What is the Difference Between Scuba and Snorkeling Fins?

What is the Difference Between Scuba and Snorkeling Fins?

Let’s talk fins! What is the difference between scuba-diving and snorkeling fins, really? Here are the basics. Scuba fins are longer, stiffer, bulkier, and primarily have an open heal. A scuba fin has features designed to move you and your gear at depth, where the pressure is higher. Snorkel fins are smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable than scuba fins and are designed to propel you at the water’s surface.

The Four Main Differences between Scuba and Snorkel Fins

  1. Scuba fins are longer (by 5-10 inches) and can move more water with each kick.
  2. Scuba fins have more thrust efficiency, creating more power and speed than shorter snorkel fins.
  3. Scuba fins are also stiffer and bulkier to support the movement of the diver plus gear at depth. The downside is that scuba fins require your legs to work harder to move you. This feature of scuba fins makes them less than ideal for snorkeling.
  4. Scuba fins primarily have open heels to allow for scuba booties. Because water is colder the deeper you go, scuba booties help keep your feet warmer.
Scuba And Snorkeling Fins Side By Side

More Details on Scuba Fins

Scuba fins also have integrated channels. These channels help to move water across the fin with each kick. This allows you, the diver, to optimize your speed underwater. Check out the ScubaPro Seawing Nova, its innovative design increases speed and decreases drag. Because it looks different than most fins, it is also easy to find.

Some fins are split, like the Oceanic Vortex V16. Split fins allow even more water to flow through the fin, which helps reduce leg fatigue.

If you need a scuba diving fin, our 2022 Buying Guide will help you choose the right one for you.

More Details on Snorkel Fins

The design of snorkel fins makes them more maneuverable. Maneuverability allows snorkelers to get closer to coral reefs with less concern about their fins causing damage. Snorkel fins are also smaller making them easier to pack for travel. The Head Volo One fin is a common fin among new snorkelers.

Don’t confuse snorkel fins with swim fins. If you need snorkel fins, check out our 2022 Buying Guide will help you choose the right one.

Check out this YouTube video if you want to visualize the difference between a scuba and snorkel fin.

Scuba And Snorkeling Fins Scuba Diver Snorkeler

Should I Purchase Snorkel, Dive, or Hybrid Fins?

Snorkel & scuba diving gear can be bulky and expensive, which begs the question: Can you save money and purchase just one pair of fins for both activities? Maybe. Snorkel & dive fins are structurally and functionally different. And while there are many good hybrid fins on the market, such as the Oceanic Accell Open Heel Fin or the Atomic Blade Fin. A hybrid fin may not be the best answer in the long run. Understanding the differences between snorkel and dive fins is the first step in choosing the right fin type for you.

When purchasing a fin, consider these questions as you evaluate your needs.

  • What is my primary activity?
  • What role does fatigue/fitness play in enjoying your activity of choice?
  • Will I be traveling frequently?
  • Do I need to wear booties for comfort or safety?
  • What is my budget?

Armed with the answers to these questions and your knowledge of the differences between snorkel and dive fins, you can begin to make a decision.

  • Talk to your local dive shop and friends for recommendations, and see if there is any chance you can try out the fins you like before you buy them.
  • Read reviews from sources you trust and make a short list of what you want to buy.
  • Look at the specific characteristics of each fin to determine if it will suit your snorkeling/diving style, skill, and fitness level.
  • Dive in and make your purchase

Fins are a tool to make your diving or snorkeling experience more enjoyable. There are options at all budget levels from companies with a lot of experience in this field. Invest in the best tool for you to achieve the greatest success.


Frequently asked questions

Can I use Freediving Fins to Snorkel or Scuba Dive?

Freediving fins propel you deep underwater while using the least amount of energy. They are longer and more flexible than both scuba and snorkel fins. They are not ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving because of their build and length. They would be cumbersome and destructive around reefs and common snorkeling and dive sites.

Turning the question around, while you can use scuba and snorkel fins to push yourself down a freediving water column in a single breath, they may not get you very far. Freediving fins and specialized training are needed to experience the sport of freediving truly.

What is a Mono Fin?

Mono fins are made of the same material as snorkel or diving fins but are one piece versus two,  resembling a whale or dolphin fluke (tail).

Mono fins are used during freediving or Mermaiding.  Freediving is diving to depth without any scuba or breathing equipment. Mermaiding combines snorkeling or freediving while wearing a monofin and mermaid tail.

How can I become a Mermaid?

Mermaids are all the rage these days, and the scuba industry has jumped on board. All of the primary Scuba Diving Certifying Agencies offer a Mermaid Certification. These courses combine freediving and snorkeling skills and use a mono fin with a tail cover. So if you are looking for a new and fun skill in the water, give a Mermaid/Merman class a try.


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