What’s the Best Fin choice for Freedivers?

You’ve grazed the forums, heard from the professionals, debated with the locals and the question of which freediving fin is the best for you remains a trial and error past-time.

We took five sets of fins to the pool and put them through their paces to evaluate just what’s in a fin. This is not a direct comparison test, rather a review of several different fins and their individual characteristics. Which fin is best for you? Let’s find out.

The Kitty:

The Trial:

To test each fin, we visited a local 25m lap swimming pool and performed 4x 25m dynamic swims with each. We recorded the duration and the amount of kicks per lap and noted the sensations of each fin.

The intention was to rate each fin based on effort, time and feel to evaluate how each fin performed under standardised conditions. The results follow.

Specifications:

Pelagic Spirit Fins – Flex 200 Super Soft Blue PlasticDSC_7440-Web

  • Price: $120
  • Weight: 651g (XS size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 30
  • Average time per lap: 22.5 seconds
  • Lightest, cheapest and softest fin on test

Pelagic Spirit Fins – Soft Flex Green PlasticDSC_7443-Web

  • Price: $120
  • Weight: 760g (M size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 29
  • Average time per lap: 21.3 seconds
  • 2nd lightest and cheapest fin on test

Salvimar Next Camouflage PlasticDSC_7439-Web

  • Price: $253.80
  • Weight: 1010g (40-41 size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 29
  • Average time per lap: 20.1 seconds
  • Fastest and 2nd heaviest fin on test

Salvimar System One PlasticDSC_7441-Web

  • Price: $328.90
  • Weight: 1061g (41-42 size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 28
  • Average time per lap: 20.3 seconds
  • Heaviest fin on test, 2nd fastest

Salvimar Boom Blast Dynamic Standard Carbon FibreDSC_7446-Web

  • Price: $899
  • Weight: 936g (41-42 size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 28
  • Average time per lap: 20.6 seconds
  • Highest price fin on test, 3rd fastest

 

The Gory Details

Pelagic Spirit Fins – Flex 200 Super Soft Blue Plastic

DSC_7440-Web

  • Price: Low
  • Quality: Medium
  • Durability: Medium
  • Performance: Medium
  • Footpocket: Fixed
  • Blade Angle: Low
  • Comfort: High
  • Feel: Responsive
  • Value: Excellent

Overall Rating: Best fin on the market for the price and performance

The cheapest ($120) and lightest fin (651g) on test, the Pelagic Spirit Fin doesn’t potentially jump out at you, however once you try it, you will be surprised by the performance.

The Blue Flex 200 blades are the most flexible in the Pelagic Spirit fin range, with the Green next (soft), then Black (flexible) and finally Red (stiffest). We selected to review the blue and green in this review.

As far as plastic blades go, the blue flex 200 are the softest we’ve ever used and we like them. They provide a consistent feel through the fin stroke and with the fixed blade/footpocket connection you gain a very good awareness of what the fin blade is doing with each thrust.

The foot pocket is not as snug as some of the more ergonomic ones available on the market, offering less arch support and the angle of the blade is less than the regular 23 degrees that seems to be a general market standard. A flatter angle on the blade allows for easier surface swimming however.

During the pool test, these were the slowest fins, and being soft they don’t necessarily offer strong acceleration. The good thing about that is, that you don’t need the strongest legs to power them. The fins are ideal for a beginner as they really make you perform a fin stroke with good technique to provide the thrust.

This means that you will perform more kicks per 25m, but with less effort. This means higher rate of kicking, but less load on your legs so your muscles fatigue less. It also means that your ankles and knees do not suffer from excessive tension, again this adds to overall comfort and the ability to kick for longer without discomfort.

Whilst moving the fin up and down we noted very little tendency for sideways slippage, even without rails on the blade. The fin channels to a good job of driving the water towards the tip of the blade and due to the blade softness you’re able to easily work the blade in an up and down motion, both quickly and slowly. We found that the blade activated quite high up close to the foot pocket so that the entire blade is working during the stroke.

Overall, we rate these as the best fins with which to begin freediving. They are also the best fin to return to if you can’t find a fin that works for you. Why? Because they will make you refine your finning technique, which is more important than having the best fin. Get the finning technique right and then you will gain a fantastic baseline to understand how any other fin on the market performs for you.

Definitely start with these!

