In this gear guide, the Scuba Diver team look at the top-of-the-range fin sector. Interestingly, at this level, there are no split fins in sight, and all of the test units incorporate a large paddle blade in some shape or form, proving that you can’t beat a wide blade when it comes to moving a diver through the water.
ON TEST THIS MONTH:
• APEKS RK3
• ATOMIC BLADEFIN
• HOLLIS F1
• SCUBAPRO SEAWING NOVA
Location: Tested at Vivian Dive Centre, Llanberis www.viviandivecentre.com
Date tested: 13/07/17 Water temp: 10 degrees C
APEKS RK3 | SRP: £120
The Apeks RK3 fins are made from a durable thermoplastic rubber, and were developed in collaboration with the US military. The short, wide blade is designed to provide maximum forward thrust while maintaining great manoeuvrability, and the vented design is intended to reduce resistance on the upstroke and enhance thrust on the downstroke.
It is available in three sizes – medium, large and super – and has an oversized foot pocket to accommodate drysuit boots and rock boots. It comes in black or white. They are also equipped with a chunky spring strap and rubber thumb tab to make them easy to get on and o even when wearing thick neoprene gloves or drygloves.
The grommet holes in the tip of the fins are so you can clip them on a karabiner while accessing the dive site.
The Test Team raved about these fins the first time they had them on test, and second time around, the RK3 fins garnered the same response. They were praised for their simple good looks and robust construction, and everyone was enamoured with the spring straps, which did make donning and doffing the fins a doddle. The stumpy fins provide an immense level of thrust, yet your leg muscles do not feel the strain as much as with other blade fins. Great for normal kicks, back kicks and frog kicks, and so easy to manoeuvre in. Well priced for such a superb pair of fins as well.
Excellent fins, which look good (especially in white), perform exceptionally well, and come in at a reasonable price.
ATOMIC AQUATICS BLADEFIN | SRP: £129
Atomic Aquatics are well known for their high-end regulators, but now they are building a reputation in the fin department also. The Bladefin is a robust paddle fin that incorporates a ‘Power Loop Monocoque Structure’ and ‘Power Rail’ – structural frame designs used in aircraft and Indy race cars apparently – to provide maximum thrust and power. Oversized stabilisers at the fin tips are designed to keep the fin tracking straight up and down.
The Bladefins are equipped with Atomic’s EZ-Lok buckle system, which allow the buckle to snap on and off easily. Available in small, medium, large and extra-large, and in a selection of colour schemes.
Like their cheaper siblings, the X1 Bladefins, the Atomic Bladefins are very well-made, strongly constructed paddle fins with some neat design touches. Like their brethren, in use, we found that they provided immense levels of propulsion, but as with most long paddle fins, you do need strong leg muscles to really get the best performance out of them – and you can really shift in them! A fairly long fin, but capable of frog kicks, back kicks and helicopter turns.
I would prefer a spring strap, but the EZ-Lok buckles are the next best thing – simply squeeze the buckle and the whole thing slides off the fin. Effective, even with thick gloves on.
Robust, well-made paddle fins with some neat design touches, effective EZ-Lok buckles and plenty of power on tap.
HOLLIS F1 | SRP: £129
The Hollis F1s are a heavyweight pair of old-school design fins made from high-grade, heavy-duty rubber, and have a vented blade designed to reduce stress while accelerating water over the blade.
They are equipped with a generous foot bocket to accommodate drysuit boots, and the stainless-steel spring straps attach to angled mounts for comfort and a better transition of power. The large thumb look on the spring straps makes getting the fins on and off a simple matter.
The Hollis F1s are a big, solid pair of rubber fins. They dish out plenty of power, but you can certainly feel it in your thigh muscles, so you need strong legs to get the best out of them. Normal kick is strong, but the frogkick is exceptional, providing lots of thrust, and they deliver a decent back kick too.
We all found they were surprisingly manoeuvrable for such a chunky pair of fins. They are a heavy lump, though, so I wouldn’t advise you take them with you on a foreign trip as they will eat up a good part of your luggage allowance. Cool-looking in a techie fashion, and fitted with great spring straps, which really aid you in taking them on and off, regardless of what exposure protection you have on your hands.
Heavy-duty, heavyweight pair of rubber fins, which produce lots of power if you have the legs for them. Great spring straps.
SCUBAPRO SEAWING NOVA | SRP: £145
The Scubapro Seawing Novas are lightweight, yet powerful, and were designed to combine the power, acceleration and manoeuvrability of a blade fin with the kicking comfort and efficiency of a split fin. They certainly stand out from the crowd thanks to their unique design.
Made from monprene, and with an articulated hinge that enables the entire wing-shaped blade to pivot and generate thrust, they also have a well-engineered footplate with co-molded grip pads to provide non-skid foot on slippery surfaces.
They are fitted with bungee heel straps that have a large thumb loop to make getting them on and off an easy movement. They come in black, white, yellow, blue, pink and purple.
The Seawing Novas are certainly unusual and take a novel approach to fin design. By and large, it works – and works well. They provide a phenomenal amount of thrust, allowing you to accelerate from a standing start to a fast speed in no time, and seemingly with little effort. The non-slip grip pads work too, and the bungee heel straps make donning and doffing very easy. They are quite a long fin, though, and while you can frog kick and back kick in them, it is not as easy as with some of its rivals tested here.
As well as the unique design making them stand out, they also come in some striking colours, including this vivid yellow.
Uniquely designed fins with some wicked acceleration, reasonable frog and back kick, and a nifty bungee heel strap.
XDEEP EX1 | SRP: £125
Polish brand xDeep have been making solid in-roads into the technical diving market with their durable, well-made wings and sidemount systems, and they have now got in on the pro- pulsion act with these big, chunky technopolymer fins.
The xDeep EX1 are available in a range of finishes, from ‘soft’ through ‘medium hard’ to ‘hard’ so you can tailor which flexibility best suits your style of kicking/diving. Being made from a technopolymer, they don’t change parameters whatever the water temperatures, unlike rubber.
Regardless of which ‘hardness’ you select, the large foot pocket – designed specifically with drysuit boots and rock boots in mind – has a two-phase moulding, in that the front part is made of a softer material for added comfort.
They are fitted with a stainless-steel spring strap and large thumb loop for simple donning and doffing. The EX1 fins look like a straightforward rubber tech fin, but the nifty technopolymer used in their construction means they are not as heavy as a rubber equivalent, and as stated above, are not affected by temperature. The Medium Hard version we tested provided some serious propulsion, though as par for the course with a fat-blade fin like this, you need decent leg muscles to really get the most out of them. The spacious foot pocket swallows a drysuited foot, and is very comfortable. Excellent back kick and frog kick, and a great stainless-steel spring strap.
Chunky fins made from an advanced technopolymer, which generate lots of power. Great stainless-steel spring straps.
Scuba Diver Verdict
As with the mid-priced fins, we had a real selection of styles in this price bracket, ranging from long paddle fins to stumpy wide-bladed vented fins, to totally unique hybrids.
There was not a lot of difference in price between any of these high rollers, with less than £30 separating the cheapest from the most expensive. This meant that it all came down to the performance, and the Apeks RK3s made a clean sweep of both the Best Value and the Choice awards once again.
This year they were closely pushed by the likes of the xDeep EX1, which were also a phenomenal fin, but the blend of looks, great performance and a stonking price meant that the Apeks came out on top. That said, there was not a bad fin here, and the Atomic Aquatics, Scubapro and Hollis did not disappoint either.