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Good finning technique in freediving is essential for saving energy, and moving efficiently through the water (it also makes you look much better in your underwater pictures and videos!). If you struggle with your technique, or you’re not sure if you are finning efficiently, we are here to run through everything you need to know about optimal finning for freediving, with some useful tips how to choose the right fins for you.
What type of finning techniques are there?
There are two main ways to fin in freediving, and these depend on whether you are using bi-fins (a fin on each foot) or a monofin (a dolphin-style single fin that joins both feet together). Let’s see an overview of each:
Bi-finning allows you to kick each leg consecutively to the other. You have a fin on each foot, and you kick your legs like you would in a ‘front crawl’ swimming technique.
Bi-finning is great for beginners as it is easy to learn and to perfect, and it is the best finning technique for safety diving and rescuing other divers. Bi-finning uses strength mostly from the legs to propel you through the water.
Monofinning / dolphin kicking
The monofin or dolphin kicking technique is usually used with a monofin instead of bi-fins. Instead of using your legs, the power comes mostly from the core of the body, your legs stay together and fairly straight and you propel through the water in a similar way that a dolphin does.
Monofinning is a more advanced freediving technique and it can be tricky to master, as most beginners will still try to use their legs or hips to move the monofin instead of the core.
You can use this technique while using bi-fins by keeping your legs together and using the bi-fins like a monofin. Switching to dolphin kicking can give your legs a break and use different muscles for a while.
How to bi-fin properly
As a recreational freediver, you will most probably do bi-finning so it is good to know how you can perfect this technique. A combination of the following is the key to finning like a pro:
Pay attention to the upper body position
It is not uncommon for divers to move their upper body or shoulders side to side as they kick, but try to keep it still as you fin to save your energy, stay relaxed, and avoid disorientation. It’s also important to keep your head facing forwards and not tipping your neck back to look above you. If you have to look ahead, try to tip your body from your hips instead of your neck, this is important to avoid a throat squeeze at depth and to make sure equalization happens easily.
When you are starting out, it is OK to keep your arms down by your sides when you are finning, just make sure to keep them close to your body. As you progress you might choose to lift the arms straight above your head, this makes you more streamline in the water and saves energy, just make sure your body is in a straight line and your arms aren’t bent. It is good to have someone film you to make sure your body position is straight when you try this.
Keep your legs straight
There is debate over how much to bend the knees for the most efficient bi-finning technique, it comes down to personal preference. But it is important to avoid ‘bicycle kicking’, which is bending the knees so much that you are ‘pedaling’ your legs like you would while riding a bicycle.
This is not streamline, uses more energy, and will not give you much propulsion through the water. Try to focus on kicking the legs from the hips, and not the knees, and keeping the legs quite straight without bending the knees too much.
Point your toes
Pointed toes are the most essential part of finning, similarly to the ‘bicycle kicking’ concept, if your feet are in position similar to they would be on bicycle pedals (or standing) your fins will not move back and forth in the water in an efficient way.
Keeping your toes straight will encourage you to keep your legs straighter, and keep the fins pointed downwards, which is optimum for freediving.
Kick not too wide
An optimum bi-finning technique requires smaller kicks. It can be tempting to do big kicks and widen the legs a lot, but it is more efficient to keep the gap between your legs smaller to stay streamline. You will find that you are kicking more, but it will feel much easier than trying to perform big, wide kicks.
How to choose the right fins for easy finning
The fins you use have a huge impact on how you move in the water. There are two things to consider when choosing freediving fins; material and stiffness (how much the fin bends as you kick):
Pick up the right material
The three materials that are generally used to make freediving fins are plastic, fiberglass (or a mixture of fiberglass and epoxy resin) and carbon.
When starting your freediving journey, most people choose plastic beginner freediving fins. The main benefit to plastic fins is that they are cheap, extremely sturdy and hard to break, however tend to be very stiff which will make finning feel harder.
Plastic fins require a hard kick to propel you through the water, this uses more energy and makes you tired, which leads to shorter breath-hold times.
Fiberglass fins are also quite durable and sturdy, but they have more flexibility than plastic fins. Fiberglass fins would be a great choice for freedivers who are starting to take their finning more seriously and want finning to feel easier, but do not want to worry about them breaking easily.
Carbon fins are the most delicate and easy to break of the three materials, but they are generally considered the best option for efficiency in freediving.
If you are hoping to compete in freediving competitions, carbon fins would make finning feel more effortless and relaxing than other types of fins.
Choose the right stiffness
As we have learned, the stiffness of the fin matters for efficient finning. Stiff, plastic fins require more effort than light, fiberglass and carbon blade fins.
But it doesn’t stop there, blade types come with different stiffness options; usually marked as soft, medium and hard. You can choose just how stiff you want your fins to be.
The more the fin blade bends, the easier the kick will feel, but the less propulsion you will get. So, a stiffer blade will use more energy, but it will push you a little further.
You should consider the strength you have in your legs when choosing the stiffness of your blade. If you have very strong legs, you can afford to go for a stiffer blade than someone whose legs aren’t that strong.
If you don’t have much strength in your legs, stiff fins will make you tired much faster. It is good to test out different fin stiffness options before buying your fins so you can see what works best for you, everybody is different and has different preferences to how stiff they want their fins to be.
Tips to practice and improve your finning
To master your finning, here are some useful tips to follow:
Practice in a pool
Practicing your finning in a pool means that you can do repetitive dives without holding your breath for a long time (or at all). You can practice with a snorkel on the surface and focus on your kicking, or you can do short breath holds to practice under a little bit of depth.
The benefits to practicing in a dynamic setting is that you don’t have to worry about equalization, or turning at the bottom, and you can solely concentrate on technique. You can also practice without needing a buddy if you are not performing breath-holds.
Watching other more experienced freedivers can be a great way to learn and improve your own finning. Watch them in the pool or on the dive line or watch videos online of competition freedivers.
Get someone to film you
Sometimes we look completely different to how we feel underwater. It is a great idea to get a buddy to film you either on the line or in the pool and watch back the footage afterwards to see what can be improved on. You can compare videos and see your progress as time goes on.
Think about your front-kick
A common mistake that beginners make in freediving is having a strong back-kick, and a weaker front-kick. This means that they put more power into kicking the fin backwards, and not as much power the opposite direction.
Try to even out the power in both the front-kick and the back-kick. This is relevant for both bi-finning and for mono-finning.
Now you have all the information to improve your technique; just choose the right fins, practice regularly, don’t be shy to get help from others and you will soon be finning like a freediving pro!
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