We kick off our fin reviews with a look at the budget models. There are many types of fins available these days, but at the wallet-friendly end of the scale, they were all in the large paddle style, but with a few little twists (vents, flexible sections).
ON TEST THIS MONTH:
• AQUALUNG EXPRESS
• OCEANIC VIPER
• SCUBAPRO JET SPORT
Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis www.viviandivecentre.com
Date tested: 13/07/17 Water temp: 10 degrees C
AQUALUNG EXPRESS ADJ | SRP: £70
The Aqualung Express Adj are a seriously robust, well-made pair of fins, which have a good heft to them and are quite an impressive size. According to Aqualung, the core of the Express Adj is a highly elastic ‘armadillo’ hinge at the base of the blade, which absorbs energy during the power stroke and releases at the end of the kick cycle to maximise thrust.
The rubber side ribs channel water down the length of the fin, minimising wasted energy from the spill-over effect. The spring straps are equipped with a large thumb loop and make putting the fins on and o very easy. The non-slip rubber pads on the bottom of the fin work really well, just the thing for when you are on a wet dive deck.
The Aqualung Express Adj fins are large, solid paddle fins, and while they do generate an awful lot of thrust, especially with a normal fin stroke, you need strong leg muscles to get the best out of them. A frogkick is possible, and again has plenty of get up and go, but with the length of the fins, this does put a fair amount of pressure on your ankles and feet. You can back kick, but it isn’t that straightforward with such long, wide fins.
The fins are very well made and look attractive to the eye, and the spring strap is a joy to use – so easy even with drygloves on. Well priced, and built to last, but just be ready to get a workout when you start using them.
Well-made, durable, good-looking fins at a decent price – just need strong leg muscles to get the best out of them.
OCEANIC VIPER | SRP: £47.99
The Oceanic Viper is a lightweight but well-made dual-material fin that is equally at home in the tropics as it is in more temperate waters. According to Oceanic, it uses a flexible channel built into the blade to more effectively capture and control water as it flows down the length of the blade during a kick cycle.
The reinforcement bars on either side of the fin provide strength but also are shaped to prevent the water from spilling over the edge of the blade, thus lowering effciency.
The traditional rubber heel strap is easily adjusted and has quick-release buckles.
The Oceanic Vipers are very lightweight, so would be perfect for the travelling diver, but equally they have enough power to push a drysuited diver through the water as well. However, thanks to its neat design, which incorporates vents and a large flexible section in the middle of the blade, it manages to generate this power without requiring you to have super-strong thigh muscles.
You can frogkick in them as well, though thanks to the flex in the blade, you don’t get great thrust. They are very comfortable, and the heel strap is easy to adjust, but a set of spring straps would not go amiss on these. Thankfully, they are a bargain price, so you could buy these and some retro-fit spring straps and still not spend a fortune.
Lightweight but tough set of fins, which come in at a bargain price. Get yourself some spring straps and you are sorted.
SCUBAPRO JET SPORT ADJUSTABLE | SRP: £69
Scubapro have a great reputation for making top-quality dive kit, and the Jet Sports continue this tradition. They blend the vent design from the more-expensive Twin Jet Max with a broad paddle section.
According to Scubapro, the blade is a tri-material design featuring a pair of soft rubber panels framed in semi-stiff plastic and flanked by thin side rails, producing just the right amount of flex.
There are also drag-reducing vents between the blade and the foot pocket to decrease resistance on both up and down strokes. The Jet Sport is equipped with a traditional rubber adjustable heel strap, with pinch-release buckles.
The Scubapro Jet Sport Adjustable fins are pretty big units, sitting comfortably between its rivals in terms of size and weight. The foot pocket is very comfortable, and the non-slip bottom works well. I would trade the rubber heel straps in for a set of retro-fit spring straps, which would make things a lot easier when it comes to getting them on and off.
The design – combining a blade with vents – works well, and generates great power in a normal and frog kick, and is not bad in a back kick either. Like the Aqualungs, strong leg muscles help get the best out of them, but overall, these are a solid performer at a decent price.
Robust, well-made fins with plenty of thrust, and all at a decent price. They are good-looking to boot.
Scuba Diver Verdict
Due to a few brands being no- shows for this group test, we were down to just three sets of fins for this price bracket. All of the fins on test performed well overall, and all represented good value for money.
The Best Value award went to the Oceanic Viper fins, which at under £50 are a total steal. They are lightweight, so would suit someone looking for a travel as well as UK fin, and yet they generated decent thrust as well. I would just buy a set of spring straps and retro-fit them.
The Choice award went to the Scubapro Jet Sport Adjustable fins. These were good-looking, solidly made units, which gave a great overall performance, with noteable power from normal and frog kicks, and yet still came in at a decent price. Again, I would purchase a set of spring straps to fit to these fins.
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