“WE DON’T DO SAFETY STOPS HERE,” Guido told us. We were near the Birkenhead Rock off Gansbaai, South Africa, named for the ship that hit it and sank with the loss of hundreds of Tommys in 1853. Some of those soldiers were reputedly taken by white sharks – and we were diving here hoping to find such sharks in the open on the bottom.
What we didn’t want was for the sharks to find us in the open near the surface – hence the omitted safety stop.
We missed the wreck, saw no sharks and surfaced. Behind the boat, one of our number lay floating helplessly on her back, silhouetted, seal-like, against the sun. Crew reached down from the stern, hastily trying to unhook her fins so that she could climb onto the duckboard.
My buddy and I floated nervously for what seemed a very long time indeed as we waited to regain the safety of Black Cat – all because someone couldn’t take her own fins off.
Putting fins on and taking them off can prove tricky and, as it did for us in SA, cause an impatient queue. We often don our fins on boats, inviting instability and risking a fall. And trying to remove them can leave us bowled over in the surf or thrown around by the swells as we hang onto a boarding ladder with one hand while trying to reach down to our heels and release a strap with the other.
Finclip promises to solve or reduce those problems. It’s not the first attempt at easing fin-wrangling, but it might be the best.
A pair of fins I once owned had a lever-action catch that, when opened, extended the strap to make it easier to pull over your heel. The problem was that if you didn’t close it properly, it could deploy accidentally, and you could lose your fin, as I nearly did in high current in the Maldives.
Another manufacturer built a breakaway mechanism into the back of its heel-strap. The idea was that you kicked at it with your other foot and the strap parted, so you could easily slip the fin off.
I could never get the action right when shore-diving and, if you reached down from a ladder rung to undo it by hand, it wasn’t any easier than using a conventional strap. Give me spring-heel or bungee straps any time – until, maybe, now.
Finclip is inspired by the kind of lever-arch design you see on skis and snowboards. A pressure-pad mounted in the sole of the fin is connected to a bungee strap and a lever-arch.
Slip your foot into the fin, press down slightly and the bungees automatically snap the lever-arch smartly into place behind your ankle. And that’s it. You’re finned up.
Finclip will fit most open-back fins. You buy it in kit form, choosing the buckle fittings needed to replace your existing ones, length of bungee to fit your foot size and the combined pressure-pad and lever-arch assembly.