimmer further compared to a more whippy fin. On the contrary, Snorkeling fins are generally more flexible to allow divers to kick and putter about just below the water’s surface.

With their limited design, scuba divers wearing snorkeling fins will have to kick hard and faster to keep up with other divers.

Equally, while scuba diving is excellent for diving in deeper water, they are unsuitable for snorkeling. For instance, their length and rigidness will prove hard to control, especially if one wants to stand while swimming in shallow waters. 

03. Thrust Efficiency

What is thrust? If you wonder what thrust is, the force sets you in motion as you swim. In essence, it is directly proportional to the backward pull of your kicks.

In this way, the more power you produce with your back spices, the more thrust force you gain and, subsequently, the more speed and acceleration you get. Thrust is a factor in deep scuba diving; scuba fins are designed to give divers maximum thrust force. 

Scuba diving fins are ideals designed for maximum thrust, and while this is true, their long, stiff, and bulkier design are not by chance. It is meant to contribute to thrust and partly compensate for the bulk that deep divers carry on their backs. 

On the contrary, the bulkiness can be cumbersome and inefficient for snorkeling which requires less effort to generate maximum thrust to push one on the water’s surface.

So, in essence, snorkeling fins are ineffective when it comes to thrusting but are ideal for snorkeling. The fins are a bit flexible, which moderates the effort used in exchange for the thrust generated by the much stiffer scuba diving fins. 

04. Open-Heeled and closed- heel Design 

Both snorkeling and scuba diving fins come in open and closed designs. Most designs have open foot pockets at the back.

They are ideally meant to be worn with diving boots and are most common when diving with a dry suit. Usually, this design is made of rigid material and may be uncomfortable to wear with diving boots. 

The open-heel design also tends to be more significant. The extended size is meant to accommodate the bulk of the diving boots.

So, they will be bulky and cumbersome to wear without diving boots in practice. The foot pocket and boot should fit well. That is why modern open-heeled fins come with easy-to-adjust straps or what is commonly referred to as spring straps/ bungee cords. 

The closed-heel, which is sometimes called full-foot fins, are made of soft rubber foot pockets that cover the heels of the diver entirely.

The fins are usually comfortable to wear even without the aid of a bootie. What makes the difference between the two?

Open-heeled fins are typically meant for eating in cold water or cold environments, while closed-heel fins are ideal for warm waters or warm climates. 

While snorkeling fins can come in both designs, snorkeling fins are predominantly open-heeled fins. Full-foot designs are prevalent with snorkeling fins, while open-heel designs are prevalent with scuba diving fins.

Why? Snorkeling involves swimming and sometimes having walks while snorkeling. Most divers find fins that fit over diving boots very comfortably while snorkeling instead of diving. 

05. Straps

Straps are ubiquitous with open-feel fins. The fins have adjustable straps at the back that make it easy to wear and take them off. The elastic straps are easy.

Wearing the fins with diving boots offers great comfort and fit. Additionally, they are perfect for group use as multiple people can tailor the fit of a single size.

On the other hand, closed-heel fins have full pockets in set sizes. While they are limited to a given extent, their design creates a better fit for maximum energy transfer from the leg. 

Scuba diving and snorkeling come in open and closed fin designs; however, one factor when looking at open heels fins is the strap type.

The standard strap familiar to many manufacturers is a flexible strap that can be tightened and loosened easily. However, some brands come with straps that can be clipped and unclipped.

The straps are metallic and sometimes are springform which can be stretched and coiled over your heel. One advantage of these straps is that they are durable and are easier to attach and detach.

While straps are ubiquitous with scuba diving fins, they are uncommon in snorkeling fins and sometimes are unnecessary. 

06. Blades 

Blades are specially designed to allow water to move along the fins for maximum propulsion and reduced fatigue.

However, scuba diving and snorkeling fins vary in blade designs. Generally, snorkeling, for instance, doesn’t require fancy equipment since it is done in shallow waters. Snorkeling fins reflect this simplicity in the makeup. 

