FINS TUSA X-pert SF-8 fins
The Bahamas Atlantic, with Hurricane Michelle approaching: we dive on a falling spring tide to the upturned wreck of the freighter Anne, and conditions are even worse under water than on the surface. The tide is roaring, and I find my buddy Stuart hanging onto the keel at 40m, exhaled bubbles spiralling downwards in great globs.
This is no place to hang around. Even with our BCs fully inflated to get through the downcurrent, its a long haul back to the shallows.
Stuarts legs are a blur. He is one of the most experienced divers around, but by the end of the dive his shin muscles are screaming from the frantic finning needed to make the climb.
He had been using his new propeller fins (what I call split-fins), of a type I have reviewed in these pages. He had professed love for them, but that love affair was over. I had had almost as tough a dive as Stuarts with my TUSA X-Pert SF-8s, but then my expectations of split-fins were almost certainly lower than his.
Every manufacturer tries to make its fins unique. The X-Pert SF-8s have heavy side-rails but look lightweight. At only 65cm from heel to tip (size L) they are less bulky than many designs. But what makes them unique is the way the blade dips away from the line of the foot-pocket by 27°!
They look a little ungainly on the boat, but because they take up less room, its easier to climb back up the ladder.
The poor fin manufacturers are all under pressure to buy into the Natures Wing split-fin idea. The enthusiasm of certain diving magazine publishers in the USA is unswerving. If the relentless publicity generated is to be believed, divers using any other type of fin are left tumbling in the wake-turbulence of split-fin users as they jet effortlessly past.
I might get swept away by currents, but not by hype. So far I have seen little evidence to prove any of these claims. In fact, at almost every diving destination I get to, dive-guides ask my opinion of split-fins, and so far we are all agreed.
I recently visited the R&D lab of a fin manufacturer, to be proudly shown a mechanical test leg in its enclosed and narrow tank, driven by a 2hp electric motor. But I dive in the open ocean, and the ripples from my fins are not bounced back onto the blade by the walls of a tank. As for finning at a steady 2hp!
With split-fins, thrust comes from the speed of your kick, calling for a fast flutter-kick that remains within a small arc of movement. I can do this for a short time, for example at the surface, but I want my finning to be more like a loping 1500m run than a 10 second sprint.
I have started to wonder whether more propulsion in fact comes from the backward kick than from the Beckham-style forward action.
Is this why my practical experiences never measure up to the manufacturers tests Have the makers been looking at the wrong half of the fin-stroke, or is it my finning thats wrong
The SF-8s worked slightly better for me than some of their contemporaries, but thats all. The dipped blade angle helps the back-kick because the curve in the side rails gives the fins more strength when the load is applied in that direction - it makes them far less floppy.
However, I still had to fin fast and furiously, and suspect that the split does little more than let some of the water slip by to make the action feel easier.
The SF-8s were comfortable when swimming along a wall with no opposing current, and fine at the surface or for a quick snorkel-dive, but I wouldnt use them when it comes to the serious stuff!
TUSA X-pert SF-8 fins come in S, M and L and five colours, including silver and the stiffer black.
TUSA X-pert SF-8 fins cost £119 for a pair.
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  • Divernet Divernet
    + Probably the best split fins so far

    - Only really suitable for mild conditions
    & - Expensive