HOW DO WE CHOOSE FINS THAT SUIT US Unless we’re slaves to fashion, we choose fins much as we would choose our shoes. They have to fit and be comfortable to use and appropriate for any special circumstances.
Put us into some unusual circumstances, such as finning head-on into a strong current, and the fins we loved because they were so pleasant to wear can become objects of derision. So, fins must be comfortable but also convert our finning effort into forward propulsion as efficiently as possible when the need arises.
Divers tend to prefer open-heel or strap fins to slipper fins, so these are the ones we tested. They also come in a variety of shapes, sizes and stiffness, and some have split blades. A fin with short, soft blades will kick more easily than a longer, stiffer one, but will require many more kicks to travel the same distance. A blade that is too stiff or long may require too much effort to kick comfortably.
Our test team was composed of two fit young men, both with feet the same size as mine. This meant that I could also give the fins a try to establish that no anomalies had crept into their results.
How does one define the efficiency of a pair of fins as a means of propulsion In the past we have experimented with tethered divers finning against a spring balance, but over the years we’ve found that the best and most consistently accurate method is to use the fins in a controlled environment with a set depth, measuring the top speed achieved during a sprint by means of special underwater speedometers.
These instruments, calibrated in metres per second, were made for us by Pete McCarthy, originator of the Nature’s Wing split-fin design.

SOME MAY ARGUE THAT SPEED does not reflect the efficiency of any given fin when, for example, head-on into a current. But ask any navigator how speed through the water affects speed over the ground in such circumstances. In each case, the effort expended combined with the efficiency of the fins resulted in measurable forward motion.
Top speed, however, does not reflect sustainability, and here the opinions of the test-divers came into play. They used wetsuits and scuba equipment consisting merely of a tank rigged to a minimal BC and a single-hose regulator, to be as sleek as possible. They were both well rested between test runs.
Even so, the results achieved should be judged only side-by-side with the fins tested on the day. Comparing test data from other tests we have done in the past does not reflect an accurate result.

WE ARE VICTIMS OF OUR OWN SUCCESS, in that manufacturers and distributors are getting wise to us. When we asked for open-heel fins for this test, they clearly referred to previous results and sent us stuff that had done well. So we set out to compare two dozen fins that were all good performers in their own way and, as in an Olympic sprint, there was little difference between the slowest and the fastest.
Speed figures shown are aggregated results. The best performers were those that consistently delivered a metre per second or more.
All fins were supplied in size XL but their foot-pockets varied in size. We used the same wetsuit boots throughout but some foot-pockets felt very tight while others were loose enough to affect overall performance.

hspace=5 Cressi Frog Plus 0.8m/s
£51 l 2kg l Grey, Blue, Yellow l XS/S, S/M, M/L, L/XL l www.cressi.it
A beautifully crafted fin combining three different technopolymers to get the maximum lateral flex from a conventional paddle-style blade, and with the characteristic Cressi under-hung foot-pocket with non-slip treads.

hspace=5 Typhoon Pro 2 0.825m/s
£40 l 1.86kg l Yellow, Blue, Pink, Blk l XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL l www.typhoon-int.co.uk
These are the latest fins to come from this long-established British manufacturer. They are nicely made and well finished, but a generous foot-pocket (welcomed by those with big boots) left them feeling a little prone to wobble under duress.

hspace=5 Aqua Lung Caravelle ADJ 0.825m/s

£55 l 1.82kg l Blue, Yellow, Silver l S, R, XL l www.aqualung.com/uk
A smart-looking yet understated fin that is business-like and not at all flamboyant. It certainly does the job well, although not as well as the best fins tried alongside it.

hspace=5 Sub Gear XP Pro 0.825m/s
£49 l 2.4kg l Grey, Black l www.subgear.en-GB
These are inexpensive yet complex-looking fins bearing the German brand that is owned by Johnson Outdoors. They felt a little loose on the foot, resulting in a wobble under heavy finning that cost a certain amount of efficiency in propulsion.

hspace=5 Beuchat X-Jet 0.825m/s
£52 l 1.82kg l Yellow, Blue, Black l S, ML, XL l www.beuchat.fr
A smart flat-bladed fin design that tended to skid sideways a little under hard finning and reflected this in the lower top speed achieved. We thought it would suit those with exceptionally strong legs.

hspace=5 Oceanic V16 0.85m/s
£99 l 2.28kg l Slate, Red, 3 Blues, Black, Yellow l S, R, XL l www.oceanic.uk.com
The V16 uses a splitfin design that made the effort of finning quite easy, but at the expense of some reduced efficacy. We found that we needed a very fast flutter-kick to get a good result and questioned how long we could sustain it.

hspace=5 Aeris Velocity X3 0.872m/s
£74 l 2.52kg l Red, Yellow, Blue, Black l XS, S, R, XL l www.diveaeris.com
This paddle-fin gave a good solid performance that returned the same data time and time again, indicating that it needed no special technique to get a good result.

hspace=5 TUSA Tri-X 0.875m/s
£69 l 1.78kg l R, Blk, Y, Blue & 3 pastels l XS, S, M, L, XL l www.cpspartnership.com
These are simple, traditional paddle-style fins that have always done well in these side-by-side tests, proving that sometimes less is more. Remember that the results were quite close, so they weren’t that far off the best.

hspace=5 Cressi Pro Light 0.875m/s
£41 l 2.05kg l Grey, Blue, Yellow l XS/S, S/M, M/L, L/XL l www.cressi.it
These flat-bladed fins respond well if your legs are strong enough to keep them at the most effective angle to the water, otherwise they would skid sideways a little. Beautifully crafted by the Italian injection-moulding experts, yet very affordable.