Snorkeling fins have shorter blades, making swimming and maneuvering just below the water’s surface easier. Shorter blades also allow you to walk easily on the shores and make it easy to get in or out of the boat.

It is much easier and safer to go snorkeling in crowded areas with sharper edges. You at least don’t have a fear of knocking on some or destroying coral reefs while swimming. 

On the other hand, scuba diving fins are more extended and have stiffer blades. The blades are designed to displace more water per kicking, thus generating more power at greater diving depths.

Ideally, the manufacturing of scuba diving blades takes some effort because they are not meant for just swimming or exploring coral reefs. They are intended to generate more power and control while exploring the deep waters. 

While the type of blade type is not an issue for snorkeling fins, the kind of blade matters when it comes to scuba diving fins, different types of blades have varying performance efficiency.

07. Vents 

Vents are found at the bottom of the foot pocket. They are meant to allow water to pass through on a recovery stroke of a kick cycle and block water from passing through during a power stroke.

Vents can be a good asset in scuba diving, but they are unnecessary for snorkeling. So, vents are very common with scuba diving fins and are rarely found in snorkeling fins. 

Pros and cons of using snorkeling fins 

Do you need fins while snorkeling? For a  quick answer, no! It is perfectly safe to go snorkeling without a pair, especially if you are swimming in relatively calm waters, but on the other hand, there are many reasons you need a couple of snorkeling fins. What are the advantages? 

Pros of using snorkeling fins. 

  • Fins give swimmers a great deal of flexibility, especially in making turns. Similarly, they help enhance faster movement. 
  • Current control- slow current won’t be a big brother, but you will need fins to help you push towards a given direction for stronger currents. 
  • They come in handy when floating and when doing deep dives 
  • They also protect the legs if you decide to walk in shallow water. 

Cons of using snorkeling fins.

  • They are bulky and can give challenges in transportation. 
  • They can cause accidents, especially in crowded areas. 

Pros and cons of using scuba diving fins 

Unlike in snorkeling, scuba diving fins are necessary. What are the advantages? 

Pros of using scuba diving fins 

  • They enhance speed, power, and strength 
  • They enhance safety, especially if you get caught in strong currents; they can help you boost control. 
  • They also enhance movements, especially when making turns

Cons of using scuba diving fins 

  • They are bully 

Frequently Asked Questions about Scuba Fins vs Snorkeling Fins

01. What is the difference between snorkeling and scuba fins? 

Scuba fins are a bit longer, stiffer and bulkier, but on the contrary, snorkeling fins are on average shorter, lighter, and a bit more flexible compared to scuba fins. 

02. Can you use snorkeling fins for scuba? 

No, each fin type is designed for its specific functions. Interchanging one for the other renders the fins ineffective.

03. Is it better to snorkel with fins? 

From the onset, it is great to point out that fins are unnecessary when snorkeling. But it is better to use a pair because of their advantages onboard. One of the benefits is they offer excellent control capabilities in solid currents. 

04. What kind of fins are best for snorkeling? 

Personal choice and preferences rule here. Brand reviews can help you determine which type will work for you. But for the best fin for snorkeling, we recommend one that gives swimmers the ability to move around in the water with ease. 

05. Why are snorkeling fins shorter? 

There are several reasons why snorkeling fins are shorter. But we can round off the reasons for one – efficiency. Speed and power, for instance, are not a necessity in snorkeling.

You do not need too much power per stroke, which explains why they are shorter than scuba fins. The shorter side serves the purpose in that it serves enough power to snorkel for a longer distance and helps you gain control of your movements in the water.

Our verdict 

There are certainly lots of differences between snorkeling and scuba diving fins. This could be in design. The material used, and so forth.

While this is true, there are also striking similarities between the two types of fins. Most specifically, we cannot dismiss the fact that we need fins for snorkeling and scuba diving, but even with this, it will help if we use each fin for the purpose it is designed for. 

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