Modern divers don’t know how lucky they are. An example of all the equipment sold in Ocean Leisure has been used and evaluated by someone on its staff and we are confident that it will all do what it promises. However, only twenty years ago there was a lot of diving equipment on the market that was not as good as it might have been. CE regulation and market forces have seen the products for diving mature and the bad old days are long gone but as a scuba diving journalist working for the leading diver’s magazine at that time, I took it upon myself to identify the good, the bad and the downright unattractive! I upset a lot of retailers at that time by promoting a regulator made in the UK by Apeks Marine Engineering. The company had little or no reputation for making good regulators at that time but it came up with a world-beater and I took pleasure in telling the world about it! I took a group of divers to 50-metres deep breathing off a single first-stage. The rest is history.Products were not always good. At the same time a manufacturer with a strong reputation came up with some new fins that were patently ineffective. I told the world. They were soon taken off the market. There were plenty of other products that proved not to live up to their promise: A curved mask that gave distorted vision; a regulator that gave a wet breathe; a full-face mask that had some design defects that were quickly rectified by the manufacturer after I travelled over to Italy to dive with its boss and chief test diver. Then there was the computer that promised more bottom time. It was positively dangerous! The list goes on. There were even some BCDs that exhibited obvious defects once they were under water. You won't find any of those BCDs for sale at Ocean Leisure. Although there was plenty of good stuff too, the list of the less good seemed never ending back in those days and I didn't make myself a favourite with any of the manufacturers. I tried to make comparison tests as fair and objective as possible, for example taking computers on deco-stop dives attached side-by-side on the same rig. I even tested fins with teams of divers using underwater speedometers that I had especially made for the job. I'm pleased to report that all the diving fins offered for sale at Ocean Leisure did very well in the tests and most of those that did not have sunk without trace. So now when customers are confronted with a choice of similar products we can have the confidence to say that the right one is the one that suits you! The people at Ocean Leisure have masses of accumulated experience and they are happy to pass it on to you. Come in for a chat.
There is no doubt that a good pair of fins will enhance diving performance. The problem is deciding which are the most suitable fins for you. Assuming that you select a pair that fit you comfortably, fins can be conveniently divided into three types. The super-long fins beloved of free divers will propel the user a long way down below the surface with only a couple of kicks but would be very inconvenient to use for leisure snorkelling or for normal scuba diving. They’d just get in the way. Snorkellers want fins that are lightweight to carry and can be used in combination with bare feet or neoprene swimming socks. Many have a slipper integrated with the fin. There are also some open-heel fins with straps that can be used in this way. When it comes to scuba diving, most divers want to use fins in conjunction with neoprene boots. Ocean Leisure stocks nine or ten different types of these scuba diving fins in a price range from £50 to £187 per pair. So what’s the difference? They all work but some work better than others. If you were to try them all in the placid waters of a swimming pool, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference in their performance. However, if you are going somewhere subject to strong current such as the Dampier Strait in Raja Ampat or any of the islands of Indonesia where the tidal flow forces through between the Indian Ocean and the smaller seas to the north for example, there will be moments when you need to get you head down and go for it. It’s at such moments as this that you will find if the performance of fins you’ve got is wanting or not. There has been some confusion also about the efficacy of split-fins. This design was originally conceived by American Pete McCarthy and sold under license to various manufacturers. The first company to buy into the idea was Apollo in Japan. They made their fins from a heavy rubber compound and they were very effective but were never properly imported into the UK and they weighed a tonne. Other manufacturers bought into the idea but concentrated on making their fins as comfortable in the water as could be possible at the price of loss of propulsion. They were seductive until you really need to propel yourself forwards. This had the effect of destroying the split-fin concept and today you may still hear people insisting that split-fins are no good. This is simply not true. There are some very good split-fins and some that are not worth bag space. The Atomic split-fin is one of the most effective fins available and I have proved that with the side-by-side comparison tests of fins I made over the years for Diver Magazine. I used a specially built underwater speedometer to objectively compare different fin performances and whereas some split-fins were very disappointing, the Atomic fins were not. Atomic also makes a less expensive paddle-style fin, if you don’t believe me! Another fin that will be up to performing well when the chips are down is the Aquabionic Warp 1. The designers went back to the drawing board for this one and came up with a fin that actually alters its shape according to the load put on it. Like the Atomic split-fin it’s not cheap but it makes the most of any effort you put in. I was in Raja Ampat at a site called Mike’s Point with two young fit Germans. We turned a corner in the reef where we had the full force of the flow presented to us head-on. The two Germans never made it any further whereas I was able to get past this current-point and make it to a lee in the reef further on. Later, they said that they were impressed at the strength of my kicking but this old-age pensioner knew it was because the fins I was using made the most of my muscle power. If you are off to any place with high-voltage diving, whether it be the Galapagos, Cocos, Aldabra, the Maldives or any of the archipelagos further East, I really recommend you invest in a pair of fins that won’t let you down. The pain of the price is soon forgotten and all you are left with is how good they are.