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GEAR REVIEW: APS Mantaray Scuba Dive Fins

DiverWire.com senior contributing writer John Flanders looks at all the latest equipment on a regular basis. Here he takes a look at the unique APS Mantaray scuba diving fin.

 

When you first meet John Wagner, the owner of APS Mantaray, it’s hard to believe anyone can be so passionate about fins.  Wagner is a diver first and watching him maneuver through a wreck is truly a treat.  Wagner’s swim style is smooth and effortless.  Is this just his enthusiasm or is it those fins he was touting on the dive boat.  His passion is so infectious it automatically lends itself to having you “try his fins”.

Most people, when they first look at the APS Mantaray Fins, think they look a bit gimmicky.  As John Wagner enthusiastically goes through all the design elements, you have to wonder if all these “bells and whistles” are necessary for a dive fin.  Are these fins over-engineered?

First Glance
When you take the APS Mantaray Fins out of the bag, the first thing that strikes you is the size of the fin.  It’s a little wider than the normal split fin or blade.  But, strikingly, it is a fair bit shorter than the traditional mid range or high end Scuba fin.  As you peer closer at the fin, it is a molded one piece fin encompassing the pocket and strap tabs.  The most notable characteristic to the fin is the gill channel and scoop.  With these little add-ons, the fins look like something Darth Vader would wear.  I am sure he would order the black pair.

How the APS Mantaray Fins Work
APS Mantaray Fins are designed to add blade surface on the downstroke and reduce resistance on the upstroke. The Mantaray Fins also, with its little wider profile, improve blade stabilization. This innovative design provides increased efficiency for varying styles of kicks such as the scissor, flutter, dolphin, forward frog kicks, reverse frog kicks, and bent-leg frog kicks. Most importantly, unlike split fins, the Mantaray fins have no problem executing a back kick.

Input versus Output
The biggest attraction to choosing new fins is the amount of propulsion generated with as little effort as possible. The APS Mantaray Fin swims strong in this category.  Much like split fins versus blades, the APS Mantaray Fins generate about twice as much output as flat finned blades, with about ½ as much input.  The Mantaray gills work together with the scoop on the top of the fin to form a unique dual water channeling system. This system delivers more thrust with less effort.     The scoop expands and contracts during the kick cycles to create a pump action and channels and focuses the thrust off of the blade tip at the same time.

This channeling system also works to stabilize the fin blade so you get the full potential from the blade and there is no wobbling or slicing of the fin blade in the water during the kick cycle giving the Mantaray big fin power without the big fin workout. The foot pocket is designed for maximum comfort and energy transfer to the blade. With this dual water channeling system and the right amount of blade flexibility, this improved system saves energy and ultimately air, which helps to extend your bottom time.

A Lightweight Travel Companion
If weight is an issue, but don’t want to sacrifice performance, the APS Mantaray Fins are a great choice.  The Mantaray fins weigh in at a slim 1.7 pounds and fit most travel bags with room to spare. The Mantaray fins could probably fit most carry-on bags with a length under 20 inches and width that is just shy of 9 inches.  A savvy traveler, cresting to the 50 pound limit, will find these easy to pack and light on the scale.

The “APS” on the front end of the fins name stands for “Advanced Propulsion System.”
You can’t help but notice these are not your father’s style of fins.  If you are old school, then welcome to a new way of thinking about fins.  The APS Mantaray Fins are engineered for performance from demanding divers who want the most out of every kick.  Advanced propulsion means you want to move forward whenever you move your leg and you don’t want to exert yourself any more than you need too.  Maximizing your propulsion and making your body movements as efficient as possible.  When John Wagner designed these fins, perhaps he sounded like a mad scientist, however from an engineering perspective, he designed critical elements that meet the objectives noted above.  The design elements critical to the high performance APS Mantaray Fins follow:

1. Fin Strap is easy to adjust, reliable, eliminates buckle problems and drag, and changes out in seconds.

2. Footpocket is designed for comfort, efficient energy transfer to the blade and fin stability.

3. Scoop and Gill Channels work together to focus thrust, reduce resistance, and stabilize the fin blade.

4. Side Wings add blade surface on the down stroke and are angled to reduce resistance on the upstroke and improve blade stabilization.

Try My Fins, Please
After all the engineering, excitement and enthusiasm, the defining test for any fin is how they perform in the water. My first dive with the APS Mantaray was out at San Diego’s Wreck Alley.  Diving the HMS Yukon can always be a challenge with limited visibility, currents, surge, and of course the fact San Diego weather conditions are always hit or miss.  I met John Wagner on the boat ride out to the Yukon and listened to the story of the Mantaray Fins.  An intriguing story, but not sure I was ready to trade in my dependable split fins, which literally have thousands of dives on them.  Then, with all the passion a diver could lend, John said “try my fins … please”.  I was hooked in, and Wagner, the owner of Mantaray Fins literally took the fins off his feet and handed them to me.

After a giant stride off the San Diego based Marissa Dive Boat, I headed to the bow line. Already trying to compare the fins, the Mantarays had a smooth back kick with fairly decent performance at the surface.  But, I was reserving judgment on these fins until I saw how they performed at depth.  After collecting our group together, we descended for our late afternoon dive.  A precursor to our night dive.  After a quick descent, I looked over and saw John Wagner darting around the Yukon like it was his second home.  Visibility was good on this dive, however there was a strong current running from the stern to the bow.  It was moving through the wreck and blowing with fire hose strength out the various holes cut into the HMS Yukon.  One of my strong criticisms about split-fins is they lose their performance in a current.  In my opinion, split fins feel soft in a current.  This is where I first noticed that the APS Mantaray Fins were holding up to the legendary performance John Wagner touted on the ride out to the wreck.

As our group started down the wreck towards the stern, I noticed the fins kicked differently.  Not better, not worse, just different.  The Mantaray fins did not require any more or less effort than split fins.  However, the second testimony came as I was moving in and out of the structure on the topside of the HMS Yukon.  These fins had “Corvette level” handling.  Turning was streamlined and on-demand.  John Wagner’s “turn-on-a-dime” claim was certainly proof positive on the top-side of the Yukon.  Additionally, after pausing, acceleration from a dead stop seemed almost effortless, even when heading into a current.  I was starting to think, there was more to this engineering than just a fancy sales pitch.

The last test came as our group was starting to peer in and out of the entries cut into the side of the Yukon.  Some of the advanced level divers were already finding their way into the wreck.  However, with the strong current flowing through the wreck, they were just as quickly finding an exit.  The first time I poked my head into one of the cutouts, I decided it wasn’t a good idea to take my group into the wreck.  Casually, I started to back kick out of the entry-way.  And, like placing a car in reverse, the fins glided back effortlessly and simply.  “Can’t do that in a split fin”, was my immediate thought.  Before I knew it, I was back with my group and finishing the dive.

Back on the dive boat, I turned to John (who, I later learned, always has a smile on his face) and said, “sincerely, the fins were great”.  They met my needs at every demand and with superior performance.

The APS Mantaray Fins are not just fins, they are an Advanced Propulsion System. Visit their website at www.APSMantaray.com

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