Split Fins and Snorkel for Scuba?

woman in split fins
The split fin and snorkel debate can be heard in any dive group around the world with people who hate them and people who love them. Why is there a debate and who is right? Lets first talk about what each does and what they are for so as always, we can make an informed decision.

Split Fins

Split fins are a type of fin that has a cut or split, thus the name, down the middle. They are made by just about every fin manufacturer and come in many shapes and sizes. They work by channeling water through the split as opposed to off the full surface as regular fins do. This video explains in more detail.

The scoop: Split fins are great if you are a casual diver or a diver with knee or hip problems. They offer great amounts of thrust with a shorter distance of travel and less resistance. These fins are inspired by one of the best swimmers in the ocean, seals, mimic their hind flippers. Where regular fins accel is frog kicks, helicopter kicks and back finning. They do have more resistance but respond better to subtle movements and wide slow kicks. Neither fin is superior to the other, they are dependent on your needs and style.


Snorkels are the butt of many jokes and some agencies don't require their use in Open Water training. I personally never met anyone other than snorkelers who love them, but I have met divers who see them as a necessary "evil". Lets look at the different types of snorkels, yes, there is a difference.

  • The basic snorkel. Nothing fancy, just tube with a mouth piece.
  • Pocket snorkel. These are foldable snorkels that fit in your pocket and can be used as needed.
  • Snorkels with purge valves.
  • Snorkels with wave deflectors.
  • Snorkels with top valves that close when submerged.

As you can see, snorkels range from simple to complex with prices adjusting accordingly. But do you need one?  The answer depends on your dive environment, goal and situation. If you dive in high waves and have to wait for a boat, a snorkel is more than useful, especially if a diver had an out of air emergency. Its also useful if you want to jump in the water between dives and snorkel with that pod of dolphins that appears out of no where. I was that guy with no snorkel looking sadly from the side of the boat. A dive professional will always have a snorkel (agency dependent) during open water training dives. Padi for example teaches basic free diving snorkel skills as part of its open water course. Some use them for long surface swims but from my experience, swimming on your back with gear on is more efficient.

Tec divers will never have a mounted snorkel, neither will sidemount divers or cave divers. They always plan enough gas with at least a third extra so breathing off a reg on the surface is never a problem. Some advanced divers ditch them because they can be an entanglement hazard and or just plain get in the way.

The scoop: Snorkels have their place in diving, it just depends on the situation. I am primarily a sidemount diver so snorkels are not for me. But as I pointed out above, it sure would have been nice to snorkel with those dolphins on the surface interval.