The Art of Design: An Exhibition of American Design by Harry J. Wirth

photo of Bob Evans by Bev Morgan

Bob Evans is a pioneer scuba diving equipment inventor as well as an accomplished diver and underwater photographer. He was born in Paris in 1950, the son of a sculptor-painter (his father) and a culinary writer (his mother). He now lives in Santa Barbara, California. He attributes his creativity and resourcefulness to his parents, from whom he was most influenced at an early age.

When he was nine he was given a gift that would change his life. A simple surf mat with a clear window allowed Evans to look down into the clear waters of the Mediterranean and see all of the fish and creatures below. He became obsessed with the ocean and its marvels and more than anything else, he wanted to explore beneath the waves.

When Evans moved to Southern California from Europe he learned that one of his older cousins was a scuba diver. His escapades with his cousin increased his desire to dive. Diving and underwater photography became his life.

Evans started his own company, La Mer Bleu Productions, through which he still markets his underwater photographs. Through diving and underwater photography, Evans found that swim fins did not have the flexibility nor the design to enhance the underwater swimmer’s movements. He began to experiment with new designs in 1971 even though he had no experience in manufacturing.

kick,leg,kickingHis inspiration was the ocean and its natural inhabitants. His research also revolved extensively around that of a diver’s foot and the movements of the human leg. As art, he has hanging in his house an interesting chart that shows the human leg in several horizontal kicking positions. His notebooks are profuse with photos and drawings of different configurations of fins. Some look like the fins of a squid. Others like a tuna and then some like a porpoise. He studied the fins of the fastest fish, and tried numerous designs and configurations to get just the right shape. His prototype fins were made with chicken wire covered with newspaper and resin. He could not wait for the experimental fins to dry in order to go to the beach to try them out.

Through 15 years of research, observation and testing, Evans perfected his Force Fin into the basic form it is in today. Although it has taken the Force Fin about 10 years to catch on. Presently the fins can be found among 17 countries. Today Evans is working on a new fin design that will be even more innovative and unusual than the Force Fin.

For more see The… Art of Design: The Innovative Designs of Bob Evans, Erik Buell and Burt Rutan
by Harry J. Wirth, 2000

Reprinted with the permission of  Harry J. Wirth for “The Art of Design: An Exhibition of American Design” The American Design Network, © 1993