Nicolle is a PADI course director from the Vancouver, Washington and one of my dearest friends. She has a contagious passion for scuba diving and is one of the funniest people I know and an inspiration in many ways. This is her confession….
When I bought my first set of fins, I didn’t buy the most or least expensive. I bought what I thought would be the most practical, a black set of TUSA Platina blades. And that was it – I had my one and only set of fins, an expectation most new divers have.
Then I started fun diving. Living in the Pacific Northwest USA, we dive year-round in water temps ranging from 45-55°F (7-13°C). I had bought myself an inexpensive hot pink and black 7mm wetsuit (yep that’s why it was so cheap) and my Platinas were perfection! With so many log ed Dives on them they took me right through my divemaster program, my instructor program, and my first couple years of teaching scuba.
Big Girl Fins…
I went to visit one of my dearest friends, Melanie, who first introduced me to scuba at the University of Oregon. Mel was instructing scuba in Bimini, the Bahamas, and this visit was my first warm water dive trip!! Before I left, she asked me to bring her a new set of Cressi long full-foot freediving fins. Holy moly these fins were taller than half my body height.
I called them the “Big Girl Fins” because Mel is 6’ tall and watching her effortlessly mimic the dolphins she was freediving with in these fins was amazing. Diving all week from a boat I decided my cold water neoprene boots and open heel fins were too much. I returned home to buy my first set of full-foot Big Girl Fins. Unfortunately at the time, scuba manufacturers focused dive gear to men and women were left to buy men’s small, booo, and not all smalls were small enough as was the case with the Cressi full-foots. So, I purchased a wonderful set of Mares Plana Avanti fins that I then used for travel and in the pool with classes.
Now I had two sets of fins, one for cold and one for warm. My fin collection was now complete until our TUSA rep said hey Nicolle, I can get you a set of Platinas in Pearl White…WHAT!!??? Uh HECK YEAH! Since we have so much life in our waters, Pacific Northwest waters aren’t always super clear so bright white fins are great for leading divers.
Let’s get dry now…
Then I bought a drysuit, finally! Not just warmer but the topside convenience, oh the convenience. I can’t tell you how many times I was quarantined to the truck bed because I was in a sopping wetsuit or how many weird places I have changed to dry clothes. I’ve changed behind rocks, trees, vehicle doors, and suspended beach towels over nasty porta-potties found at many dive sites. Not all that liquid on the floor is dive water…ahem gents… But when I went to put on my fabulous Platinas, they didn’t fit!
My drysuit had rock boots bumping me up a fin size so I bought a larger set. But the larger Platinas were not just a bigger foot pocket. They also had a longer fin blade and no longer provided the right performance for me.
Splitting my fins up
One dive weekend another dive pro said “hey try these fins out, they’re new split fins.” I slipped them on and just like that I didn’t even know they were on my feet. They powerfully sliced through the water, and the water was where I remained when I hollered back to my finless dive buddy that if he wanted his fins back he had to come get them. Ha! So that is how the Apollo Bio-Fins joined my now growing collection.
Then I started my tec dive training. I put on my super powerful Apollos and slipped under the water with my tec instructor and we were off. Well…HE was off. I would watch him do one big beautiful frog kick in his heavy-duty blade fins and whoosh, he propelled away from me feebly kicking about 4 kicks to his one.
Two things became immediately clear: (1) splits fins are too soft and flexible to push multiple tanks through the water; and (2) you cannot effectively frog kick in splits. I got my drysuit-clad butt kicked all weekend and then I immediately ordered a set of ScubaPro Jets. I added spring straps (these were aftermarket at the time) and loved them. They were awesome and I loved them so much I bought a smaller set for warm water. Then when colored jets came out, I added a pink set and a white set for high viz – wohoo WHITE!
Now we’re getting serious…
I thought I had hit fin nirvana frog kicking forwards, backwards, and in circles in my heavy-duty blades. That was until I got to demo a set of Hollis F-1s. I have dove a few years now with the Jets and I have noticed something. When back finning, they subtly tuck me upwards which was not great in overhead environments over long distances. The Hollis F-1s do not do this and they offer the same powerful performance with incredible precision.
Since then I’ve added several more fins to my gear closet. What I realized is, like shoes, you don’t often own just one pair. You have different shoes for different purposes. You wouldn’t work out in heels or run a marathon in hiking boots or hike a glacier in flipflops. The same goes for fins. I always recommend buying a good quality all-around workhorse fin for your first set, but, you cannot expect them to do everything and last forever.
Hi, my name is Nicolle and I’m a tec diving dive pro who currently owns more fins than shoes. But those Platinas, well they’ll always be my first!