As I begin writing this article, I sit stroking my Seawing Novas. They’re bright yellow and feel a lot like rubbery lawn chairs. I am so utterly bewitched by them I’m not quite sure where to begin.
Perhaps with the beginning?
The first time I laid eyes on fins (flippers, as we call them in South Africa), I was five. My parents presented them to me as a reward for learning to swim away from the wall in the swimming pool, across the scary deep end. I no longer recall what those fins looked like, but I do know that they, alongside the years of swimming in South Africa, instilled in me a great love of water.
So, when I signed up for my Open Water PADI course in 2016, it was a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, this time there were no parents to choose the fins. I had to be the one making the decision.
Our local dive shop does not push us to buy any one product, but rather explains the pros and cons of each one so that we can individually make the decision that is best for us. When I asked about the different options, they laid them out. First, there was the cheapest. The regular scuba diving fins, tested by time. They came standard with the most affordable package of mask, fins, snorkel. The catch? They require more propulsion in the water to get going, and therefore result in greater energy expenditure.
Split blade fins were the next option. They were included in the mid-range package. I had never seen fins like this before. Split lengthwise down the middle they reminded me of a fish’s tail fin . The shop told me that it would be easier to start swimming with these fins (propulsion was better). They also mentioned that for anyone with knee problems (hello, ex-runner), they were also a good option.
The final package they showed me included ScubaPro’s Seawing Novas. Bright, solid fins that looked more like plastic toys, especially given the lurid colors: pink, yellow, purple, white. While these fins had rave reviews from instructors, the price range almost immediately put me off. Over $200 for a pair of fins alone? Heck, I’d just paid for the course, and even then I still had to get my mask, snorkel and booties. Still, I listened to the spiel. The fin was said to get good thrust and be suitable to a number of different kicking styles, with the flex point ensuring the whole fin got used. Plus, they were super easy to put on.
In the end I went with Tusa’s split fins. I figured that with occasional knee problems, these would work well. Plus, I was swimming regularly in the gym so was surely competent enough that I wouldn’t need that extra bit of propulsion at the outset.
A couple of weeks later, my class instructor walked us through the fins we could buy. My heart sank when he said the Seawing Novas were the best fins he’d ever used. Naturally, those who could afford them bought them and I berated myself for buying everything well in advance of our first pool session.
Still, I rationalized, I did occasionally get knee pain, and I was lap swimming a few miles a week. Plus, I was just a beginner; I knew nothing about dive gear. I resigned myself to learning the hard way, as one often does in a new hobby.
Even thought these fins served me well for many dives, the niggling feeling that I was missing out never really went away. It was only after a really bad dive in the Florence North Jetty that I realized my split fins were probably doing nothing to help me in a strong current situation. I asked a friend if I could try his. The next time we took a trip to Woahink Lake, he donned his spare fins and I used his Seawing Novas.
The difference they made was immediately obvious. Not only could I keep up with his faster swimming, but I could do frog kick–something I had been unable to master with split fins.
Unfortunately, the price tag still loomed unpleasantly over my head. I spent hours looking at pictures of them online, wishing I had just paid the price at the beginning. Then, a couple of days before my birthday, I went to get a tank filled at the dive shop. The shop owner handed me a card that read, Happy Birthday, Candice. Inside was a voucher: “Good for one pair of Seawing Novas, paid in full –Tim.” I couldn’t believe it.
I messaged Tim afterwards, ecstatic. Thank you so much. You have literally made my day.
And, as fate would have it, the first time I got to test them was loe and behold, in the Florence North Jetty. It was bliss. I could keep up with my dive buddy and deal with the current, thought this time we’d timed things a damn sight better too.
So, if you ask me which fins you should buy, even as a novice? Well, I’m going to go all out and say don’t waste your time with the others, especially if you’re worried about current. The Seawing Novas are, in my opinion, the only fins a new scuba diver should consider.