DO YOU THINK YOU CAN make them” There was some initial hesitation before Martin Dijkman of the Dutch Dijkman wooden shoes workshop took up the challenge. He told me he thought it was a unique idea and worth trying.
He couldn’t guarantee that it would work, but he would give it his best shot. And that is how the concept of the “clogfin” or “finclog” (the Oxford English Dictionary still needs to decide) became a reality.
The idea of the clogfin (or finclog) arose with Alex Mustard’s birthday in mind. The day was going to fall during one of his photography trips.
Trying to find a gift for somebody like Alex is a bit intimidating. What do you give an underwater photographer who either has all the latest gadgets or has just returned them from an exhaustive underwater test We had to think outside the box.
As it happened, we attended another birthday party where somebody gave a bird’s nest box made from a clog.
That’s it, we thought, let’s merge a scuba-diving fin with wooden footwear!
Which led us to Martin Dijkman. The idea was simple, but it would need a lot of work to make a reality. We needed a 70cm block of poplar weighing about 8kg. Poplar wood is very flexible (it’s 50% water) and as durable as oak, but offers a substantial weight-saving.
The wood was split using a cleaving axe and the block trimmed into a rough shoe shape with a chopping axe. An oblong knife was used to shape the shoe and a drill to bore holes into the heel. With a large drill knife the hole for the heel and the space for the rest of the foot beneath the hood of the clog were opened up.
When the clogs were finished, 75% of the wood block had become waste or firewood. The clogfins then had to be dried for more than a week before they could be sanded. They weighed a healthy 1.5kg, and possessed super-aerodynamic properties.
Having this piece of Dutch craftsmanship in our hands was just the start of the birthday gift’s tricky journey to its destination.
Alex’s photography course was in the Raja Ampat, Indonesia, on the Indo Siren liveaboard.
Packing strategies for travelling underwater photographers rarely include packing clogfins as standard kit, and the secret tool of most of us – a photographer’s vest – offered no solution.
Taking the oddly shaped fins as hand luggage was out of the question.
So to remain within our ever-decreasing baggage weight limits, we fine-tuned our packing skills and managed to get the clogfins into our bags.
In Jakarta we met the rest of the group, and Alex took charge of the group check-in. Funnily enough, it was he who placed our luggage with the clogfins inside on the luggage belt.
On Alex’s birthday we had planned to show him a “making of” movie that detailed the manufacturing stages of the clogfins. Our British-speaking co-conspirators had included an abusive intro so we actually had two versions: one uncut and the one that might pass the censor.
We arranged to play the movie between dives on the large flatscreen in the saloon, and the big smile on Alex’s face suggested that he enjoyed it.
And to answer the big question – yes, you can dive with the fins! All you need is a weight-adjustment – a mere 4kg of lead will do the job!
After a short christening ceremony the clogfins were ready to see some action in the balmy waters of the Raja Ampat.
“The clogs fitted very well,” reported Alex later. “They were very comfortable and didnt feel as if they would come off. I was happy to back-roll from the rib wearing them.
“Although the fins were positive, it was easy to keep them down in the water. Anyone used to diving in a drysuit is used to changing their body angle to deal with floaty feet.
“I think a shorter blade, possibly shaped like stumpy Force Fins, would actually make clogfins work even better.”
I suppose fin manufacturers who have read this far will be getting worried about their market share, and planning to release their own versions soon.

To see the “making of” video, go to duikenchannel.nl/2013/03/19/hollandse-innovatie-klompvinnen