Appeared in DIVER July 2006

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FINS Mares Quattro Excel
THE ITALIAN MANUFACTURER MARES HAS A PROBLEM. Some years ago, it introduced its Plana Avanti Quattro fins. Being so much better than anything else available at the time, they were instantly adopted as the fin of choice by dive-guides worldwide.
Even in our most recent fin comparison, the Quattros could not be bettered. Of course, that doesnt help a company that wants to stimulate demand by introducing newer, more desirable replacement models, as is the way of our modern consumer society.
So Mares has since offered other, more expensive, fins, but to no avail.
Now we have its Quattro Excel range. I tried a pair that were finished to match the Mares Black Passion designer range of equipment.
Black Passion is a bit of a misnomer when you study these fins in isolation, as they are predominantly pale grey.
That aside, I could see that the Mares designers had cleverly stayed with the Quattro winning design, but re-jigged it a little to look different, and employed new materials for better rigidity.
These fins still have a water-scooping blade, but the black parts are of the more rigid material while the four soft flutes are disguised in the same colour of material as the surrounding blade. These flutes are longer than before, but the blade does not seem to dip away from the foot-pocket as much as on the previous model.
Overall, the Excel is the same size as the Avanti Quattro.
It has the same sort of foot-pocket, with runners inside to stop the boot being sucked into position and becoming difficult to retract. The cantilevered buckle arrangement has been redesigned with a new release method that promises fewer broken nails than the former buckle-lock.
I used the fins on our deepwater regulator comparison test, which meant long swims out to the dive site and back under water at ever reducing depths as we decompressed.
By the time I was back at the shore at the finish of each dive, my calf muscles were beginning to burn. I also had great difficulty identifying easily the release catch for the strap buckles. These proved almost impossible to undo with fingers softened by 70 or 80 minutes of immersion, and I would guess that I would have got nowhere wearing gloves.
While swimming with three tanks, the Quattro Excel shifted a lot of water and I made quick progress. Full marks there.
However, that muscle burn was leading me to believe that I was no longer fit enough for these long swims. So I put an Excel on one foot and a standard Avanti Quattro on the other, and set off for another long deep dive for comparison.
The result was telling. Against expectations, I didnt swim around in circles, but the leg equipped with the newer fin felt painful by the end of the dive, whereas the other felt fine.
Being of similar length and design, I expected both fins to perform in the same way. But why did one calf muscle ache
The mystery was solved when I examined each foot-pocket. The older fin encompasses my foot right up to the heel. In effect, it makes the fin an extension of my leg. While the same length overall, the Excel foot-pocket is about 3cm shorter.
My heel projected, so extra leverage was put onto my calf at every finstroke. The extra 3cm has been added to the blade length instead - enough to make the difference.
So the Excels will suit those with smaller feet and bigger muscles than me. If you have long feet and lanky legs, you may be better off with the older fin.
Mares claims that these new fins are the result of extensive laboratory testing and perform better than ever, giving greater thrust for exactly the same effort.
I have seen the impressive Mares test facility and note that the effort is supplied by an electric motor. Electric motors do not get tired, nor do they build up lactic acid in their muscles, and this may make an important difference.
Available in sizes S, Regular and XL, and in a range of colours, the Mares Quattro Excel fins in conventional strap format cost£110, or£120 in the Black Passion style. Slipper-fin-style Avanti Excels cost£50.
  • Mares, www.Mares.com


  • The
    The new Mares Excel range - the top two fins are Quattro Excels, with conventional straps, while the yellow Avanti Excel is a slipper fin.
    Divernet
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    + High-performing
    + New style


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    - May not be better for you than older Quattros