This year, ScubaLab’s test team headed to Alexander Springs, Florida, a freshwater site that offers an easy entry, enough space and depth to do some serious kicking, and rock structures and crevices for performing tight turning maneuvers.
This year’s test evaluated 15 new or never-before-reviewed fins — eight open-heels and seven full-foots — to find out how these kickers stacked up against one another in terms of features, in-water performance and price.
Behind the Testing
We don’t just grab gear, jump in the water and splash around for a while. Scubalab fin tests revolve around 10 real-world performance categories. Test divers rate each fin in each category below using a scale from 5 (excellent performance) to 1 (poor performance). These are the categories:
-EASE OF DONNING THE FIN is rated both in and out of the water.
-ADJUSTABILITY OF BUCKLES AND STRAPS is scored by evaluating effectiveness, accessibility and ease of use.
-FIT AND COMFORT OF FOOT POCKETS are rated, as is the overall feel of the fin on the diver’s foot.
-SURFACE PROPULSION is scored when divers are kicking on the surface in a face-down position.
-STABILITY is checked by noting wobble, side-to-side slicing, and whether the fin blades have a tendency to hit each other during the diver’s kick cycle.
-POWER VERSUS STRESS is the relationship of the power produced during the kick cycle relative to the amount of effort that’s required to produce that power.
-EASE AND EFFICIENCY OF KICKING STYLES is scored after swimming underwater using the flutter kick, frog kick and dolphin kick.
-ACCELERATION is scored during an underwater swim and reflects how the fin responds to power kicking.
-MANEUVERABILITY is rated by evaluating the ease of getting in and out of tight places — backing up, changing or reversing directions — using small fin movements.
-EASE OF REMOVING THE FIN is evaluated by testing the ease of using the buckle and strap system, the ability to hold onto the fin without losing it, etc.
The Bottom Line
Testers’ Choice and Best Buy In the open-heel category, the Tusa SF-15 X-Pert Zoom Z3 split fin earned the most test-diver votes for top kicker in this year’s go-round, with the Beuchat Power Jet paddle fin coming in a close second. Turning in the best combination of performance and price, the Tilos Saber paddle fin earned the nod for the 2012 Best Buy.
In the full-foot category, the undisputed test-diver favorite was the Mares Wave paddle fin, followed by the Tusa FF-19 X-Pert Evolution split fin. For Best Buy, it was a toss-up between these same two fins. Their prices are nearly the same, and the performance of each fin topped the charts. So it came down to preference: Split-fin fans preferred the Tusa, while paddle fin fans gave the nod to the Mares. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
*Note: Size limitations on the the Hollis F2 and SCUBAPRO Seawing Gorilla open-heel fins prevented all test divers from diving these fins.
To see more on our Testers’ Choice and Best Buy choices, click on related articles below.