Sport Diver: Excellerating Force Fin~ Gary P. Joyce for Sport Diver Magazine, August 1998
This is simple. Get over the way Force Fin's Excellerating model looks. (For that matter, get over the name too. Man, what a pain it is to write that a hundred times!) It looks weird, OK? And personally, that's probably one of the main things that scares people away from Force Fins. They don't look like the fins we're used to. That said, to turn down a technology that works because it look different is a pretty stupid way to go through life. Different-looking doesn't mean it won't work, although it doesn't mean it will, either. But what happens when weird-looking things do work?
There's been much written about the Force Fin technology by others more scientifically bent than this diver. Most of us know of the fins by their kicked-up leading edges that make it easy to walk with them on, and some of us have heard about the way the blade makes use of kinetic energy, provides more power with less exertion, etc. Allow me this... let's say these are a given. But what about real-world?
First, a little description of the mechanisms behind the Excellerating Force Fin. This fin is a departure from the more familiar fins by this innovative company and is an answer to those who prefer sculling and frog-kicking strokes - i.e., wreck and cave divers. The fin tips are very thin, there are stiffer ridges running down both sides. (There are a bunch of dime-size bumps on the bottom of the heel pocket to break up water flow that "adheres" to the fin, thus creating better flow through the water (at least, that's how I understand they work), and there also are the "whiskers." Again, we get a little, er, weird here.
The whiskers look like two remora attached to your fins; they channel water flow, creating a ram effect when narrowed. (They're adjustable). You'll also have to adjust your kick a bit to get the benefit of how these work - forget about straight-legging it and let those knees bend. (Force Fin Note: You'll always get less drag and better propulsion if you keep your legs as straight as you comfortably can, when flutter kicking.)
OK. Back to the real world. Situation: 20, 25 feet of water, temp's about 45, an incoming current running about 1.5 knots on a flood tide in a harbor channel. My buddy Art and I are wearing single tanks, 6.5 mm suits; he's wearing Force Fins (because I thought they looked weird and I was damned if I was gonna wear them!). Generally we consume about the same air on dives. We stay next to each other during the entire dive, most of which is spent working into the current. Result: This is my partner's third or fourth dive this season, I'm working on number 60 or 70 or some such, and his air consumption is 300 pounds better than mine. Art says he wasn't working real hard against the current, and since I was always behind him trying to stay even, I have to assume it's the fins; just about everything else was equal.
A few other observations (yeah, I finally tried them): The fins go on and off over wetsuit boots with no problem (the pocket looks big enough to handle drysuit boots with no problem too; I'll let you know about that one ); they maneuver with a lot less effort than any regular fin I've used; and they feel lighter than most fins, though their construction gives the appearance of a lot of weight. My buddy says the difference in feel is like the difference between wearing sandals and work boots and I'll go with that. I'd also like to point out that in a about four hours of diving with these fins, I never felt a calf-muscle cramp - that might be a little subjective, but whatever the reason, I didn't, and it seems like I always get at least one cramp per dive. (I was just going through the Force Fin promo material, and its says the fins are designed to prevent cramping. Go figure.)
If you're looking for more propulsion with less effort and more comfort, you'll want to give these a try. And don't be put off by the way they look. In my opinion, it's one of those kiss-a-frog-find-a-prince (or princess) type.
~Gary P. Joyce