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Diving Icons: Jet Fins

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Jet Fins

It is probably no surprise to anyone who has read any of my previous articles that I am besotted with my Scuba Pro Jet Fins. I am a fairly recent convert to Jets, having skirted around them, using other inferior fins throughout my diving career. I have tried many other fins and found some were effective, others were gimmicky and some were simply not sturdy enough (I snapped a fin in half towing two divers in a current, don’t ask me which brand they were…<coughs>Cressi<coughs>)

Jet Fins, a Diving Institution In Their Own Right

I don’t want to preach that Jets are the only fins for every diver, quite the reverse is true. Jet Fins are really, really good for the right diver in the right circumstance. They have served a large sector of the diving community diligently for well over forty years and show no sign of fading away. I aim to illuminate some of the Jet’s excellent features and warn those divers away who would be hampered by their specific attributes.

History

The Jet Fin was born in 1964, fathered by the great Georges Beuchat and was an immediate success – they sold over 100,000 units in the first few years (those were big numbers back then because there were only a fraction of the divers there are today). The Jet Fin came in full foot and open foot styles, though the full foot pocket design very quickly faded away.

The Originals, Beuchat Jet Fins

The Jet Fin didn’t achieve it’s peak until the 1970’s when Scubapro bought the rights to the design. They took the concept and proceeded to popularise the fin with the US Navy and other commercial diving operations. Being as recreational diving has mostly evolved from commercial and Navy diving, the Jets came with it.

What makes the Jet Fin’s history so amazing is the fact that they haven’t undergone much in the way of change since their creation in the mid sixties. The idea of a product moving into stasis like this, especially in an equipment intensive industry like diving where everyone wants the latest gear, is unheard of. There have been, and will be, thousands of designs and styles of fin that will endeavour to propel divers underwater in new and exciting ways, and yet there will always be Jet Fins which are perennially in the top leagues of fin performance.

Because the Jets are so popular there have been many copies put on the market. A notable copy is the Aqualung Rocket Fin, though it has been proven time and time again that the ScubaPro Jet Fin is far superior to all of its rivals in terms of flexibility, durability and in comfort under load. SP Jets are a unique specimen in our society of throwaway goods, they were built to last…and last they have!

Copies – Aqualung Rocket Fins

Design

So, what makes these fins so unbearably fantastic? Well, there are a few key points that have made this fin such a success:

  • Material – Jet Fins use a rubber compound that is flexible enough to provide excellent thrust, stiff enough to transfer all the diver’s leg energy into pushing the water backwards and robust enough to take literally any punishment a diver can throw at it. Jet Fins will last a diver’s lifetime, and probably serve their children’s too.
  • Vents – Although vents in fins are fairly commonplace now, they were seriously revolutionary when they were first released. The vents, placed at the end of the foot pocket, allow water to pass through on the recovery stroke but force water backwards on the power stroke. This improves efficiency while maintaining the integrity of the stroke.
  • Foot Pocket – The foot pocket on the Jets is something of an Achilles’ Heel (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist it…no more puns from here on) in this fin. The pocket is squared off to fit drysuit boots better, though this can lead to some abrasive discomfort of the top of the foot (being as feet aren’t square). Even when wearing some thick drysuit boots there have been comments on the poor pocket design. I personally find the pocket very comfortable as my foot is quite wide, so I appreciate the rectangular opening. For a while there were also some problems with choosing the right size of fin, though Scuba Pro listened and added a new, bigger size to accommodate large men’s feet in bulky boots.
  • Spring Straps– These are the cherries on the top of this super fin, and are what made me fall in love with them. As standard, Jets come with an adjustable rubber strap which, after an extended session of fiddling with the strap to get it to your size, will serve you well as far as straps go. However, if you take the time and spend a little extra cash, you can buy a pair of add-on spring straps that replace the original stock rubber bands. It does take a bit of man power with some pliers to get the old straps off but once you’ve secured the new springs in place the you will be in for a treat – nothing fits quicker than a pair of Jets with spring straps. They are secure, comfortable and ridiculously convenient!

    Jet Fins With Spring Straps, a Match Made in Heaven!

Who They Were Made For

Jets are surprisingly versatile. They are good for almost every diving application and will hold their own against any modern dive fin in any benchmark test. However, they excel in some applications and are not the best choice for others.

Of course anyone can use Jets, but not everyone will have the same experience with them. I can say broadly that Jets are perfect for divers who use powerful kick strokes. If you prefer to use lighter, rapid kick cycles then Jets will probably feel sluggish and bulky. They work well for most styles of finning though they are fantastic for frog kick because you kick less frequently but with more power in each stroke. You should also consider your buoyancy distribution when considering Jets because they are very negative in the water which drags your feet down. If you already have heavy legs then Jets might compound your problems and have you hanging vertically during your dive.

I don’t want to make these fins gender specific but it’s hard not to broadly class them as a masculine fin. They suit the heavy kick strokes of a man, and deliver the thrust a big man requires to propel him through the water, though my opinions are biased being as I am male, 190 cm tall and weight 95 kg.

The fact that Jets have been almost exclusively adopted by the navy and the commercial diving sector speaks volumes about what type of diver would benefit from them – someone who needs thrust, durability, control and convenience. When you need heavy duty, Jets deliver.