  • Price: $120
  • Weight: 651g (XS size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 30
  • Average time per lap: 22.5 seconds
  • Lightest, cheapest and softest fin on test

 

Pelagic Spirit Fins – Soft Flex Green Plastic

DSC_7443-Web

  • Price: Low
  • Quality: Medium
  • Durability: Medium
  • Performance: Medium
  • Footpocket: Fixed
  • Blade Angle: Low
  • Comfort: High
  • Feel: Light, but hard on the legs
  • Value: Excellent

Overall Rating: Great price, stiffer blade better for strong legs

The cheapest ($120) and 2nd lightest fin (760g) on test, the Pelagic Spirit Fin is the same design and stiffness as Rob Allen Scorpia fins (and several others on the market).

The Green Soft blades are the second most flexible (after the blue super soft) in the Pelagic Spirit fin range, with the Black (flexible) next and finally Red (stiffest). We selected to review the blue and green in this review.

The good thing about using the exact same fin design with blades in different stiffnesses is that you achieve a direct comparison of the performance to really understand how blade hardness affects your freediving.

During the review, this fin performed slightly faster than it’s blue cousin and with slightly less strokes per lap. That all sounds fantastic in metrics, but how does that translate to your legs and they way you work during a dynamic apnea swim?

Through the pool test, these were the 2nd slowest fins and you notice how much harder you must work to push the blade through the water with each stroke compared to softer blades. Being a little harder, they accelerate better as the leverage of a stiffer blade provides slightly more thrust. Imagine pushing a big hard gear on a bicycle versus a really easy one when you can spin lightly.

Being stiffer, the blade doesn’t track as well, unless you have strong legs to control them. The general tendency of stiffer blades is that on the down stroke (kicking forward) a stiff blade will encourage your knee to lose tension, then bend, which loses power through the stroke. This means that rather than kicking forward with a nice long lever, by your knee bending, the lever has essentially just become shorter (full lever from the hip to blade tip with straight leg, versus straight leg from knee to blade tip).

If you’re able to maintain the fin stroke up and down, then the second problem you encounter is potential for the blade to slip sideways and waddle through the stroke. This makes it feel as if you are getting good power through the stroke, however it is inefficient. How do you overcome these problems of knee-break or sideways waddle? Stronger legs or softer blade. Even though these fins were slightly stiffer, we again found that the blade activated quite high up close to the foot pocket so that the entire blade worked during the full stroke.

Who then are these fins ideal for? We recommend the slightly stiffer blades of the Pelagic Spirit Green to freedivers that are either taller (longer leverage legs), have stronger more powerful legs (easier to control the blade) or have very good finning technique. If you perform quite a bit of shore-based freediving in more surf prone areas, we’d also recommend the slightly stiffer blade as even though it requires more strength, you will feel more confident with the extra thrust it provides in more challenging surface conditions.

Overall, we rate these as good fins to progress in freediving after you’ve perfected your finning technique and/or you’ve got stronger legs and good mobility and strength in your ankles.

Definitely think about moving up to these as you advance your freediving skills.

  • Price: $120
  • Weight: 760g (M size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 29
  • Average time per lap: 21.3 seconds
  • 2nd lightest and cheapest fin on test

Salvimar Next Camouflage Plastic

DSC_7439-Web

  • Price: Medium
  • Quality: High
  • Durability: High
  • Performance: High
  • Footpocket: Removable / Interchangeable
  • Blade Angle: Medium
  • Comfort: High
  • Feel: Excellent
  • Value: Very High

Overall Rating: High performance fin despite heavy weight, great feel and feedback

At twice the price of our cheapest fin on test, the Salvimar Next fin ($253.80) is also the 2nd heaviest on test (1010g), but what we’d call the ‘sleeper’ fin. Much like a generic looking car on the road that actually hides a high performance engine, the Salvimar Next looks like an unlikely contender, but offers surprisingly good performance.

The blade on first inspection appears heavy with thick slabby talons emerging from the foot pocket down the side of the fin blade. The camouflage covered blade evokes the spirit of hunting and slipping into the foot pocket you at first notice the extra weight hanging off your foot.

This all changes once you get moving. Literally kicking off, the blade accelerates well, you do work a bit harder as it takes more grunt from the muscles to push the blade up and down through the water. The inspiring portion of these fins is the incredible feel between foot and blade, they really provide an excellent amount of feedback as to what the blade is doing through the stroke. They are a really nice fin to kick with.

The foot pocket is slightly tapered which provides a comfortable fit and heel movement is minimised with a good cup around the heel itself.

