When you want to have fun and get fit in the water, bodyboard fins are one of the most important pieces of equipment you will buy. You want fins to fit your particular situation and water sport. Bodyboarding fins are important in a wide array of water sports, including conventional surfing, bodysurfing, pool training, competitive swimming, and even triathlons.
So how do you find the right fins for you? The first step is to know what fins fit for various water activities.
Ill start with recreational users: Short-bladed fins with stiff rubber are great for training, while a wider fin is best for bodyboarding. For bodysurfing, the selection of fins to choose from gets smaller, but a stiff blade is once again preferable to generate acceleration and power.
Regardless of the sport or the level of expertise, sizing and fit is are important factors to consider. Look for brands that offer a wide range of sizes, and remember that since fins are mostly made of molded rubber, sizes tend to vary, so dont assume that your shoe size will automatically translate to the appropriate fin size.
Make sure the foot pocket is comfortable, and check the material for both lightness and durability. You want a fin thats light enough to float if it comes off in the water, but durable enough to keep from splitting at the heel or tearing at the toe pocket.
If youre using fins for exercise and training, the issues dealing with the size of the fins themselves change slightly. Smaller training fins provide resistance without overloading joints, ligaments, and tendons.
They also help shift effort to the foot, increasing leg strength by encouraging propulsion with a leg kick in the form of a pedaling motion (thats the same as a flutter kick without a fin).
Long blade fins promote slow kicking, which also strengthens the legs, but it also allows you to carry the legs while you swim.
The perfect balance between short and long blade fins is achieved when you can can maintain a constant pace (lap swimmers) or a race pace (competitive swimmers and triathletes) with a moderate amount of effort. And safety comes into play in this environment as well; look for a non-skid pattern to prevent slips and falls around the pool.
If youre looking specifically for surfing fins, the variables change slightly. Stiffer, more resistant fins provide additional drive, while softer ones offer more comfort.
Another way to simplify the selection process is to know the strengths of the major brands that manufacture the best bodysurfing fins. Churchill and Viper are two dominant players in the swim fin industry.
Churchill fins are designed for maximum power and performance, with a medium blade and an irregular shape that features a long outside rail. Viper fins are high performance fins that are renowned for being powerful and tough, but their rough feel can be problematic because of sizing and fit errors.
Other companies like Hydro, Ally, and Stealth have found niches by differentiating themselves with unique features (e.g., silicone material) while still incorporating elements of classic designs
The dominant pool and training fin brand is Finis, which makes many types of excellent fins. They offer a fit thats snug without being tight, hard and soft blades, including models for all performers that help them focus on improving specific areas of their kick and strokes.
Another type of fin pioneered by Finis is the monofin, which is shaped like a dolphin fin. These fins are great for beginners and those working on physical movement issues because they promote proper form with engagement of the abdomen, glutes, lower back, and quads. They also help promote foot and ankle flexibility, as well as an increased awareness of kicking from the hip.
Other brands like Speedo and Arena Tech have found more specialized niches for in the training and exercise market. Speedo features a longer blade for longer sets, with a harder and sharper brand of plastic. By contrast, Arena Tech features a lighter material that makes kicking easier but can also compromise performance.