hspace=5 Aqua Lung Express 0.875m/s
£75 l 2.47kg l Blue, Red, Orange, Pink l S, M, L l www.aqualung.com/uk
An over-generous foot-pocket that accommodates the largest drysuit boot meant that these fins felt slightly loose on the feet of our wetsuit-clad test divers. This was reflected in slightly reduced performance.

hspace=5 Aqua Lung Slingshot 0.875m/s
£100 l 2.74kg l Silver, Red, Blue, Pink l S, R, L/XL l www.aqualung.com/uk
Adjustable silicone suspension units serve to supply the flexibility to these enormous fins. Contrary to expectations, we found we used the Slingshots at their softest setting for the best result.

hspace=5 Seac ProPulsion 0.9m/s
£90 l 2kg l Blue, Yellow, Pink, Red, Black l S/M, M/L, L/XL l www.seacsub.com
Looking startlingly reminiscent of what was probably the most successful fin design of all time, these three-channel fins performed well, aided by some superior-design spring straps to hold them firmly on the foot.

hspace=5 Mares Volo Power 0.9m/s
£100 l 1.8kg l Yellow, Silver, Blue, Y/Black l S, R, XL l www.mares.com
Not to be confused with the standard Volo, which proved to be quite floppy, this Power version of this complex-looking fin has a similar pivoting blade but is far more robust and hence far more effective in the water. It is fitted with ABS buckles.

hspace=5 Scubapro Seawing Nova 0.9m/s
£129 l 2.28kg l Black, White l S, M/L, XL l www.scubapro.com
An avant-garde design that is taking time to be accepted by the diving public, these paddle-fins have most of their flex at the joint where blade meets foot-pocket. A very big foot-pocket combined with an unadjustable bungee strap meant that these fins felt loose with the boots we were using, but nevertheless gave an impressive performance.

hspace=5 IST Bora Bora 0.925m/s
£33 l 2.63kg l Blue, Black l S/M, L/XL l www.sea-sea.com
These big and fairly heavyweight fins were spoiled only by a rather mean foot-pocket that put the load onto the ball of the foot and gave the calf muscles more work than may be strictly necessary. They are vindicated, however, by an amazingly low purchase price.

hspace=5 Beuchat Power Jet (Reg Flex) 0.925m/s
£82 l 2.26kg l Yellow, Blue, Black, Grey Ribs l S, M/L, XL l www.beuchat.fr
Also available with a stiffer blade (Firm Flex), surprisingly we found this version of these fins to be a little more effective. They were only slightly less effective than the best fins tried alongside them.

hspace=5 TUSA X-pert Zoom Z3 1.0m/s
£132 l 2.48kg l Black, Blue, Yellow, Pink, White, Red l S, M, L l www.cpspartnership.com
These beautifully crafted split-bladed fins gave a good turn of speed over a short distance, but doubts were expressed about the possibility of sustaining the fast fin-stroke or flutter-kick needed over much of a time period. They have proved to be one of the most successful applications of the Nature’s Wing concept, and the blades are slightly bigger than on the previous model.

hspace=5 Mares X-Stream 1.0m/s
£125 l 1.81kg l Red, Yellow, Blue, Black l S, R, XL l www.mares.com
These fins felt very light on the feet, and equally light in the luggage. The foot-pocket proved exceptionally comfortable and is designed not to shovel up water as you fin, causing resistance. You need to get used to the redesigned quick-adjustment buckle that allows you to lever the straps shut, but proves more difficult to release with hands softened by long immersion.

hspace=5 Atomic Splitfin 1.0m/s
£160 l 2.64kg l Smoke/Black l S, M, L, XL l www.atomicaquatics.com
Aimed at the huge American market, these fabulously well-made fins had such large foot-pockets that we could easily have used them with any drysuit boots. Perhaps we should have specified one size smaller in this case, because they tended to gather water as we progressed, and that is bound to have reduced the speed we could have achieved. They had the best- finished spring straps and a novel quick-release buckle that was a delight to use.

hspace=5 Scubapro Twin Jet Max 1.025m/s
£99 l 2.8kg l Red, Blue, Yellow l S, M, L, XL l www.scubapro.com
This is a tough and heavily constructed design that unfailingly delivers the goods when called upon. The blades are split, but supported by huge side-rails so that there is little flop, and the strong spring-straps keep the feet engaged securely at all times. They weigh a lot more than some of the other fins compared here, which can be a disadvantage when it comes to packing for an air flight.

hspace=5 Mares Wave 1.025m/s
£69 l 1.98kg l Fog/Blue, Blue, Yellow, Red/Black l S, R, XL l www.mares.com
A new and simply designed paddle-style fin that might be aimed at the mid-price-range market but was felt to be exceptionally comfortable while certainly delivering the result when asked to. A soft centre to the blade flanked by strong side-bars reinforced by an X-shaped structure obviously works well. The Advanced Buckle System makes clamping the strap tightly onto the foot possible using the heel of the other foot.
It was probably our favourite fin of the test.

hspace=5 Aqua Lung Hotshot 1.075m/s
£80 l 1.76kg l Green/Silver, Pink l S, R, L/XL l www.aqualung.com/uk
These short fins, with adjustable tension afforded by silicone straps, were so comfortable that they could be used bare-footed. With a very fast flutter kick it was possible to get a stupendous result, though we doubted whether we could keep it up for very long. The ankle straps are not adjustable, and relied on their stretch.