The blade is a good compromise, it is certainly not the softest, but it is not too stiff either. Whilst working the blade through the stroke, you do need to apply strength to the movement, slightly stronger legs are better, but for the work you do, you really move through the water well. For changes of direction, the blade is excellent because it provides very good awareness to you as to where it’s placed and what it’s doing.

During the pool test, these were the fastest fins, providing really good thrust, great manoeuvrability and good control, despite the heavy weight.

With the removable foot pocket these are a great all rounder. You can easily travel with them, they are plastic blades so they are durable, the camouflage finish means they’re ideal for spearfishing, the performance of the blade will give you confidence on shore-dives and around rocks you’ll be satisfied that even if they become scratched you’ll still literally kick on without worry.

Overall, we rate these as the best all rounder. They’re heavy, but they inspire good finning technique, provide excellent feedback and control and they offer great value and performance before you leap to carbon fins.

Definitely consider these if you’re looking for good fin feedback and dynamics!

  • Price: $253.80
  • Weight: 1010g (40-41 size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 29
  • Average time per lap: 20.1 seconds
  • Fastest and 2nd heaviest fin on test

Salvimar System One Plastic

DSC_7441-Web

  • Price: Medium
  • Quality: High
  • Durability: High
  • Performance: Fast
  • Footpocket: Removable / Interchangeable
  • Blade Angle: Medium
  • Comfort: High
  • Feel: Low
  • Value: Good

Overall Rating: The 2nd fastest fin on test however not the easiest to control

The Salvimar System One fin ($328.90) is the heaviest on test (1061g), but it’s the second fastest!

This fin has all the hallmarks of innovation, with its parabolic pressure control system, controlled curvature and split fin tips, it’s an impressive looking beast.

Having utilised several foot pockets over the times including Cressi, Omer, Pathos, Pelagic, we find the Salvimar ergonomic foot pockets the most comfortable for our feet. The heel design ensures a good cup around the heel with minimal slippage, even for stiff blade fins. The contour of the mid-section allows for comfortable flexion but certainty in the connection.

This is an important factor for these fin blades. The System One blades are strong plastic blades with two open window channels near the foot pocket, designed to allow pressure control on the blade, no doubt to reduce stress on the forefoot during finning.

Slipping into these blades and kicking off, the initial feel is that the blade is much longer than it is. It also feels like a really fast fin. For every stroke, you sense that you are gaining swift acceleration and movement, and it’s true, because these were the second fastest fin on test.

The limiter is that despite the thrust of the blade, it loses feel of what the tip is doing. It almost feels as if the fin ends at the holes through the blade in front of your toes. During testing we noted that the blade tended to slip more sideways, as a product of it’s stiffness. This was reduced somewhat by the split fin tip design, however we also noted some distortion in the blade (twisting) as it moved through the stroke.

The parabolic pressure control system definitely assists the fin to flex and curve, which is the biggest challenge with plastic fins. Plastic fins tend to push through the water like a stiff board, not flexing and curving like a soft or carbon blade will. The design of the System One is geared towards retaining the strength of the blade but encouraging it to curve and flex to provide power and thrust. It’s a difficult equation, but with the System One achieving the aim of generating a fin that flexes and curves well, the offset has been in losing a degree of feel in what the blade is doing. Ahhh the compromise, it’s the ever present game!

Who would best benefit using these fins? Being a very quick fin, again, with strong legs you will power these fins well through the water. We’d recommend these fins if you require a fin to perform many short bursts of thrust, either to accelerate to a new spot, to perform repeated shallow dives or if you require a plastic set of blades to complement your Salvimar Boom Blast Carbon blades.

Overall, we rate these fins as best for a freediver who wants to feel fast. They’re heavy, but they’re quick and they offer a good training blade for those who also have a set of carbon fibre Boom Blast blades in their quiver.

Definitely consider these if you’re looking to feel fast and perform short bursts!

  • Price: $328.90
  • Weight: 1061g (41-42 size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 28
  • Average time per lap: 20.3 seconds
  • Heaviest fin on test, 2nd fastest

Salvimar Boom Blast Dynamic Standard Carbon Fibre

DSC_7446-Web

  • Price: High
  • Quality: High
  • Durability: Medium
  • Performance: High
  • Footpocket: Removable / Interchangeable
  • Blade Angle: Medium
  • Comfort: High
  • Feel: Responsive and quick
  • Value: Medium

Overall Rating: High performance carbon fin at a premium price

The most expensive ($899) and third lightest fin (936g) on test, the Salvimar Boom Blast Standard stiffness carbon fibre fin was a glamorous addition to the review.

