October 7th, 2007
Today I am writing about fins after overhearing a diver at one of our Tech Tours complain that the Dive Rite fin is too heavy, and walked away with her split fins in her hand. I thought about her comment and realized the problem. Most divers are looking for what is easy, rather than what is efficient. Efficiency is the cornerstones of cave diving training; the average diver cannot appreciate the discipline cave divers use, yet it is the premise for all technical diving disciplines.
I was a test diver for the original split fin, the Apollo Bio fin. They completed their test in recreational environments and I got to play with them in the caves of North Florida. I was not impressed. The split fin is designed to give the diver forward propulsion with the least amount of directed effort. Essentially, this means wasted energy and still there are results. The split fin is designed for the diver doing a modified flutter kick and nothing else, which is the kick used by newly certified divers. Instructors spend hours teaching new divers not to bicycle kick because it is inefficient. The split fin takes advantage of the bicycle kick mentality, giving divers a method of inefficient kicking, yet still with some movement forward.
During our testing of split fins and our fins, divers using split fins could not maintain the pace set by average cave divers. One test diver suffered severe cramps using split fins in an attempt to maintain a normal pace for a dive he had done many times before. Split fins can propel an open water diver with a single cylinder through the water to the divers satisfaction, but it is out-classed in technical dive environments. For technical diving, the diver needs a fin that can perform in various conditions including high flow, tight areas and moving mass thru the water. A technical diver needs a fin that is an extension of the foot for complete control and application of various technical fining techniques such as, modified flutter, frog, shuffle kick and ceiling walk. A split fin just can’t compare. Whenever you increase the mass of a diver from single cylinder to doubles, side mount or staging the split fin does not measure up.
Why did I buy the molds for the Apollo Prestige Fin? We bought the molds for the fins in 2001 because I believed they were the best fins on the market. I dived it for two years and was very impressed with the performance-to-weight ratio of the fin. It actually looks like the old Farallon fin with the rounded blade that was considered the best fin on the market in its day. I owned three pair of them, but it took an above-average diver to take advantage of the power you could extract from the fin. For cave divers battling upstream in caves with outflows of 1 to 2 knots you needed every advantage you could get.
The Dive Rite fin is designed with two materials, a plastic and rubber combination to give it strength and flexibility in water. Instead of venting the middle we have a flexible rubber insert to utilize the thrust in every stroke. We don’t believe in wasting any movement the diver may take with his fins. The blade design captures any nuance the diver may use in propulsion techniques. This lets the diver use every ounce of energy he (she) expends with a kick. This is very important to the tech diver pushing one to two miles against current. Split fins can’t capitalize on the various fin kicks to decrease fatigue and cramping like a single blade fin. Our fin is not for everyone. If you can’t swim or run a mile then stick with the split fin, but if you don’t want to waste your energy then use a fin designed to take advantage of the effort you put into the swim.
I know some may disagree because you own split fins, but facts are facts. If you question my conclusions then send me an email and join me for a dive.