Scuba Diving Photos
ScubaLab: 2013 Fin Test Review
Aqua Lung STRATOS ADJ
PERFORMANCE: The Stratos ADJ is the most traditional-looking fin in this year’s roundup, but looks can fool. The big blade offers enough stiffness to maintain stability with just enough flex to dampen leg and ankle stress. In speed and acceleration, it falls right in the middle of the paddle-fin pack. Using a slow, relaxed kick, the fin will move you quite nicely and will produce decent thrust when needed. It is pretty maneuverable too, in spite of its size, and test divers lauded the foot pocket for its comfort and fit. They also liked the easy-cinch straps with their grab-eyes and large heel loops, making this an easy fin to adjust as well as don and doff. The fin also scored high for its nonskid.
BOTTOM LINE: The Stratos ADJ is marketed as an entry-level fin, but vets will appreciate its performance. For comfort, solid kicking chops and budget price, it earned the Best Buy for this category.
One of the benefits of using test divers to evaluate fins is listening to their reactions after trying out a variety of models in a head-to- head comparison. “I had no idea I would feel such a difference,” is the most standard remark. It’s a common misconception, especially among new divers, that scuba fins are all pretty much the same. They’re not. That’s where ScubaLab comes in. This year’s new fin tests combined speed trials by ScubaLab staff at a local pool with ergonomic testing by our test team in real-world diving conditions at Alexander Springs in Central Florida. Presented here is a collated summary of all the data collected.
Click here for our ScubaLab Test Results and Feature Chart (PDF):
FIN ERGONOMIC TEST PROTOCOL:
Test divers, armed with slates and waterproof score sheets, rated each fin in the following real-world performance categories, using a scale from 5 (excellent performance) to 1 (poor performance).
>EASE OF DONNING FIN Both in and out of the water.
>ADJUSTING FOR FIT Effectiveness/ ease of use of the buckles and straps.
>FIT AND COMFORT OF FOOT POCKET As well as the overall feel of the fin.
>STABILITY Watching for wobble, side-to-side slicing and whether the fin blades have a tendency to hit each other during the kick cycle.
>POWER VS. STRESS The perception of power produced during the kick cycle relative to the amount of effort that’s required to produce that power.
>KICKING STYLES During an underwater swim, the ease and efficiency of the fin when using a:
- Flutter kick
- Frog kick
- Dolphin kick
>ACCELERATION During an under- water swim, the ability to quickly pick up speed.
>MANEUVERABILITY The ease of getting in and out of tight places using fin power, i.e., backing up, changing or reversing directions, using small fin movements.
>SURFACE SWIM The ease of propulsion when kicking on the sur- face in a face-down position.
>REMOVAL OF FINS Te ease of using the buckle and strap system, the ability to hold onto the fin without losing it, etc.
>NONSKID Te effectiveness of the nonslip material on the sole of the foot pocket when used on a wet surface, like a boat deck.
>BUOYANCY Negative, positive or neutral.
Here's a look at the fin categories we tested:
OPEN HEEL // Paddles
While benefiting from 21st-century design innovations — including variable thickness blades and composite material construction — these fins are at their core traditional paddle fins. Designed for divers who want lots of feedback in their kick, they tend to have stiff blades that require more muscle to get moving.
OPEN HEEL // Modified Paddles
Technically paddle fins, these modified blades have bold designs that set them apart. Unique methods of connecting blade to foot pocket, cutaways in the upper portions of the blade and soft center panels all offer increased flexibility, making them easier on the legs and ankles, and highly efficient kickers.
LAST YEAR'S FAVORITES: Still available, still great fins.
TUSA SF-15 X-PERT ZOOM Z3
A nice power kicker, able to generate plenty of thrust and speed with minimal effort.
MARES WAVE AND TUSA FF-19 X-PERT EVOLUTION
(Testers’ Choices & Best Buys)
Both of these fins topped the charts. For split-fin fans, there’s the Evolution; for paddle-fin fans, there’s the Wave.
MSRP: Mares Wave, $46; Tusa FF-19 X-Pert Evolution, $56 C
INFO: mares.com; tusa.com