At the very top end of the price range, the premium price Boom Blast fin provides a well weighted fin, glossy carbon weave finish and K-reinforced foot pockets.

At first, you notice how quick these blades feel through the water, with slightly fewer strokes (which means more economy) and a quicker turn of pace, the carbon fibre material displays its benefits clearly.

The blade flexes and curves well though the stroke, which is a key benefit of carbon fibre. Using less materials (lighter weight) and being able to custom lay the carbon sheets to determine how much curve and flex is extended at each part of the fin through the stroke, it’s possible to create a fin that optimises power and control.

As far as carbon blades go, the “Standard” stiffness that these fins offer, is equivalent to a medium hardness in carbon blade language, some manufacturers will refer to this as a “25” rating as well.

The stiffness of the blade is noticeable, as you work the blade through the water, you can feel your calves engaging, your ankles working to control the direction of the blade through the entire movement and you sense the entire length of the blade throughout the stroke. They do offer very good feel and feedback as you move. It is a pleasant sensation to feel ‘quick’ through the water.

As with almost all carbon blades, the rails extend down the full length of the blade from foot pocket to blade tip. This ensures the water flows ‘down’ along the blade through the fin stroke and prevents it slipping off the side (much like wing tips on aircraft keep the air on the wing).

The rails assist during the kick fin stroke to maintain the fin in an up and down movement, rather than wobbling or waddling side to side. This is a key benefit of carbon fins versus plastic. Plastic fins do not use side rails as this would only serve to increase the stiffness of the fin, which is already a challenge for plastic fins.

Who are these fins ideal for? An experienced freediver or spearfisherman will enjoy these fins, particularly if they have a sound finning technique and strong legs to manage the fin properly. The interchangeable blades mean that you could complement them with a set of the System One blades if rocky shore dives are intended.

To gain the most from these fins, we’d recommend refining technique first with a set of super soft fins, then as you progress and finning becomes second nature, move towards these fins as a progress leap. Continue to train in the pool and develop good strength and control through the fin stroke. This will help you gain the most from the fin.

The split fin tips may be susceptible to damage during transit, however all carbon blades are susceptible to damage in rocky areas. Best to keep these on hand for open water sessions!

  • Price: $899
  • Weight: 936g (41-42 size)
  • Average strokes per 25m lap: 28
  • Average time per lap: 20.6 seconds
  • Highest price fin on test, 3rd fastest

 

The Summary

So, in the end, what is the best fin choice for you as a freediver?

The thing to consider is what your existing experience is with fins. If you started out with a premium priced carbon blade as your first ever fin, you’ll likely determine every plastic fin is rubbish. If you’ve been using a super stiff plastic blade since the beginning, any softer fin will feel amazing, whether it’s plastic, carbon or fibreglass.

Wherever you’ve come from, it’s more important to connect the type of freediving you do with the optimal fin, which in the end may even be the cheapest softest plastic fin available! It is difficult to compare one fin with another, but returning to a very basic baseline, like a super soft plastic fin, you are best placed to determine and match the right fin for your finning style, your freediving ambitions and your physicality and physiology. Not every plastic fin is the same as the other, nor every carbon fin the same as another.

Strive for a balance between the quality of your finning technique, your leg strength, the stiffness of the fin and your budget.

If you’re a smaller build, with thinner legs, choose a very soft blade fin at the outset. As you get stronger and develop good technique, move towards a stiffer blade.

If you’re a taller or bigger build, still start out with a super soft blade as your training tool, then move towards stiffer blades as you progress. Be mindful that in tough shore dive conditions that require more thrust and power to get moving, you’ll want a slightly stiffer blade to be able to move and accelerate quickly.

What if you only want an all rounder? We’d recommend choosing the best fin in value versus stiffness.

And, what if only carbon will do? Choose a carbon fin with medium stiffness and practice finning technique in the pool to ensure you gain the best power from the blade with the most efficient movement.

Here’s a few categories and what we’d recommend.

Absolute Best Value?

Beginner?

All rounder and Best Mid-Price?

Premium?

Shore Dives Only?

Depth Training?

Lean, Small Build Person or Less Strong Legs?

Tall Person or Strong Legs?