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August 2003 Vol. 18, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Split Fins vs. Quattros

from the August, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The British magazine Diver is well regarded for its honest equipment appraisals. As for fins, their editors consider the Mares Plana Avanti Quattros "the industry standard." We might quibble, but certainly not disagree.

They recently tested the single-bladed Quattro against two U.S. split-fins: the Apollo Biofin XT and Atomic Split Fins. Quattros are single-bladed, water-scooping fins made from a mix of soft and stiff materials that provide a four-channel flex. Apollos and Atomics stem from the same patented split-blade design, licensed from the Nature's Wing Company. However, each differs in construction and appearance.

When you kick with a split fin, the claim is that the two portions of the blade form a pair of propeller blades that slice through the water independently. The idea is to create lift in the forward direction while reducing drag. The hype is that they allow divers to fin more easily but faster within a narrower range of leg movement. But are they superior to the more traditional design of the Quattro? After five test-divers used all three models in a swimming pool, the results were mixed.

The Biofin XT (they're stiffer than standard, natural-rubber Biofins) outperformed the Quattros in speed trials, being the only fin to break five kilometers per hour. One tester noted that he could start finning at high speed right away with the split fins. "With the Quattros," he reported, "I felt as if I was starting in a higher gear, with more pressure on my calf muscle."

In ocean tests over a short course, the Apollos and Atomics performed identically on the speedometer. Even when a tester tried one on each foot, he couldn't detect any difference in performance. (Try that with a Force Fin on one foot.)

From there, the differences came down to comfort and style. The open-heeled Quattro has a longer foot-pocket encompassing the sole of the boot up to the heel, so each fin becomes an extension of the lower leg. Diver technical editor John Bantin noted that the foot pocket's ribbed interior prevented it from being jammed onto a bootie and makes it easier to remove. He also liked the Quattro's buckle system, which easily cams the straps tight. Finally, he preferred the lighter weight and shorter length of the Quattro.

Bantin concluded he would use any of them. However, ultimately the Apollos lost out on weight to the Atomics, which in turn lost out because of their extra size in the water, in the boat, and in the bag.

With Quattros costing at least 25 percent less than the others, they're clearly the best buy.

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