THE CLASSIC AIM OF EVERY INVENTOR is said to be to build a better mousetrap. Why? Because the classic sprung trap is simple and effective and therefore hard to beat. Making something more complicated is rarely the answer. Among the plethora of complicated equipment available for us divers to buy, fins remain among the most simple. Even if subtle improvements in the way of flutes and splits have been added to some designs, there are still divers who swear by original black rubber Jetfins circa 1953. Just as there will always be better mousetrap seekers, similarly there will always be an inventor trying to come up with a radical improvement in the design of fins. At the international diving trade show DEMA in the USA last autumn, I counted two new exhibitors with revolutionary new ways of turning leg-muscle power into swimming power. We have yet to see any sign of these designs in the marketplace but I should not be in haste to belittle these efforts. That lovely man Bob Evans, someone who surely must be the doyen of nutty inventors, has designed 101 different new fins. To his credit, several versions of his Force Fins are available, even if he did have to make them himself. So are we likely soon to see Gills New ICE fins on every diver's feet? 'Gills are striving to design futuristic with the times diving fins to make all types of diving experience with a new edge,' says the publicity material. Evolved and manufactured in South Africa, Gills New ICE fins make the most extraordinary products of Bob Evans' creatively tortured mind look positively dull! They had to be prototypes, surely? But no, the publicity material clearly stated that these were the actual product. My first impression was that, constructed as they are in bent transparent polycarbonate material and fixed together with stainless-steel rivets, the 'new edge' is such that I wouldn't give a child a pair to play with in case they cut themselves! They look as if they are made by the people who make those clear plastic display dummies, the sort of thing you might see adorned with a BC or a computer in a dive-shop window, or wearing a bra elsewhere. Your foot sits in a pre-formed shape with the toes held in place by a wide Velcro strap, and your ankle is secured by a traditional fin strap, used in a less-than-traditional way over the top of the foot. I was disappointed to find that I needed to wear wetsuit boots, because the plastic at the sides dug into my feet. Four flimsy-looking side rails, made from hollow tubing, structurally support the paddle, which has what I can only describe as a biplane design. I had little confidence that the fins would survive the rigours of travel but I took them on my next dive trip across the Atlantic because they are so lightweight, at around 1.5kg a pair. The manufacturer says that, in addition to ordinary paddle power, the second layer of fins adds a hydrofoil effect and the hollow pipes give a pumping action to the water. They call it 'jet power'. Well, they work, which came as something of a surprise to me. I was able to fin alongside those with more conventional propulsion methods and keep up. They did get a little uncomfortable after some time because I could have done with thicker boots, but otherwise they were effective in the water. Of course, on the deck of the dive boat I had to put up with a fair amount of ridicule from other divers, but I'm used to that. It's just that these fins look so unattractive, and I was waiting for that fatal crunching sound when someone inadvertently stepped on them, but it never came. So I should be writing a good report but I guess I'm just not enamoured of a pair of fins fabricated from bent plastic and riveted together. I also have a problem with the name. Fish live in water, breathe through gills and move by swimming with fins. Gills New ICE fins is a mixed metaphor if ever I saw one. Gills New ICE fins cost £112 including shipping to the UK direct from South Africa.
Gills Fins, www.gillsfins.com
Finning with gills
In the water the fins do work - and other divers can't take the mickey down there!
Always guaranteed to raise a smile - but are these fins just ahead of their time?
+ Very lightweight + They work
- You could be the object of ridicule - Be careful not to cut yourself!