I got myself some short fins since as a fairly weak swimmer especially in my legs I wanted a bit more confidence and power when swimming in the sea.

However one basic problem I've encountered - how to get out through the breaking waves with them on my feet?! With moderate waves (not dangerous to play in) they are breaking in quite shallow water, and I am so clumsy in my fins that even in knee-depth water or so I get knocked over... but the water is too shallow to swim in. On a fairly flat beach I have to go out a long way to reach deeper water, I can't just dive into a wave and swim out.

I tried to put the fins on once I've swum out, but they have straps (since they don't float) so this is not really possible it seems.

  • I crouch when a big wave comes in to lower my center of gravity and maintain my stability when I walk into the water in my scuba gear. Sep 12, 2016 at 11:50
  • Knee deep water is plenty deep enough to swim in. Sep 12, 2016 at 12:18
  • 1
    @Aravona: That argument doesn't make sense since everything scales. Those whos knees are lower to the ground are also smaller and therefor need less deep water to swim in. Also, I'm not talking about swimming with arbitrary strokes, but swimming well enough so that it's easier to move along than trudging thru the water, especially with fins on. Sep 12, 2016 at 13:31
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    @OlinLathrop I still disagree that knee length is a decent enough depth to swim in the sea in, mid thigh maybe, hips certainly, waist of course. But knee length is like a foot and a half for me, in the sea this is certainly not deep enough especially with the tide etc. Maybe in a pond or such it's enough.
    – Aravona
    Sep 12, 2016 at 15:09
  • 1
    Thing only scale if they fall between certain norms. everyone is an individual, insisting everyone meet a preconceived image is inappropriate. regaltribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/… Sep 13, 2016 at 9:43

4 Answers 4


Walk backwards.

The fins will have the least trouble with the water if you walk backwards.

  • 2
    Yep. Walk back or put fins on when you get deep enough that you can swim.
    – Desorder
    Sep 12, 2016 at 23:01

Walk sideways like a crab. Every time a wave comes, stop and brace yourself.

First it is easier to walk sideways while wearing fins, second it reduces the surface area that the wave hits.

Just take it slow.

Edit: Seeing as you have problems with the straps when trying to put them on in water, the straps can usually be changed. Spring straps are much easier to use.

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  • These straps are so much easier than the pull tight ones!
    – Aravona
    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:37

Walking backwards is the usual way for a short distance.

For a longer distance, I hold my fins in my hands and wade out. When it's deep enough you put them on. This is a bit of a skill. Wait for a wave to pass, then take a breath and put one fin on. Accept that your head will go underwater as you do this. Wait for the next wave and repeat. I hold my second fin by putting it over my wrist as I do the first.

Put both fins on before the ankle straps.

  • I had thought that would work better but the added complication of the ankle straps and not being able to see made it really hard. Especially since even moderate waves are easily able to roll you up the beach, not just get you wet! I had considered swimming all the way out past the breaking waves then doing it, but was worried I might drop one!
    – Mr. Boy
    Sep 13, 2016 at 12:29

To adress both ways to cross waves

  • When going offshore: just dive under the wave, when it breaks (white foam on top), if not you'll be knock out

  • When returning on the beach: bodysurf the wave(video in french, only the position matter). When the wave is upon you, take hydrodynamic position, kick as hard as you can, and glide as long as you can. When you need to breath, just take your head out of the water. With enough training, you will stop by scratching your knees on the sand, propelled by the wave

Additional advice:

  • In the surf, better go with powerful yet agile fins (understand, hard and short). Your legs will pay the price so better train in the pool first
  • To be more confident, train your breath hold capacity (in pool first, too)
  • Never go head first, keep your arms first while dealing with waves, because you can't know what is coming behind
  • Ask local lifeguards (if there are), about local hazards (rocks, riptide, vortex...) and particularities. On some beach, current that take you directly behind the surf exists
  • This does not answer the question which is specific to "but the water is too shallow to swim in." Jul 31, 2019 at 13:17
  • "With enough training, you will stop by scratching when your knees are on the sand", this may not be really clear ? I may modify it. I mean you can bodysurf as long as there is water (and waves), long after you become unable to swim due to shallow water
    – Cailloumax
    Jul 31, 2019 at 13:21
  • The question is about going out, not in. Jul 31, 2019 at 13:23
  • The "dive under the wave" is a valid advice even in knee-depth shallow water (if the break is really hard). Other case, walk backward, as stated in other answer. Another technics is "dolphinage" (french neologism, I'm unable to traduce), you do repeated hop: jump forward and down arms first, touch the ground with your hands, group your leg near your hand, raise, jump again and so on, forward the sea. You must do it quickly to be efficient, but maybe a bit complicated for a beginner
    – Cailloumax
    Jul 31, 2019 at 13:33

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