For years I was noted for my side-by-side equipment comparison tests in Diver Magazine. In fact I can claim to be the first to do this type of test for any diving magazine anywhere in the world. Nowadays they're all doing it and while they may ape what I pioneered, the fact of the matter is that there are not the really bad examples of kit available on the market that there were, among the good stuff, when I started.
I always tried to make these tests as practical and as fair as possible but when it came to some personal items, it was obvious that what might be right for you might not be right for the next person.
A designer called Pete McCarthy came up with the idea of the split fin. The first manufacturer to pay the license fee to use his design produced an outstanding fin but others that jumped on that particular bandwagon did not. They concentrated on making them effortless to use and in doing so made them ineffective when you really needed them - such as in a strong head-on current. Split fins got a mixed reception. Some thought them better than sliced-bread whereas others thought they were awful.
Pete McCarthy made me some underwater speedometers (illustrated above), something to help me get visible results with teams of divers testing fins, and with the intention of getting me to prove split fins were superior. We only proved that some fins were good performers whereas others were not, despite whether they used his patented feature.
One manufacturer, Scubapro, produced two different split fins, one type of which were excellent and I found powered me through the water whereas another was only good for pool use as far as I was concerned.
I find it interesting that, years later, the company now offers a paddle-style fin (not split), which is said to be its best. This is called the Scubapro Seawing Nova. It comes in a variety of styles including a full foot slipper-type style for those who don't want to wear boots and two types of open-ended fins for those that do. The Gorilla version of the Seawing Nova is less flexible than the standard version but outperforms the others for those with the legs to take advantage of them.
Of course, fins are like shoes and you need a pair that you feel comfortable with. The Seawing Nova fins have a generous foot pocket that will be important to those of us who wear drysuits and have bigger feet. If you think they are not for you, Mike's Dive Store has a selection of other top-rated fins to try so go along to the shop and discuss it with the helpful and knowledgeable people behind the counter.
I took this picture of a friendly crew member with my Seawing Nova fins whilst aboard Cuan Law in the British Virgin Islands.
Happy Diving - John Bantin