Cave diving kicks every diver should know

Frog kickThe “standard” flutter kick taught in Open Water Diver courses is one cave divers simply don’t use. Instead, they have a repertoire of propulsion techniques that allows them to choose the right technique for each situation. These techniques not only allow cave divers to move efficiently, they help divers avoid silting out the cave or damaging fragile formations. It is for this reason that every diver should learn these techniques as well, to help protect fragile coral and aquatic life, and keep the visibility pristine for others.

In this article, you’ll find six videos. In them, you will see and hear veteran cave diving instructor and NSS-CDS Training Committee member Reggie Ross both explain and demonstrate how each technique works. Reggie is an extremely gifted educator who knows that the key to learning is not to make simple things complex, but to make complex things simple. Although the context for each video is how you would use the technique presented in a cave environment, you can easily see how it would apply in technical and recreational diving as well.

Modified Flutter Kick

Using the Modified Flutter Kick is like shifting into first gear. The only time you are likely to use it is when fighting high flow.

Key points from this video:

  • Unlike the standard flutter kick, when using the Modified Flutter, you keep your knees and ankles bent.
  • You kick from the knees instead of the hips.
  • Your knees should remain in line with your hips and shoulders, never dropping below the plane of your body.

Shuffle Kick

You use the Shuffle Kick in low, silty areas where it is important not to stir up silt.

Key points from this video:

  • As with the Modified Flutter, you keep your knees bent and your fins well away from the bottom.
  • Instead of kicking, though, your simply shuffle your fins back and forth.
  • When doing the Shuffle Kick, it’s important to keep your knees in line with your shoulders and not to allow your fins to drop too low.

Frog Kick

If the Modified Flutter is like first gear, the Frog Kick is overdrive. This is the “gear” cave divers use most of the time.

Key points from this video:

  • The key to doing the Frog Kick is to imagine you are placing the bottoms of your fins flat against a wall behind you, then pushing away from the wall in a piston-like motion.
  • At the end of the kick, bring the bottoms of your fins together, to extend the amount of thrust generated.
  • The Frog Kick is the most efficient kick because it puts more surface area against more water.
  • It is not a continuous kick motion. At the end of each kick, you glide before repeating the process.
  • If you are doing it right, you will know it’s right because it will feel right.


It should go without saying that this is one technique you should not use around coral or anything else alive or fragile. In high flow caves, you will use this technique more than you will any sort of kick. It also provides among the most efficient ways to move when diving on non-sensitive wrecks and rocky bottoms.

Key points from this video:

  • In caves, you should not be pulling unless there is high flow. The exception is when you are doing gentle “finger pulls” on established hand holds, so that you can keep your fins still in tight, fragile passageways.
  • When pulling in caves, it’s vital you grasp each rock firmly and not allow your fingertips to slip on the rock. If you do, you will quickly sandpaper off the skin, resulting in an exceptionally painful injury.

Helicopter Turn

The Helicopter Turn is how cave divers — or divers in any tight or cramped space — can change direction, including turning around in their own body’s length.

Key points from this video:

  • The key to doing the Helicopter Turn is to do a Frog Kick with just a single fin.
  • Practicing the Helicopter Turn can actually help improve your Frog Kick.
  • Kick your right fin to turn left, and your left to turn right.
  • Note that, when doing the Helicopter Turn, you do not go around in a circle, but rather pivot on your belly button.

Backing Up

There are time in cave diving when you need to back straight up. There is a technique you can use to do this that’s analogous to putting your car in reverse.

Key points from this video:

  • The most common means of backing up is to simply do a Frog Kick in reverse, pushing water off the tops of your fins to move backwards.
  • An alternate method of backing up involves kicking with just one fin at a time.

Important points to remember

  • There is no single propulsion technique that is best for every situation. Whether diving in caves, wrecks or open water, having a variety of propulsion techniques at your disposal allows you to choose the best one for conditions.
  • Some of these techniques are analogous to gears in a transmission, allow you to shift into first gear or overdrive.
  • Other techniques allow you to pivot like a helicopter or pull your way through high flow.

For more helpful tips on cave, wreck and recreational diving, be sure to look at the array of articles on a variety of topics you will find on our blog.


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