Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

A forum for discussing paipo board gear such as swim fins, leashes, skegs (board fins) and other related wave riding gear.
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Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#1

Unread post by rodndtube »

One of our forum members, PhillyViking, is in search of (ISO) a better fitting and performing swim fin. DaFin doesn't size up well for him and the Force Fins he has been using, Regular/Classic and Pro, have their shortcomings. Hope he chimes in here.
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PhillyViking
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#2

Unread post by PhillyViking »

I used Force Fin Pro for years. I loved them. They were the only fins I could find that were comfortable and had sufficient stiffness to get thrust at take off. I wear US 12.5 EEE and must have a high arch. Everything else destroyed my feet. I estimate that as a result of 200-300 yard rides at my favorite spot, itself 1/5+ mile out, that I was swimming at least 1.5 miles per session. During that good period I recovered from back surgery and other issues.

More recently, my back issues began coming back and I had some bouts with plantar fasciitis. I was losing my ability to even walk normally and was having trouble even getting through lap swimming in the pool. Some combination of age (67), over use, physical issues and sports equipment design was trashing me. I did find relief in a multi faceted approach.

I talked to Bob Evans at Force Fin. I took his advise to use the Original FF model rather than the Pro model. The pro is only designed for below the surface .. it has too much stiffness for surface swimming. The Original model would be kinder to my body. I also took his advise to use FF Slim Fins when training in the pool. They were even less stiff than the Originals and would actually help loosen me up. His advise paid off, I had a great trip to my favorite spot in April 2021 and was comfortable using the Originals.

I should say that I also embraced the exercises and mindset detailed in The Back Pain Book. I was in real bad shape when I started. Most PTs try to do too much early. I started out with 5 minute sessions and built up. I focused more on stretch and decompression of the spine than strengthening. I also had a therapist treat my plantar fasciitis with the Graston Technique just in time for a June 2020 trip. Finally, as result of Covid, I stopped training in the pool and eliminated that as a possible overuse. Instead I walked more using my trekking poles.

So whats the problem? There are three things I do not like about the FF Original model I am now using:
1.) I gave up some thrust that I enjoyed with the stiffer Pro model
2,) Neither the Pro nor Originals surf as well as e.g. Da Fins. They seem to drag as result of their width and design. With good reason FF claims to be the most efficient fin for diving but the faster speeds riding prone on the surface is a different challenge
3.) Both FF models are heavier than e.g. Da Fins. That extra weight makes it harder to keep fins out of the water when they should up

I have tried Da FIns over the years. They surf better than the FFs: they have great thrust for take offs and steer and glide better than the FFs. Extending planing surface area with fins to get through slow sections is the glide scenario. But even DF XXLs are too tight and I assume (have not actually tried) the XXXLs are crossing the line on pocket length and overall size for me. For me, they are unusable. They would destroy me if I used them.

Based on the experience of some of my surf buddies, the Da Fins are the best case among the normal set of options e.g. Vipers for comfort. It seems most fin pockets are designed for people with narrow or at most normal feet.

The challenge is to get the take-off and surfability of a Da Fin but comfort for my foot on par with the Force Fin Original. The Da Fin does not glide as well a narrower fin with straighter lines like the Vipers so perfection would to improve on glide as well. But if I can not have it all then comfort 1st and then take-off followed by glide. Without comfort I can not surf at all so nothing else matters.

Some solutions:

1. Am I missing a swim fin that is comfortable for my profile and performs well?
2. Modify a Da Fin - cut away the foot pocket at least at the toe and foot ball. The assumption is the remaining pocket is sufficient but I might need some kind of reinforcement such as nylon webbing. One step further would be to remove the top pocket completely and/or grind down the bottoms where they pinch into wide feet. The entire pocket would be replaced with something like the FF comfort pads or maybe just strapping.
3. Modify a FF Pro - Cut down a FF Pro like the UDT lovers do until I hit the balance of stiffness and comfort. That reduces drag as well.

I might end up trying the Da Fin and FF mods. I am about to cut down a FF Pro fin to be more like the Da Fin.
IMG_20210602_082944113.jpg
As a first iteration I will cut away the FF Pro at the tail to conform to the Da Fin shape. I will iterate more cuts as needed

IMG_20210602_083000183_HDR.jpg
I will not try to change the fish tail of the FF to be like the more squared off tail of the DF on the first pass. If needed I will add some duck like webbing to the FF vee.

Any ideas on how I can get comfort and performance in balance?


