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Because when you're out on the course, all that's there is your internal monolog

Review(s): Finis Monofins: Foil vs Shooter

A few months ago I started learning how to swim fly.  I can say, much to my total amazement, that I LOVE swimming fly.  That said, I currently am not yet able to do so without fins of some sort (zoomers or a monofin). When I mentioned monofins to my swim coach she was super excited and promised me some serious strength workouts to utilize a mono.

So I started digging.  What kind of monofin should I get?  What are the options? What are the differences?  Why would I want “A” vs “B”?  To my surprise there was very little material “out there” and so I figured some personal research was in order.  The folks at Finis suggested that I start with 2 of their models: The Foil and The Shooter.

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I’ve now put several hours into each of the monofins I’ve developed some 1st hand experience with them and figured I’d share.

1st off for both monofins make sure that you have a good fit and wear a neoprene bootie or something similar to provide some chaffing/blistering protection between your foot and the fin pocket.  The fins don’t come in as many sizes as conventional fins and so you may need to play with this a little.  I, unfortunately, made the mistake of not doing this initially and totally destroyed my feet.  

This picture doesn’t show the real carnage that was on the other foot and literally took weeks to fully heal.

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Neoprene booties can also help with molding seems in the foot pockets of the monofins.  These flash seems are normally trimmed off in post-production at the factory, but when/if little ridges remain then can definitely cause irritaiton/hot-spots.  I’m told that very carefully cutting them off with a sharp exacto-knife can help, but that a great deal of care is requires so as not to weaken the strength of the rubber.  So if you go the removal route: take great care (booties are probably a better choice).  In the photo below you can see the Finis Shooter with my snorkel, Eney buoy, neoprene booties and water bottle.

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I tell ya.. some days when I hit the pool deck, I feel like I’ve packed for a week long vacation :)

The Finis Shooter

The shooter is composed of a rubber foot pocket and fibreglass blade.  The XXL model has an open toe (seen above), where the other sizes have fully enclosed foot pockets.

Shooter monofin

The fibreglass blade has pretty narrow edges and the fin comes with a warning sticker cautioning that the blade could cause damage to other swimmers, to take care when using it and that children should not be allowed to use the fin.  Now, it’s not that thin, but I could certainly see how contacting it with any amount of force could certainly cause a good scrape.

The fibreglass blade also generates a lot of force.  This is a surprising mixed blessing/curse: the force is awesome for getting a massive leg and core workout and for really driving you when swimming fly or other modified strokes.  That said, all that force really strains your ankles (and I found knees and lower back as well) so some acclimitization is a good idea.  Also, I found, as a new monofin swimmer, that because of the rigidity if I cheated my kick a bit and wasn’t driving from my core and hips that I’d still get a lot of propulsion: suboptimal if you’re working on training and not just goofing around.

The Finis Foil

The foil is a single molded piece of semi-flexible rubber, similar to the rubber in the Zoomers fins.  All models of the foil have an open foot pocket.

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Because of the molding process, I found the foil to be a little more susceptible to the extra flash (molding-waste) problem that I mentioned earlier, but again, with booties it really isn’t a problem.

The Foil being made from rubber with softer edges, is definitely a little more friendly in a busy pool, especially when you’re splitting a lane with other swimmers. 

The softer rubber, still generates a good amount of force per kick, but does force you to drive your kick using your core, and hips and not just your quads.  The flexibility and slightly less force than the shooter takes some of the pressure of your leg joints and lower back but still gives you a lot of propulsion.  The foil is definitely a good monofin to start with, and perhaps all you’d ever need unless you get into more competitive monofin swim competitions and/or free-diving. 

Others

Finis also have several other models of monofins: for training the Trainer1 and Trainer2; for competition, the MASSIVE competitor monofin; and a few other models for kids and adult play swim.  I’d love to try the competitor but generally I think it’d be impractical in the pool (shared lanes), but would be super fun to take south for some ocean free-diving :)  With my current level of skill the Trainer1 and Trainer2 look unwieldy with the added length over the Shooter.  The Foil and the Shooter were definitely good starting-point recommendations for monofins and perhaps all I’ll ever need in my training.

My Friday swims were historically dubbed “Fun Fin Friday” because I was typically doing a lot of kick work with fins on.  We’ve now renamed them “Funny Fin Fridays” and I feel like “Captain Finis” with my suitcase full of gear.  But it’s fun and fast and tiring so I’ll take it.  

.. and I love fly! :)

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