EVERY YEAR AT THE INTERNATIONAL DEMA trade show we see hopeful exhibitors that have invented a revolutionary fin. I liken this tradition to those that hope to build a better mousetrap.
Of course they all work to a greater or lesser extent. It would be very foolish to spend money promoting something that didn’t.
All these fins have their advocates, those enthusiastic users for whom a particular design has changed their underwater lives. Then the hopeful promoters meet the jaded old professional. That’s me.
I know that there’s no such thing as a free meal, nor will any appliance attached to my feet turn me into a Michael Phelps unless it has a big battery and a powerful electric motor.
So I apologise to those I have disappointed, and especially to those who have been converted to use a particular fin. They say there is no-one more zealous than a recent convert.
At DEMA 2011 there were two new fins, positioned at opposite ends of the enormous show hall. One exhibitor showed me his fins and gave me a pair to take away to test.
They worked, but in the endless currents of German Channel in Palau, I began to find that I was not up to sustaining the rate of fin-kicking, effortless though it seemed at first, to use them to good effect. My dives were getting cut short through running out of gas.
When it comes to feats of athletic prowess I was always more of a big and brash Bolt than a quietly pounding away Farrah, and now, years on, I’m just knackered.
The other manufacturer had only prototypes to show. Simon is Canadian and has been in the dive-gear business a long time.
He seemed to be aware of my reputation for publicly trashing kit that proved to be no good, and was keen to send me a pair of his fins once they were in production.
Such was his confidence in what he had to offer. However, it took him a year to get round the inevitable production problems, and he waited until the fins were perfect before he let me have a pair. Clever man!

The Design
Bearing in mind that the primary marketplace for such a fin is the USA, a place where talking things up is the norm, I have to excuse the choice of name.
These fins, made by CETATEK, are called Aqua Bionic Warp 1. I can almost hear myself developing a Scottish accent and declaring “Jim, I cannae go any faster!”
Putting aside the Star Trek link, the fact is that these fins are designed to warp while you use them. They have been developed from the study of how a living organism (a fish’s tail-fin) works, hence the “Bionic”. Well, that’s my interpretation, and I’m sticking to it.
At first glance these fins resemble the lightweight Mares X-Stream design, but that is where any similarity stops.
The supports for the Warp 1 blades have lateral pivoting points to allow them to form a variable X-shape. This unusual construction allows the blades to change geometry and surface area under load.
At rest, the blades are relatively flat, but with a downward kick the blade-rails or “actuator arms’” are forced to separate, and at the same time the pleated flexible central membrane stretches out to form a deep scoop and effectively channel the water at the far end of the blades.
On the opposite stroke the blades form a narrower scoop. In this way the blade shape continuously changes as different loads from the water are applied to it.
The manufacturer calls it “the world’s first water-adapting responsive propulsion system for fins”.
Sounds good so far.

In The Water
I was colder wearing these fins than others I might have used because, although I had a pair in size XL, the foot-pockets were not generous enough to allow me to use my drysuit, with its big fixed boots.
Those of you with smaller feet will not encounter this problem.
I was in Cyprus during a chilly autumn and instead used an O’Neill 5mm semi-dry suit with the fins.
The good news is that these fins work. I put them on and got about doing what I was sent there for, getting around dive sites and taking pictures.
I couldn’t fault the Warp 1s, which seemed to send me surging through the water at every stroke.
I was able to use my usual lazy, long-stroke flutter-kick in open water, a sideways frogkick when passing through the constrictions of sea caves, and to work within the interior of the Zenobia without stirring up the silt and spoiling the otherwise gin-clear vis.
Unlike some fins, the Warp 1s didn’t need a high-frequency kicking action to make them effective – which is lucky, because I rather wanted to take it easy.

Second Opinion
To get another viewpoint, I lent the fins to a younger man, James Hareisty, an experienced diver and photographer for the Yorkshire Post, who had been perfectly happy with the Mares Plana Avanti Quattros he had brought with him to Cyprus.
I too have long held such fins in high esteem. But compared to his own fins, James told me, “the Aqua Bionic fins felt lighter and provided more effective finning and seemed considerably easier to dive with. You didn’t feel it in the muscles of your legs so much, but they still gave me adequate power.”
He also told me that, as a test, he had made himself horizontal and finned hard while holding himself off a rock face. He found that his effort to fin was easy, in that he could shift the water with bigger strides than he could with the Quattros, although he admitted to not being able to move the reef!
This is praise indeed, when you consider his point of reference.
So the verdict seems to be that these new fins are a good prospect. I thought that by adding steel spring-straps to them, they could become very effective indeed.
The importer tells me that spring-straps will be an extra-cost option soon.
Perhaps their foot-pockets could be made a teeny bit bigger, too.

Atomic, £157
Mares X-Stream, £127
Scubapro Twin-jet Max, £142

PRICE £150
COLOURS Red, blue, yellow, black.
CONTACT www.liquidsports.co.uk
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