 

Pros

 

  • Durable – I’d say that even though Jetfins are well known for their abilities under the water, the real reason they are so super famous is their unbelievable longevity. They manage to provide the same levels of performance as modern day technical fins while being massively more strong and robust. I have never seen a pair of Jets worn out or snapped. They don’t get sun damaged, salt eroded, chlorine discoloured, travel battered, coral gouged or split. They are the strongest pieces of dive gear that you will ever own and with no care whatsoever they will last a lifetime.
  • Simple – This relates to the Jet’s durability but deserves its own mention. The Jets, being moulded in one piece, from one compound, are unable to have “component failure” being as there are no screws, welds or connections to break as happens so often with modern fins.
  • Powerful – Jetfins = power…enough said? Not quite, though it is pretty much their trademark party piece. They have big, fairly stiff paddles that displace large quantities of water and are flexible enough to provide added thrust by flicking the fin tip at the end of the kick stroke.
  • Controllable – This, along with the afore mentioned power, is a real draw for the commercial divers. The Jetfins are very comfortable under extreme load situations but they also provide a large amount of feedback when doing delicate manoeuvres (such as back kicking in a wreck or gentle frog kicking over heavy silt). It’s one of my favourite features about the fins, you know just how much water you are displacing and where it is going.
  • Quick to Don – With the standard rubber straps they take the same amount of time to put on as any other open heel fin, but with the spring straps installed they are just about the most convenient fins available on the market.
  • Iconic – This might be a strange reason to buy a pair of fins but Jets have a real level of credibility that other, more senior divers will take seriously. I read a quote on a blog post once which said something to the effect of “if I see a guy with a pair of Jets with some scars on them, I think: ‘yeah, I’ll dive with him.’” This doesn’t mean that Jets are a shortcut to serious diver credibility, but they help.
  • Squat – This feature is a must for cave and wreck divers and other divers who work in overhead environments. The Jets are broad and short which means that even the most clumsy of us are able to avoid kicking our buddies and the silt-covered floor. They are great for performing some more advanced kicking strokes, such as the helicopter manoeuvre.

 

 

Cons

 

  • Heavy – There is no way I can hide the fact that Jets are freaking heavy! They often manage to make other divers say: “oof” when I pass them the fins. They are a nightmare for traveling and make all logistics just a little more awkward.
  • Negatively Buoyant – Now, before I hear a roar of indignant yells telling me that I am repeating myself, I’m not. The Jets are not just heavy, but they are also really dense which makes them sink like a stone in water. This is fine if you are wearing a buoyant drysuit, but in a 3 mm shortie you might find you drag your feet. It might be that you have very positive legs (or do when in an exposure suit), in which case you will find this a pro, not a con.
  • Poor Snorkelling Fins – For the vast majority of divers this won’t make a bit of difference, especially to commercial divers and others of that ilk. However, it’s quite surprising how often I’ve been required to go snorkelling to aid a search party looking for a lost camera or weight belt. I’ve also found that a good snorkelling fin often turns out to be a good surface swim fin, which is much more applicable to our staunch diver crew. Basically, Jet Fins are too heavy to keep at the surface and to kick out the water.
  • Foot Pocket – I’ve already mentioned the problems with the foot pocket, so to ensure this doesn’t compromise your experience with Jetfins I suggest you try them on with the boot you’d normally wear. Don’t accept a spare pair of boots in the shop, make sure they fit over your own personal boots. Some thick soled boots might force the top of your foot to rub against the rim of the foot pocket and some thin boots might rattle around in that big pocket.
  • Spring Straps Are Not Standard – This is a minor concern but it is a concern non the less. I have seen many, many posts on scuba discussion forums about how to pry the spring straps off and how to fit the new ones. It takes some elbow grease, I’ll leave it at that. I’ve seen some DIY guides that show how to make your own spring straps, something I’d be interested in trying out myself one day.

If you are a Jet fin fanatic, have a Jet based story or have a question about this most iconic of SCUBA gear then please feel free to share in the comments section below.

By Jamie Campbell


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Comments

  • avra cohen said:

    I love my Jets! Tried the split fins… poppycock! Fire, rescue, military, and exploration divers around the world agree… Jet Fins are tops!

  • Phingfish said:

    I use jet fins and I agree they are great but I also use split fins; Scubapro Twin jet (bright yellow ones). I find they are comfortable and being very bright are good for diving when the visibility is poor and you want your dive buddy to be able to see you.

  • schollaert rudi said:

    I dive since 1970 with jetfins. ( average 120 dives a year) and for the moment i use my third pear of jetfins…so, they last very long!

  • Eslava said:

    Hi, befor i used some fins more light, but when mi grandfather (he also was a diver) gave me his jet fis (dacor turbo fins) that he bougth 40 years ago, i start to use only jet fins, and the dacor are such in good condition, it has the original rubber straps!!
    (sorry for my ortography, im from mexico)

  • Richard said:

    Diving since 1957, bought my first Jet Fins probably late 60’s or early 70’s, My most recent pair were purchased in early 80’s (only because I lost one of the fins in murky water), the pair, purchased in the early 80’s, are still in great shape except for the straps, they need replaced every 20 years – Ha!

    My primary diving interest is spearfishing, most of it around rock jetties, the jet fins have a distinct advantage of being short in length, that allows one to move around while standing on rock jetties while stringing fish, and setteling into the rocks underwater while waiting for fish to come by, they are perfect for this type of diving. I dive in the mid atlantic states and that reuires wetsuits, you do have to try on wetsuit booties for a fit into the jet fin prior to purchase, most hard sole boots will be too wide for the jet fin pocket. I dive weekly between April and November, the jet fins only show abrasion wear from barnicles and musscles from standing on the rocks.

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