Pro Force Fin:
https://forcefin.com/product/pro-force-fin/
Original Swim Fin:
https://forcefin.com/product/force-fin- ... -swim-fin/
Slim Fim:
https://forcefin.com/product/slim-fin/
Da Fin:
https://www.dafin.com/collections/dafin-signature
The Back Pain Book:
https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Back-Pai ... 7785&psc=1
PhillyViking
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#3

Unread post by PhillyViking »

Here is 1st pass at FF Pro mod:
IMG_20210603_134157809.jpg
Right to Left:
Force Fin Pro - before mod
Force Fin Pro - After iteration 1 of Mod
Da Fin XL

I will try FF Pro mod in pool on Friday. I think I will know right away if I need more off or if I went too far. I already went a bit thinner than the DF.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#4

Unread post by PhillyViking »

I tried iteration #1 of the FF Pro mod today in the pool.
* I paddled for over 1/2 hr .. seemed easier that the previous session with unmodified FF Pro
* the stiffness felt somewhere between the Pro and Original but still closer to the Pro
* No negatives

Unfortunately I did not think to take an unmodified FF Pro and Original with me for immediate comparison.

* It feels like I can take some more off but I will take all fins to the pool for on the spot comparisons before doing so
* I already took off some length and width. If I do take more off I will need to think about where to do so
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#5

Unread post by rodndtube »

The trick will be finding the sweet spot between being able to do long paddleouts (endurance) like with the Force Fin Original and at the same time do 3 sec sprints (bursts) with spring and propulsion rivaling a DaFin.
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PhillyViking
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#6

Unread post by PhillyViking »

Exactly, balance long distance paddling with take-off force. It would be easy to overshoot and take too much off and end up with too little stiffness for the take off. Ergo, I am looking at 3-4 iterations so I hit it right. 1/8-1/4" per iteration. If takes even more than 4 then so be it.
PhillyViking
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#7

Unread post by PhillyViking »

Two alternate ideas if this does not work out:
1.) Grind away thickness of a stiffer Pro until it is more flexible; I am only reducing length and width in this one
2.) Add in stiffener plates to the original until it gets more stiffness. How about interchangeable carbon fiber plates? Same concept as the rods they put in some of the body boards

The mold outline is identical for the two models.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#8

Unread post by PhillyViking »

I completed a pool test of iteration #2. It has less stress on the body then the Pro version and more thrust than Originals.  And the outline promises to have less drag when on the wave.. its narrower.  I swam continuously for over 1/2 hr without issue and it felt good.
IMG_20210606_130254382.jpg

Right: Stock FF Pro which is same mold as FF Original but stiffer material

Left: FF Slim Fins - Prior to Covid I was using these for lap swimming in the pool.  They excerpt no stress but no thrust and swim much slower than the Pro or Original.  They are therapeutic for training but are useless for surf.

Middle:  Iteration 2 of My FF Pro Mod.  Less body stress than Iteration 1 and of course the stock Pro.  Still swims fine.  It has more thrust than a stock FF Origiinal.   The Pro Mod is starting to look more like the slim fin outline but is much stiffer due to the material composition.   Its also starting to look more like FF's own fin intended for surfing.
Rip-Force-Fin.jpg
https://forcefin.com/product/rip-force-fin/

I previously dismissed the Rip Force model because of the buckle that I thought would drag. I was using FF Pro without issue at the time so did not think these would swim distance efficiently. It just did not look like anything I knew of that worked. However, maybe the only problem with the Rip Force model is the buckle .. and that could be swapped out for simple slip rings that would be more stream lined. Its not like I need get these to fit over my combat boots. It would be very cool to have adjustable foot pockets to go from bare feet to reef boots to 5 mm winter boots. I am not sure about the stiffness of these but suspect they have sufficient thrust. My question is more will they remain comfortable if I swim a mile a two in the course of a session? I will try to pursue this now that I have renewed interest.

Back to FF Pro Mod. I am getting real close to a balance of distance swimming and thrust without harm consequences.  I am hoping the removal of some of the width already completed will make it glide better on waves. I have a minor tweak I will do tomorrow and test on Tuesday. Iteration 3 will have less change than in previous iterations. I have lots of ideas of what might work but will quit while I am ahead for now.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#9

Unread post by rodndtube »

Agree. Time for salt water testing. The Rip Force Model looks quite different from the Classic and Pro Models.
Any changes to the trailing edge foil on the Mod Fins?
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PhillyViking
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#10

Unread post by PhillyViking »

yea, the Rip Force and Hockey Fin, which both need agility and thrust, each have less width in the foot area. But the Slim Fin also has less width there and it is optimized for ease of straight lap swimming so that attribute is confusing. Although, stiffness seems to be the main attribute for balancing thrust with distance swimming stress. Notice that the Da Fin also has width next to the foot. So, I do not understand the thinking behind having and not having width next to the foot.

The RF has less V in the fish tail compared to the FF Pro/Original and the hockey fin which has none. So whats the fish tail about? I suppose its the same a fish surfboard.. lets you go short and stubby but release the water in the center?

