Fin Swimming: An Underwater Sports Discipline

The term "underwater sports" includes a range of disciplines, most of which involve the use of certain equipment, such as a snorkel, scuba, or a swimfin. The discipline that makes use of a swimfin is aptly called fin swimming (also sometimes written as a single word - finswimming).

Simply defined, fin swimming involves the action of a swimmer in advancing into the water using muscle strength and with the aid of a monofin (a type of swimfin consisting of a single surface attached to footpockets for both the underwater swimmer's feet) or flippers (the normal swimfins, such as the bifins or stereofins).

Fin swimming, in turn, has four sub-disciplines: surface, surface bifins, apnea, and immersion. While fin swimming differs from conventional swimming, mainly due to the use of said special equipment, both use the same distances for competitions.

Surface fin swimming competitions have races in 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter distances. There also are 4x100-meter and 4x200-meter surface fin swimming races. In these races, swimmers have to surface before the 15-meter mark after the start and each turn. Each swimmer uses a center-mounted snorkel to breathe. Surface bifins swimming has competitions in 50-, 100-, and 200-meter distances.

Apnea fin swimming has generally only one competition, and this is in the 50-meter distance. The term "apnea", as we know, refers to the suspension of external breathing. Hence, apnea competition is a race for distance underwater with no breathing allowed (even during a turn).

Immersion fin swimming differs from the apnea discipline in that competitors pull themselves down to the required depth and then resurface in a race format. There are competitions in 100-, 400-, and 800-meter depths. This discipline involves the use of a scuba tank with a simplified regulator.

Training programs for fin swimmers differ in many ways from those undertaken by swimmers in the other swimming disciplines. For example, fin swimmers do a lot of out-of-water work, and many of these can be compared to those done by track runners in their training. The programs often involve weight training, plyometrics, and core stability.

Fin swimming is already very popular in many countries around the world and is steadily gaining enthusiasts in the United States. A big reason for the sport's popularity is the speed that a fin swimmer can attain. Note that the world record in 50-meter apnea fin swimming (currently held by Russia's Euvjeny Skorjenko) is 14.18 seconds, while that in 50-meter freestyle (currently held by France's Frederick Bousquet) is 6.76 seconds off, at 20.94 seconds.

Another thing that attracts many conventional swimmers to fin swimming is that in this sport one does not need to be a good swimmer. Any individual can excel in fin swimming, provided he or she works hard in training. Many scuba divers choose to engage in heavy fin swimming training because it enhances their endurance and strength, which makes them very competitive when swimming against strong underwater currents.

Competitions in the different fin swimming disciplines are currently regulated by the World Underwater Federation, or CMAS (for the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques), the international umbrella organization for all the diver training organizations in the world.

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