Fins are where the rubber meets the water. Given that human-powered propulsion gets most of us around underwater (scooters are fun too), fins are an integral part of a diver’s gear kit. A few years ago I offered up a comparative review of a number of good performing fins, including the Mares Plana Avanti Quattro, ScubaPro Jet fin, ScubaPro Twin Speed, ScubaPro Twin Jet, Atomic Aquatics SplitFin, and finally, the Apollo Bio-Fin and Bio-Fin XT. The winner in that review (for best cold water fin) was the Apollo Bio-Fin XT – which had just enough thrust, ergonomics and maneuverability to edge out the others.
As a testament to the Bio-Fin XT, I’d been diving them ever since. Actually, I still own two pairs of them and they’re still great. However, from once diving singles and doubles and taking photos with point & shoot underwater cameras, to now diving a CCR with bailout tanks and an underwater DSLR (a.k.a. “The Depth Star”), I started the search for a fin that was capable of moving more weight and drag through the water, while also offering the maneuverability needed for macro photography.
Trying out the fins typically used by the majority of technical divers, who traditionally carry a lot of gear and therefore deal with increased drag, I didn’t find much that appealed to me. The Turtle fin pockets were way too soft for me (I hear that you get used to them eventually) and the Jet Fin’s foot pocket was way too small and narrow. Neither of those models have changed much over the years, despite the advancements in designs and the materials seen in fins produced by many manufacturers. Probably due to the size of the market, most of the evolution seem to appear in warm water fins (I’m currently diving the Mares Volo Power in the tropics).
At last year’s Northwest Dive Expo, I came upon the Hollis F1 fins. These immediately stood out to me as the first technically-oriented paddle fin to have appeared in the past several years. Don’t let the sleek design fool you. Hollis did not reinvent the wheel here. The F1 employs the familiar form-factor that has kept the Turtle and Jet fins at the top of the list for most divers who explore cold water for years. But, it does so with refined features and characteristics, such as the material used, drainage holes and integrated spring straps with a nice, large finger loop.
Below are the primary features seen in the F1 fins, made by Hollis:
- High grade, heavy duty rubber construction
- Angled strap mounts for comfort and a better transition of power
- Spring heel straps w/ easy-grip heel tab
- Multiple strap mounting positions for a fine tuned fit
- Vented blade to reduce stress while accelerating water over the blade
- Generous foot pocket
After about 40-60 dives using these fins, I have to admit that Hollis has completely hit the mark with the F1s. The foot pocket of the F1 is noticeably larger and more ergonomically shaped than those of my Bio-Fin XT, but nowhere as soft as the Turtle fin’s foot pocket. The spring straps are designed really well, and the huge finger loop at the rear makes it a snap to get them on/off. These paddle fins have just the right amount of flex, allowing you to kick efficiently, with great maneuverability – but at the same time they also provide the necessary amount of power and thrust to make the most out of every kick. When burdened with large load of dive gear and the inherent drag a drysuit imposes, these fins make short work out of our cold waters here in the Pacific Northwest. The drain holes are a nice, commonsense feature that is lacking in some other fins, and you’ll appreciate being quickly relieved of the water (and the accompanying weight) once you pull yourself out of the water, fins in hand.
In conclusion: if you’re in search of a traditional-style paddle fin that deals well with a heavy gear configuration, especially in cold water, look no further than the Hollis F1.