The Design
Ara EBS fins have a single, solid non-vented blade constructed using hi-Tec polypropylene. The blades are slightly curved downwards, with a series of low-profile channels and small ridges running along their length, and are co-moulded with a thermo-rubberised foot-pocket.
The blade is said to be a modified version of the Master Frog design. The foot-pocket has been enlarged to comfortably accommodate modern thick wetsuit booties and larger boots fitted to drysuits, making these fins suitable for coldwater use.
They are fitted with Cressi’s Elastic Bungee System (EBS), which consists of hard plastic buckles, coated rubber bungees and plastic heel-pads with large grab-loops. They come in two versions – Soft Blade (SB), available in yellow, blue or silver colour schemes, or the Hard Blade (HB) model, which is available only in black. I was sent the SB model for this test.

The Tests
When I received the fins, the first thing I did was to buy a bottle of wine for my neighbour as a bribe to allow me to use his open-air swimming-pool to measure the power of these fins set against static digital scales.
With the wine consumed and permission granted, I put the Aras through the same procedure used in our last group tests (Kickin’ Back The Power, June 2014). Finning as if my life depended on it with my BC tethered to the scales produced a reading of 21.5kg.
Let me put that into perspective. During the group tests, and as expected, the highest reading we witnessed was 23kg from the revered Mares Avanti Plana Quattros.
The 21.5kg recorded from these Cressi fins is not to be sniffed at. It would have placed them in the top five of the 14 pairs of fins tested.

In the Water
It’s all well and good testing fins in a pool, but to get a good overview of their performance they need to be taken under water in the open ocean and subjected to real-world diving.
I did this in the Indian Ocean around the island of Mauritius over the space of a nine-day excursion.
The first few dives were relaxed affairs, with little current to put the fins under any real pressure. As expected they performed well.
The foot-pockets felt broad while wearing 3mm neoprene booties, and I experienced a bit of lateral movement as I used a frogkick finning technique.
The relaxed dives were replaced with some high-adrenaline stuff a few days later when we visited La Passe du Puit, an underwater pass that channels the tidal water into a raging current.
With a bulky camera system creating drag and filling my hands I had little choice but to fin against this raging torrent of water. I was pleased to see that the Ara’s blades remained firm, producing substantial thrust when needed without any signs of collapsing or twisting.
The EBS bungee straps were tight enough to keep my feet firmly planted in the foot-pockets, but not so tight as to cause any discomfort. They had the added advantage of being self-compensating as the water depth increased and the neoprene on the booties compressed.
The large grab-loop on the pliable plastic heel-pad was very easy to locate, as it protrudes at a 45° angle, making donning and doffing the fins a simple task.
Back in more sedate conditions, I lent the fins to my guide Ravin for a few dives to get some photos of them in action.
Did he like them? The fact that I caught him surfing the Internet the following evening to find out whether he could buy a pair locally answered that question.

I was surprised and delighted with these Cressi Ara EBS fins. After all, these were said to be a soft-blade version, but they performed in a similar way to some of the rigid-blade hi-tec fins I’ve worn in the past (I can’t imagine how powerful the HB versions are going to be).
Using bungee-straps isn’t a new idea, and other fin-makers successfully employ the same concept. Indeed, the Cressi mounting system is now standard fare, with rounded pegs moulded into the sides of the foot-pocket, meaning that the straps are easily removed and could be replaced with generic stainless-steel spring-straps if that’s the wearer’s preference.
I think the larger foot-pocket is going to appeal to the Hobbits among us, or coldwater drysuit divers and those who wear thick neoprene boots.
Add this to the fins’ outstanding performance and the Italians seem to have a worthy successor to their famous Master Frogs.

PRICE: All versions, £99
TYPE: Open-heel
STRAPS: Elastic Bungee System (EBS)
COLOURS: SB: yellow, blue and silver. HB: black only

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