ONCE YOUVE TRIED THEM, youll never go back to conventional straps - at least, thats what a diver told me years ago, when I asked about the metal springs that held his fins in place.
hspace=5 Im afraid I have long forgotten his name, but his memory lives on because this was the first time I had seen stainless-steel spring straps.
A quick trial convinced me that they were the best thing since sliced bread.
Compared to fiddly plastic adjusters, snap-on buckles and rubber straps that always break at the most inconvenient moments, the spring straps were a revelation to me. No adjustment needed, one size fits all, fins easy to put on and remove - and they are virtually unbreakable.
So, considering that this exchange happened 13 years ago, why did it take me so long to get rid of the old rubber straps

FIRST OFF, SPRING-STRAPS were a specialist technical item with a premium price back in 1995. There was no way I would pay 60 for a set of straps. That would be twice as much as I had paid for my favourite fins in a sale.
It looked easy enough to build a DIY pair - just a couple of springs and some small bolts or shackles. But somehow I never quite got round to it.
I reasoned that I may as well get my moneys worth out of the straps that came with my fins, then sort out some spring-straps when the rubber ones wore out.
Trouble was, the rubber straps never broke at a convenient time. One broke halfway through an overseas trip, when the easy answer was to fit another rubber strap. When the plastic buckles broke, I improvised with cable-ties. I never liked the plastic buckles anyway.
Finally, it all came to a head at the right time. On the last day of a trip, I pulled my right fin on and the strap broke. I was already in the water, having leapt off the rocks fins in hand, so changing the strap was not an easy option. I decided to stuff the fin on my foot and keep swimming. It shouldnt, I thought, be a problem unless I did a lot of swimming backwards.
Then I pulled the left fin on, and the same thing happened. I spent the whole dive with no fin-straps. In fact, I didnt bother to fix them for a boat dive that afternoon, and spent a second dive without straps.
With no straps, and no buckles or adjusters because they had all long since been replaced with cable-ties, now was the time to sort out those spring straps I had been dreaming of since 1995.
Looking around, the cost of spring straps had come right down to a sensible level. There are plenty of alternatives for less than £20 a pair. When you consider that a single strap with all the silly buckles costs £7, there isnt even a big price difference any more.
But this all happened around the time that I was weighing baggage in detail (Packing for Travel, January 2007). I had come to the conclusion that if you look after the grams, the kilos will look after themselves. A pair of spring straps weighs 400g.

IN THE MEANTIME I had seen an even better alternative - fin-straps made of bungee cord.
A loop of bungee is used to tension the straps. This is attached to the lugs on either side of the fin and adjusted for length with short loops of braided cord. Cable-ties are used to secure the ends. Loops of webbing in the middle of each strap make them easy to get on and off with gloved fingers.
Bungee cord weighs next to nothing. You can buy bungee straps for Force Fins for 24, but that is with an unconventional Force Fin fitting. Most divers I have seen using bungee straps had made them themselves.
So I bought some bungee and other bits, got to work and took the resulting straps diving, both in the UK with a drysuit and overseas with a wetsuit. My home-made bungee straps worked perfectly, leaving sliced bread far behind.

width=100% 1m of 6mm bungee cord (0.90/m)
width=100% 1.5m of 4mm braided cord (£0.50/m)
width=100% 0.4m of 50mm soft webbing (£2.40/m)
width=100% Around 12 large cable-ties (£1.50 per 100)

The first three items can be acquired from any boat chandlers, though may be cheaper from hardware or DIY stores. The cheapest source of cable-ties in bulk is usually from electricians trade stores, but hardware, DIY and electronics stores are also a good source.
Most divers who are into a bit of DIY will probably have scraps sitting in a cupboard. Soft webbing, for example, can be salvaged from the carrying strap of a dead dive-bag.


Cut the bungee cord in half to give two 50cm lengths. After cutting, seal the ends of the nylon covering with heat, being careful not to burn the rubber inside. Use a match, lighter, candle or soldering iron.
Make each length of bungee into a loop. The difficult thing about tying bungee is that as it is stretched and released, the knots tend to creep and work their way open. A fishermans knot is usually the best choice.
Once the loops are made, secure the knots with cable-ties pulled tight over the loose ends.



The loops of webbing are not part of the fin-straps, but they do make them easier to pull on and off while wearing gloves.
The loops only need to be big enough to hook with a pair of fingers, so 20cm of webbing is about right for each of the pair. Once cut, seal the ends so that the webbing wont fray.
The webbing then needs to be stitched into loops. I find that a sewing machine with a jeans needle is just about able to stitch webbing if I tread lightly on the accelerator pedal. If not, these take only a few minutes to stitch by hand. Or take them to the local shoe-repair shop, which will have a seriously heavy-duty sewing machine.



The bungee loops have to be threaded through the webbing loops before they can
be attached to the fins and secured in place with cable-ties.
Make a pair of small holes either side of the seam, just big enough to push a cable-tie through. This is best done with the tip of a soldering iron or a heated skewer, so that
the edges of the hole are sealed as the hole is made.
Then turn the webbing loops inside-out, so that the ends are on the inside. The bungee loop can then be passed through the webbing loop and secured in place by threading a cable-tie through each pair of holes, looping it over the bungee loop each side of the knot before tightening. The other side of the bungee loop can be left loose within the webbing loop.



The bungee loops are attached to the fins by loops of braided cord that are hooked over the lugs on the side of the fins and then held in place with cable-ties.
The length of braided cord is governed by how tight you want the straps.
I like them to be just gripping on a wetsuit boot, so that they are just a little tighter on a bulkier drysuit boot.
We also want the loops to be the same length on either side, so that everything is symmetrical and centred. The trick is not to cut the lengths of cord until after the length has been adjusted.
Tie the knots loosely, using a fishermans knot, and check the fit. Then cut the cord and tighten the knots once the length is adjusted, remembering to seal the ends.
The length of cord used to make the loops also depends on the fins you are using, because there does not appear to be any standard governing how far back the attachment lugs for straps should be.
My favourite fins needed lengths of only 25cm on either side, while my spare fins needed 35cm for each loop.


hspace=5 As an added measure to hide the loose ends of the bungee, I coated the knot and loose ends on one pair of fins with a blob of Sikoflex 291. Dont buy a tube specially but this or anything like it sitting in a cupboard helps to tidy things up.
An alternative design is to use longer lengths of bungee and hook it directly over the lug on the side of the fin, avoiding the braided cord loops completely. Its a matter of preference, though
I find that the cord loops are easier to adjust and can be fixed more securely to the lugs.
Some divers may also prefer not to fit the loops of webbing. The straps work fine without them, but may be more fiddly to get on and off.
Another variation, which I have not tried, is to thread the bungee through a length of plastic hose. This spreads the pressure of the bungee on the back of your feet, which may be an issue if you like the straps tight. I keep them only just tighter than loose, so it was not a problem for me.