Fin Kicks and Propulsion Techniques for scuba diving

Introduction to Propulsion Techniques

When it comes to diving, there is more than one way to propel yourself underwater. While the golden rule is that you should never use your hands – think breast stroke swimming – there are several ways to use your legs to motor around a dive site. Whichever method you choose will depend on the situation and the environmental conditions at the time. So, read on and find out how and when to fin.

Why do I need proper finning technique?

scuba diving kick techniques You need to have proper finning technique for several reasons, firstly as a matter of course using proper technique will make your diving experience effortless and easy. Secondly as a bonus to the effortlessness of proper technique, it will improve your air consumption since you will be gliding around effortlessly, thereby needing to use your muscles less, so you don’t need to use as much air. Finally, once you have mastered proper technique and it is second nature to your diving style, you will find that it will improve your overall diving experience and pleasure.

Trim and buoyancy are Key!

No matter what technique of finning you try, it won’t work to its best unless your trim is spot on. By trim we mean the diver’s body position in the water. The perfect trim position is to be completely flat, with your knees bent at 90 degrees, and your feet and toes pointing backwards. You need to be in the proper position and have good buoyancy control to make fin kicks work for you. Trim and buoyancy are the foundation for efficient proper kicks.

Types of kicks and their variants:

There are two distinct types of kicks you can use when you dive. Each type has several sub variants that you can use in specific circumstances. The main two types are Flutter kicks and Frog kicks.

Flutter kicks

These are the basic kicks that you first learn, even before you start diving, they are based on the standard freestyle swimming kick. When executed while diving it should be slower, and more purposeful than the swimming kick, more of the leg should move relative to the swimming variant. The flutter kick is the most powerful and fastest of all the kicks that you can use. However, it can be tiring and will cause you to use the most air, in addition to being not the most efficient in terms of streamlining.

The modified flutter kick

This variant of the flutter kick is when the knees are bent at 90 degrees, and the diver flutters their ankles only to propel themselves forward. A very gentle kick that propels a diver slowly forward without much power, it is the perfect kick for confined spaces such as inside wrecks or caves, where the diver does not have sufficient space to theeir side to frog kick, and if they used a regular flutter kick they would kick up silt or rust from the bottom.

Frog kicks

Frog kicks are by far the most efficient of all kicks, since at the end of the stroke, the feet and fins end up behind the diver masked by the tank on their back. This results in the most streamlined profile, and maximizes their ability to kick and glide through the water. In terms of power it is second only to the flutter kick. One thing inexperienced divers should remember is that the Frog kick is not the same as the breast stroke kick from swimming. The swimming kick generates the force through pushing back with the soles of the feet, while the diving stroke generates power via a sculling motion with the ankles. It is the hardest to master and does require patience and practice to be able to get the most out of it.

The Frog kick should be the standard go to kick for every diver, it is the best all-round kick there is.

Helicopter turns and back kicks

Two variants of the Frog kick that give divers total dexterity and mobility in the water are helicopter turns, and back kicks. Using only one half of the Frog kick and changing the angle of ankle when executing it, lets the diver spin in any direction horizontally without the need to use their hands in any way. Being able to turn left or right or completely around while hovering using only your feet is a great advantage especially if the diver is using their hands for something else like taking pictures.

Back kicks are the ultimate scuba kick to master, they are exactly what their name implies, by executing a frog kick in reverse a diver can propel themselves in a straight line backwards. They are great for confined spaces, or when the diver needs to maintain his spatial orientation while swimming away.


Every diver even the most experienced can improve their diving, one of the easiest way to polish and improve your diving skills and experience is to master your kicking techniques and improve your overall diving.

Whenever I try to Frog kick I end up heading upwards – Why?

This is quite a common problem faced by inexperienced divers. They main culprit here is improper trim. As discussed earlier your body in the water should be in a completely flat position. When your body is at a slight upward angle at the head, your fin kicks propel you forward and upwards. To counter this, you must ensure that you are flat in the water. A good way of checking that you’re flat is to relax your neck in a neutral position as if you are standing up on land. You should be looking at the seafloor directly below you, if you can see slightly forwards then your body is in a raised position, and you need to be flatter.

Why do I get tired very quickly when Frog kicking?

This is quite normal when you first learn to Frog kick properly, unless off course you have a knee injury, in which case you should consult a doctor before continuing your effort to master the Frog kick. Unfortunately, we are not frogs and so do not use our legs on land as we do when we try and Frog kick, this causes a lack of muscular development in the calf muscle, that become strained when Frog kicking. There is no quick fix solution here, it is a matter of practice and taking the time to allow your muscles to build up and adapt to the new technique. A good way to practice is to start every dive Frog kicking and focusing on having great technique. As you tire eventually switch to a kick you are more comfortable with. Do this every dive and the length of time you can Frog kick for will increase till eventually you can Frog kick for the whole dive!

No matter what I try in surge, it is difficult?

Surge is a difficult condition to deal with, depending how big the waves are the surge can be very powerful, the equivalent of a current of several knots. You will never beat a strong surge; however, you can work around it, and make it work for you! The key to mastering surge is to relax and use its forward power for you. If you imagine just hovering in surge, you will end just rocking backwards and forwards. Dealing with surge you should just hover when you are being pushed back, but when the surge starts to push you forward, that is when you should kick once or twice forcefully, this will propel you much further forward than just riding the surge. Repeating this process will eventually get you through the surge with minimal effort.

Do fin types make a difference?

Simply put yes! With some fins, you will never be able to Frog kick, or master any of the other kicks well. To give you a clue check the fins that are worn by instructors and technical divers. The vast majority of technical divers wear black hard rubber fins such as Jet fins, or Turtle fins. They are the easiest to master all the techniques in. The drawback with them is that they are very heavy and will swallow up a whole load of your weight allowance when traveling. An alternative that is used by many recreational instructors around the world are the Mares Avanti Quattro’s or the X-3 fins. This fins have a softer channeled tip, which makes them ideal for Frog kicking. The only drawback with them is that due to the more flexible tip of the fin, back kicking is somewhat more difficult than with rigid rubber fins.