Also, not seen in these views is that the FF Pro, Original and Slim all have inverted Vee in the bottom. The idea is to store energy on the down and release on the up stroke for swimming efficiency. I wonder whether that hurts actual surf time. It looks like the Rip Force is flat. So is the Da Fin.

The top and bottom trailing edge of FF Pro/Original/Slim are "foiled" but they are so thin at that point so there might not be enough material to make a hard edge on the bottom. The sides of the RF look harder than the others. I am going to leave my edges hard where I can in the mod.

I may or may not have declared success too early. I woke up today with some issues, Its hard to separate correlation from causation. I have an often allusive ebb and flow of issues whether I am in the water or not. So, I may or may not try these while in Central America later this week during an actual surf session.

Regardless, I am making progress with the mod and have renewed my interest in the Rip Force and Hockey models. I would just buy some to try but they are so expensive. I bought most of my existing collection of FFs used on Ebay. They seem to last forever only needing replacement of the heel straps. There are always some Pro and Originals available used on Ebay but I have never seen Rip Force or Hockey models. If I knew one would work for me I would be happy to pay retail to keep me healthy and happy in the water. But wow, they are 3x to 4x of Da FIns etc. Th mod might just serve the purpose of helping me make the plunge. I can certainly have a more informed conversation with Bob Evans with this experience.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#11

Unread post by PhillyViking »

To complicate this, "fins" are added to forcefins: Sharks Teeth (short and deep) for directional control or Whiskers (long and shallow) for adding thrust. I wonder whether adding whiskers to my originals would give me the extra thrust I want while retaining the comfortable distance swimming I enjoy. These fins bolt on so can be swapped for custom size and shapes for fine tuning to ones body, style and surf conditions. That would be a lot easier and more flexible than the reshaping I am doing.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#12

Unread post by PhillyViking »

I meant to add .. I would not mind giving up some directional control with whiskers. Furthermore, I want to keep my feet out of the water anyway once planing. I can see how a body surfer would want more directional control from the swim fin. But I get that in my Paipo/fin design. Notice that Da Fins have permanent "fins" placed somewhat forward .. I suppose the fin helps with thrust and/or directional control but keeping it forward keeps it loose just like fin placement on a board.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#13

Unread post by rodndtube »

The Vipers have a very pronounced ridges and the Churchills have somewhat rounded ridges, running down the length of the blades. One thing noticeably different in the DaFins and Force Fins is weight, 1.6 lbs/pair and 5 lbs/pair, respectively.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#14

Unread post by Pes78 »

we have the same feet somehow. i would try yucca ultra softs. been using them for a couple years now they've been very good to me.
PhillyViking
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#15

Unread post by PhillyViking »

will check out Yucca, I wanted to use lighter weight Da Fin but could not get any that fit.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#16

Unread post by PhillyViking »

Just took quick look at Yucca web site. I would prefer to buy rather than modify fins,

I see they have different stiffness models. What kind of conditions do use ultra soft in? How much distance do you cover in a typical session?
I need gentle on the body for long swims but quick thrust for take off etc, Do you have to sacrifice thrust to get soft?

What size do you use? do you use socks, boots etc? Sounds like the can handle wide feet.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#17

Unread post by rodndtube »

PhillyViking, we might get a chance to hook up with Pez later in the Summer for some surf down Assateague way and maybe you could try on a pair (assuming the size is close).
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#18

Unread post by Pes78 »

i use the ultra softs in everything. i get around pretty well with them but don't swim around too far. maybe go 200 yards in either direction. i surf mostly beachbreak. i have the size large so trying them on is not going to help. there are some shops in jersey that carry them but not too sure how correct yuccas site is regarding that. i don't use socks or booties. was able to catch waves fairly well at indian river last summer.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#19

Unread post by PhillyViking »

I know your home breaks well. I spent much of my teenage summers at the Inlet, OC and Assateaque. I rode long boards on the North Side and paipo boards on the South side of the inlet in the 60s / early 70s. I will camp on Asssateague June 28 - July 2 this year. I was down for a fall swell last October. Yes, beach break is different, there is less demand for long distance. Thats where the advantages of FF Pro or Original are not needed. The Yucca fins are promising.

I am in the process of asking them for suggestions based on my profile. I will track down NJ or DelMarva shops that might have them to try on. I will be on OBX late August.

Whats your thinking behind using the Yucca ultra soft. Easy on the foot? conforms to the wave? Does it have thrust for power bursts like take offs that need that little extra to get goimg or punching through a big break?

Maybe we can meet up sometime? I will likely get down to Assateague for some fall swells. And I will be there in a couple weeks after I get back from Central America.
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Re: Looking for a Better Fit, Modifying Swim Fins

#20

Unread post by rodndtube »

P.S. Pez has been a resident of San Diego for quite some time now and mostly surfs there and up through Central California. But he will be raring to go for a surf at one of our DelMarVa breaks when the swell arrives and we are around.
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