Top 5 Warm-Water Sidemount Fins
by Andy Davis
Wetsuit divers using sidemount in warm-water conditions typically suffer trim issues when using ‘traditional’ tech-style fins. Heaver buoyant, fins (such as the ubiquitous ‘Jet Fin’) tend to cause too much negative buoyancy in the lower-body.
Whilst these fins provide an excellent ‘foot weight’ for drysuit divers; or balance the high-torso weight of back-mounted manifold doubles – they create an imbalance for the properly trimmed sidemount diver. Warm-water sidemount divers using a wetsuit are best served using a near-neutral fin – but should also aim for a short, stiff fin design to maximize effective control and maneuverability.
With that recommendation in mind, here is my pick of the top 5 warm-water sidemount fins…
1. Deep 6 Eddy Fins
Economical tech diving kit manufacturer ‘Deep 6’ recently released a lightweight Jet-Fin inspired design, which comes in 2 sizes (large and XL) and 2 colors (black and orange). They re-designed the foot pocket for increased comfort. It comes with steel spring straps as standard. The fins weight about 6lbs a pair (3lbs per fin) and are slightly positive in salt water (neutral in fresh) due to non-rubber construction. For around $100 it should be great value.
Product Page: http://www.deep6gear.com/fins/deep-6-eddy-fin
2. Apeks RK3
In personal tests, the Apeks RK3 proved to have very slightly positive buoyancy, whilst providing a high level of control and precision. The blade is suitably stiff for the overhead environment and technical divers. Power is more than adequate for most uses and the leg workload is quite easy. The fins come with a stainless steel spring strap as standard.
Available in 3 sizes; Medium (982gm per fin), Large (1.19kg per fin) and Super (1.27kg per fin).
Product Page: http://www.apeksdiving.com/uk/fins/product/rk3-fins.html
3. XDeep Fin
The Xdeep Fin is available in two levels of stiffness; flexible and hard. I’d suggest the hard fin was most suitable for precision control and power. In diver tests, the fins were neutral/slightly positive. They come with a stainless steel spring strap as standard. They weight in at 2.6kg for a pair (1.2kg/2.87lbs per fin) and have a length of 495mm.
Product Page: Not yet listed on the XDeep website
4. Force Fin Pro
I have used Force Fins for the last 15 years and they remain my strong favourite for technical, sidemount and wreck penetration diving. They are available in 6 sizes and have an optional bungee strap (highly recommended).
They are very short in length and the curved blade provides highly efficient forward motion and very good control technique – although the user will need to adapt slightly their foot motion to get that control; it’s all about the ankle motion. A little practice and it works great for frog kick, helicopter turns and back kick.
These fins have sold multiple orders to the elite naval special forces around the globe.
Product Page: http://www.forcefin.com/product/51/FFPRO.html
5. OMS Slipstream
The OMS Slipstream models a classic ‘Jet Fin’ design, but the fins are manufactured from a more lightweight ‘monoprene’ material – making them near-neutral in the water. The fin is available in 3 sizes; large (4.5lbs), XL (5.1lbs) and XXL (5.9lbs).
Product Page: http://omsdive.com/product/fins
Since writing the article, I’ve received feedback from many sidemount divers who feel that a few others fins deserve an ‘honorable mention’ as suggestions. So here’s the best of the rest:
UTD Precision Neutral
Designed specifically for technical diving control, the UTD Precision Neutral fins come with dual-bungee straps and are available in 4 sizes (L, XL and XXL).
They are slightly positive in salt water (neutral in freshwater). They are more than 1lb lighter than comparable Jet Fins, weighing only 2lbs 10oz / 1.19 kg (XL size).
The foot pocket is designed extra-deep, with thicker sidewalls, to assist with power delivery for control techniques like back-kick.
Mares Avanti Quattro
These classics were the second pair of fins I ever bought. They are lightweight and near-neutral in the water due to Thermoplastic rubber/ Tecralene construction. The rising popularity of sidemount diving has given them a new lease of life, as they’ve proven a popular and economical option for many.
The latest “+” version of the fin comes with bungee straps as standard and is available in three sizes (Small, Regular and XL) and six colours. The fins weight .9 kg.
The main drawback is the fin length (38cm) which provides less accurate control than smaller bladed fins….and is less optimal for travelling divers.
The XT is another classic design that is especially popular with sidemount divers in the USA. The lightweight monoprene blend gives a near-neutral performance in the water.
Another longer fin, the stiff material still gives good control in the water. It is available in 4 sizes (small, medium, large and XL) and two colours (black or grey). The fins weigh from 4.7lbs/2.13kg (small) to 6.3lbs/2.86kgs (large). They come with stainless steel spring straps as standard.
Product Page: http://www.diverite.com/products/masks/xt-fins/
The Hollis F2 comes as standard with stainless steel spring straps and is designed to offer great control and power, in a limited size. They offer a good deal of manoeuvrability without the weight/length limitations of their big brother, the ‘F1’ fin (which is popular with drysuit divers).
A slightly different design of ‘vents’ on the fin, but the F2 remains firmly an offspring of the famous ‘Jet’ style.
Product Page: http://www.hollis.com/f2/
Other informational sidemount equipment lists:
About the Author
Andy Davis is a RAID, PADI TecRec, ANDI, BSAC and SSI qualified independent technical diving instructor who specializes in teaching advanced sidemount, trimix and wreck exploration diving courses across South East Asia. Currently residing in ‘wreck diving heaven’ at Subic Bay, Philippines, he has amassed more than 9000 open circuit and CCR dives over 27 years of diving across the globe.
Andy has published many magazine articles on technical diving, has written course materials for dive training agency syllabus, tests and reviews diving gear for major manufacturers and consults with the Philippines Underwater Archaeology Society.
He is currently writing a series of books to be published on advanced diving topics. Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize and Cyprus.