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As far as best to start out with, that's very subjective. And the answer can depend on your diving style and budget.
One of the older, but still good, stand-bys are the ScubaPro Jet fins. Lots of divers like them, and they are also in use by the US military.
These can be found frequently on eBay for $30 or less. Be sure to ask about the sizing before you bid since the foot pocket can run a tad small, so if you wear a medium shoe, go for the large fin.
I started with the TUSA Imprex fin. Still got them, still like them.
And one of the best bits of gear buying advice I have ever gotten is to always purchase the best quality that I can afford at the time. That way I won't be likely to wind up replacing the item (thus increasing the net cost) when it wears out too quick or I exceed its limitations.
Everyone is different, so many gear choices are a matter of personal preference, but I've used Scubapro Lightning Jet Fins since I started diving back in '83. I have tried many other fins over the years including two brands of overpriced split fins. I've yet to try a fin I like as well as my Jets. Try 'em, you might like 'em and as Mike mentioned, they aren't expensive - especially if you can pick up a pair on e-bay. They have the added benefit of lasting much longer than most other fins on the market today.
Test driving the fins is good advice, any good shop should let you.... I like my quattros but I like my blades as well (and they are a little cheaper).... Jet fins are okay but they always feel clunky to me..... try some aqualung blades, you wont be sorry!
Ice, I would suggest that you avoid the "cheapest" route if at all possible. There is a lot of difference in scuba gear and a lot of the low end equipment just doesn't do a very good job. To be fair, some of the top end stuff is not worth the extra price either, the trick is to figure out what has the best price/quality ratio. To add to the problem, what I love, you may hate and the only real way to figure out what you like it to dive with it. Renting quality equipment until you can save up for better equipment is a better option. Try several different styles and brands and figure out what you like, then save up for it. You will end up with better equipment and more importantly, equipment you are happy with. Quality dive gear will last for many years and if you are happy with it, there is no reason you can't dive it for a lot of years (I have a early 80's BC that is still in good diving condition, I just "had" to have a new BC)
Uncle, you don't know how glad I am to hear the you haven't found a set of split fins you like. I have tried 2 different pairs on 2 different occasions and have yet to find a pair I like. I was beginning to think I was the only one who did not care for them. I dive a pair of Mares Plana Avantis which I much prefer. I also have a pair of jet fins that I picked up at a yardsale for $10, they aren't pretty but they are tough and get the job done.
Originally posted by herman
Uncle, you don't know how glad I am to hear the you haven't found a set of split fins you like. I have tried 2 different pairs on 2 different occasions and have yet to find a pair I like. I was beginning to think I was the only one who did not care for them. I
Glad to supply the necessary reinforcement
I do have a friend who has split fins and thinks they a just dandy and don't stir up the bottom.... (well used gently at least 5 feet off the bottom maybe... just maybe)
And I have even heard guys claim they could frog kick with them...
though I have yet to see it...
But I would really like to see them in a race in reverse against a pair of Turtles :out:
I started with Force Fins, but have since found Apollo Bio Fin (split fins) to be to my liking.
As others have suggested, doing a test dive - even in a store pool - will provide you much needed information on how a particular set of fins work for you. There is no one style of fins that works best for everyone, just like there is no one model of mask that fits everyone.