Appeared in DIVER December 2007

John John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.


IF YOU CAN MAKE SOMETHING and sell it, thats a success. If you can make something and sell it again and again, thats big business.
Pete McCarthy upset all the traditional diving equipment inventors by finding an idea and then selling it over and over again. What a clever man! He didnt get bogged down in production. He simply sold licences to manufacturers.
Thats the story of the Natures Wing split-fin design. Of course, it wasnt easy. He hawked his idea around the world, until finally the Japanese Apollo company took it up.
The Japanese diving public went for it, and Apollo grabbed the home market. It wasnt long before the really big manufacturers sat up and took notice. Soon Pete had doors opening to him everywhere he went.
The Italian company Mares originally eschewed Petes overtures. It has always been at the forefront of fin design. Working with the boffins at Genoa University, with their famous motorised underwater test bench, Mares has come up with some designs that have been so good, notably the Mares Plana Avanti Quattro, that they dominated the international market. Except in the USA, that is.
America has a huge home market for consumer goods, including diving equipment. It is also a unique market, in that people there want the latest and greatest.
Old and traditional values are consigned to a few states on the East coast. Americans want split fins, and no matter how good traditional Mares fins are, split fins are what sell today in a market more than 10 times bigger than ours.
If you cant beat em, join em! Mares has now introduced its own split fin and, guess what It bought a licence from Pete McCarthy.
The new Mares Raptor fin is a Natures Wing design with a bit of Mares own input, too.

This slim-looking fin has a blade that measures (in Regular size) 40cm by 21cm wide. It has the characteristic split, but the blade is prevented from bending too much at the outer edges by exceedingly strong sidebars.
Panels of softer compound allow some flex in the centre of the blade. You notice immediately that this blade curves dramatically away from the foot-pocket in a fixed downward arc.

The pocket is incorporated into a sleek single-piece unit together with the blade, so that there are no edges to disrupt the water flow. A single piece of hard plastic goes from the heel to the blade tip, and the pocket has inserts of a softer compound to give some grip when youre standing in the fins.
We have noted in the past that full-foot fins are more efficient for finning than strap fins, and have put this down to the lack of disruption of the water around the divers foot. Of course, we wear boots for other reasons, but Mares is clearly doing its best to limit the difference.

Straps & Buckles
These fins use the latest version of the Mares Advanced Buckle System (ABS), which cantilevers out to allow you to put your foot easily into the pocket, and then cams shuts to pull the strap tight.
You can do this conveniently with your opposing foot to avoid stooping while wearing your tank. Unfortunately, when it came to undoing the buckles after a dive, I was out of luck. You have to squeeze two opposing little releases together. I couldnt free up the buckles, nor could the Whirlwind deckhand who tried to help me. So, like that famous curates boiled egg, I found these fittings to be good only in part.

I gave the Raptors to Irishman Damien Joyce, a fellow-passenger, to try. He had used Avanti Quattros for years but told me: I enjoyed using the split fins. I thought Id lost them when I first jumped in, because they were so light.
They seemed to demand less effort, but I was surprised to find that I breathed more air than my buddy Chris, though were normally matched breath for breath.
These things are mighty! They go like the clappers when you want to accelerate, but I have to admit theyre not so good when hovering and when you need to back up. I suppose its a question of getting used to them.
I dont consider myself to be any sort of athlete, but I went down the line from Whirlwind to where it was tied onto the aft part of the stern of the wreck of the Rosalie Moller, and sprinted to the pointed end. It took me less than three minutes including the descent to 35m. Thats quick.
It was even quicker when you consider that I was using the only example of a pair of Raptor fins available in the UK at the time. They were size Regular and so far too small for my feet. Had I had been wearing a Raptor that was both comfortable and with a blade of commensurate size, I could have been even quicker off the mark.
As it was, the two divers I had passed on my way said they saw me go by like a bullet. When I get the right size (XL) and fit them with spring-straps, these fins will certainly be worth a 10-star rating.
In the meantime Mares will have to content itself with a mere nine!

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