FINS: A Series of Independent, Comparative Tests
by Jim Grier, Dept. of Biological Sciences, North Dakota State Univ., Fargo, ND, USA
I tested several different scuba/snorkeling fins using a variety of techniques. The results are reported in related and linked web pages, listed below. (Some of these may be revised and reorganized, and some are posted on scubadiving.com's site [where my user name is "Lepomis"]). Additional reports will be added if and when they become available.
Last revised: 4 June 2007
Fins are critical for diving. Try moving in the water with full scuba gear, for example, without fins! But good information on how the various fins compare with each other has been very difficult to obtain. Most divers, instructors, and typical local dive shops have only limited experience with one or a few fins. And one cannot always trust some gear manufacturers and distributors who are understandably focused on just their products and have vested interests to protect.
ScubaLab, with whom I have participated as a gear tester, has provided a valuable service to the diving community by testing and reporting on many kinds of gear, including fins. Although the results from those tests have been very informative and useful, I had a few additional questions and wanted to do some further tests of my own, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity but also in case my additional results might be of interest and help to other divers as well as gear manufacturers and distributors. I view the ScubaLab tests as being better overall than mine because they involve more divers and the tests are run in a shorter time span. My tests are mostly supplemental to ScubaLab's.
For my tests, I tried many different fins myself, recruited a few other divers to help me along the way, tried to find better ways of measuring fin performance with good resolution, and ended up running several series of tests. My testing has been completely on my own, using my own resources (with the exception of several sets of fins that were loaned or given to me), and was as objective as I could be. I had no sponsors, have not been connected with any company, manufacturer, distributor, or agency, was not for or against anything, and I did not care which fins did the best -- I simply wanted to find out for myself. I let the fins, nature, and the measuring instruments generate the outcomes. I am fully responsible for the reports.
These web pages report the outcomes and my conclusions from the tests. I could not test all of the fins currently available but I believe I have developed a much better understanding of fins myself and I hope these results might also be of interest and help to others.
For further background and details, see the original 2002 in-depth report.
I have some lingering questions about fins and new models frequently crop up, so I might be involved in further fin testing, both on my own or with others such as ScubaLab (and I am willing to work with engineers/manufacturers/distributors as long as my objectivity and ability to work with others aren't compromised). However, these reports wrap up most of what I planned to do with my own tests of fins. While running fin tests, I encountered numerous other issues and questions, including the potential effects of different BCs and backplate/wings or carrying pony, double, or slung tanks on diving efficiency, and I have been pursuing some of those issues. (For a 2005 report of my tests of Halcyon backplate/wings versus a couple of BCs, click here.)
Reference: list of fins tested -- by company, alphabetic order
Fins included in these reports (not all included in the synopsis based on my speed tests) -- [30 fins]
Additional fins that I've used and have first-hand experience with, on my own or with ScubaLab tests, as background comparisons, but not reported directly in these tests -- [36 fins]
First of all, I want to thank all of the various fin manufacturers and distributors, regardless of how their fins performed. Without them, we wouldn't have any fins for diving or to test!
I thank the following individuals and businesses (in alphabetical order) for help as divers, loaning fins or other equipment, and/or providing insights and useful discussions on the subject: Scott Blessum, Gary Bombadier, John Brumm, Steve Cole, Mike Collyer, John Francis, Dave Fraser, Karlene Froehling, Shawn Hawks, Jim Hegdahl, Josh Hegdahl, Fred Johnson, Duane Kashmark, Mike Knorr, Matt Lommel, Mark Lutman, Mick's Scuba, Northwest Divers, Brian Nylander, Laureen Parsons, Paradise Divers, David Rogowski, ScubaLab and the fin-testing team (not listed individually here), Ross Stadsklev, Sunset Diving, Guy Swenson, Ron Teitelbaum, Gary Thompson, Tri-state Diving, Charlie, Pat, and Rick vanRaden, and Peter Van Scoik. In addition I thank 6 persons who either preferred not to have their names listed here or, for various reasons, I chose to keep them anonymous (including two divers who came along and helped one day but we didn't get their names); most of you know who you are and I thank you very much.
I particularly thank my wife for helping record some of the data and putting up with this project. I was gone diving much of the time or, even when around home, often lost in thought when she would rather be doing something else. Fins and related measuring and diving paraphenalia frequently littered the house. And, in addition to selling some of my non-diving stuff on eBay and using most of my monthly diving allotment for a few months, I also occasionally spent into the family general account to help finance this project; the general fund expenditures are to be eventually reimbursed, of course. :)
Finally, I thank Scuba Diving magazine for providing their online message board which makes the many Diver to Diver (D2D) member interactions and posting of gear reviews and other member reports possible.
Click on the following links for my university home page; on scubadiving.com my previous and current Diver to Diver (D2D) message board profiles (user name "Lepomis" [the generic name for freshwater sunfish]), D2D publications, (I also wrote the original and revised user guides/primers [previous to the present D2D message board]); and our local Fargo-Moorhead (ND-MN) Dive News.
e-mail to: James W Grier
North Dakota State University