Fin Quiver: Eric Joyce

I have a slight obsession, a love of old objects, aged fins or crusty cameras. Imagine the swells 20, 40, or 60 years ago these floppy duffs of rubber pushed wave-riding pioneers into. Some fins have even seen the murky waters of battle. If they could speak their story, they would have such a tale to tell. Beyond the sentimental, I enjoy the feel of different swim fins. Each design utilizing different aspects of hydrodynamics in order to propel us through and on the sea. The differences, though sometimes subtle, are a joy to experiment with.


The patent was filed Sept. 27, 1940 by Owen Churchill. He saw the potential in a rubber, floating swim fins for both the military and public. He was the first to see the dream of mass produced fins come to fruition. His fins have gone through several evolutions. His first stamped products were black and hardly pliable. The next phase were made of the softest fin rubber to date. They were a beautiful green and the stamp included Churchill’s address in Gardena on the stamp. As pictured above, Owen dabbled into business with Voit (the producer of Duck Feet), but none of their combined efforts seemed as useful. Some were made of a more “plastic-like” rubber (pictured above in blue) or with adjustable ankle straps and no drainage whole. The modern day Churchill fins are produced by a toy company “WHAM-O” and are back to using the fabled Malaysian rubber. I enjoy Churchills for soft beach break. I’ve become accustomed to getting power from the inside of my foot, but Churchills are asymmetrical with emphasis on the outside of the foot. They are comfortable and still sport a similar design to the original fins Owen designed in his garage.


Turbo (left) Scott Hawaii (right)

Scott Hawaii fins are beautiful. They come in several color patterns, the most common being yellow-blue with red tips. Scott Hawaii fins are no longer in production, but they are a favorite of many bodysurfers. I enjoy the fit of the fins. They feel quite heavy out of water, but for being so short and rounded, they provide excellent drive.


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Russian Military Fins

This is a pair of vintage Russian military dive fins. These were supposedly produced in the 1970’s for use by Russian commando frogmen. I love the laces, which make the fins look much older than they probably are.


 

Voit Duck Feet and the UDT fins have a well defined space in the military historical conversation. The original UDT was designed as the anti-Churchill. The military wanted more drive from their swim fins and the long stiff UDT was born. The footpocket is incredibly stiff, but the propulsion was most definitely unmatched in its day. The modern day Duck Feet fins are used by casual swimmers and lifeguards alike. The modern day UDT, updated flex design by legendary bodysurfer Greg Deets. I enjoy swimming in my UDTs, but my foot is in between sizes so it is not my fin of choice for large surf.


Original Viper Surfing Fins

Viper Surfing fins, designed by Fred Simpson for bodysurfers in Newport Beach, California. They have also been through some slight changes in rubber and design over the years, but hold true to their original basic shape. Original Vipers make me think of a workhorse fin. They’re black with square edges, clearly not pining for aesthetic valor and yet they are unique. The first run of fins did not include a drainage hole and can be easily spotted by the double rail (top and bottom). The next version included the yellow dots and came in both 5 and 7 inch blades. I use V-5s as my everyday fin and V-7s as my large-surf fins. The main reason I am hooked to Viper is the unreal fit to my foot. They are snug and responsive to my every ankle flick. They also strike the appropriate balance between power and agility necessary for navigating a variety of waves.


 

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These are Zoomers. Whether it be for the extra workout or for a bit of a challenge, sometimes all you wanna do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom.

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-E

 

HUGE thanks to Nate Sullivan, the brain and hands behind See Sullivan for use of his studio and his knowledge in capturing some of the fin photographs above.

Fin Quiver: Kyle Stock

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Churchill Swim Fins
-Created during the post-war recreation boom of the late 1940s, these are the second generation Churchill. Unique because they float and they are the first swim fin with color. They are made of the softest rubber compound of any fin I’ve felt. It is difficult to believe that they could even provide much thrust, but I suppose when the only other option was your barefeet, they were relatively powerful. I purchased these on Ebay. A pair of “Greens” show up occasionally and the price varies on who is selling them and who is looking for them at the time.

IMG_1928UDTs
-Developed for military use in the 1940s, resurrected in the 1980’s and going strong today. There is a dedicated crew of older riders that will wear nothing else. UDTs are recognizable by their 10inch blade, the longest available for a bodysurf fin. They are very powerful but it takes a little while to get used to the different, longer stroke it requires to get them really moving. UDTs excel when gaining momentum to take off early. I found the brown gum rubber UDTs buried in the back of an antique dealer’s truck in Ocean Beach, SD. I asked him if he had any vintage fins and he pulled these out…exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. The green and brown UDTs are the modern reincarnation developed by Greg Deets. 

IMG_1911MS Vipers
-Designed by waterman and wave-riding guru Mike Stewart. My personal favorite fin. They are my everyday riders from ankle-high to well overhead. Comfortable, plenty of power and excellent drainage. Although, they have been parasitic to my feet. They’ve added (mostly) painless knobs and bumps to my feet that get shredded when I try any other fins. But the MS’s themselves remain very comfortable. Wonder if that’s part of the business plan?

IMG_1903SURF’N
-Classic style. SURF’Ns are recognizable with the sharp color way and intersecting ribs on the blade. I can find very little information about them. They were sold at Hawaiian swap meets in the 80s and 90s and apparently also come in all blue. 

IMG_1919Viper V7
-Built specifically for bodysurfing by Fred Simpson in 1980, these are the most respected bodysurfing fins ever made. The 7inch blade is very powerful and the padded upper foot pocket makes for a comfortable ride. These aren’t swim fins, they’re SURF fins. Unfortunately, they are no longer manufactured, having been replaced by the synthetic Vector. The used market for V7s sets a premium price.

IMG_1933Crystal Scarborough Swim Fins
-She was a Beverly Hills celebrity swim instructor for 30 years. Scarborough developed a method of instruction for children involving arm floaties and swim fins. These kid’s fins appear to be vintage and closely modeled after early Churchills.

IMG_1939Snorkel Fin
-No, you aren’t scoring any tubes wearing these, but there aren’t always tubes or even waves for that matter. A good pair of snorkel fins can open a new world of underwater exploration.

IMG_1906Voit Vikings
-My first pair of fins. I was a hodad that wanted to try bodysurfing but didn’t know anything about it. I rode a few waves and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, regardless of what fins I was wearing. Within a few sessions, one of the Vikings blew off my foot never to be seen again.

IMG_1908Churchill Slashers
-My second pair of fins and by far the worst fins I’ve ever worn. Uncomfortable, heavy and powerless.

 

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Fin Quiver: Sean Starky

IMG_5020Sean is a lifelong Wedge rider and enthusiast. He is a positive force in the bodysurfing world. Sean has also turned this passion for alternative forms of waveriding into a business. You can check out his online market for wave-riding tools at SeaCraftSupplyCo.
First thing, I want everyone out in cyberland to know I am not some weirdo hoarder/collector of all things. I’m actually very conscious of the possessions that I own and I’m actually a little insecure with my fin collection, it’s a bit excessive. But hey if I don’t save em who will?
I’ve always enjoyed objects that can tell a story and old fins have always fascinated me. I don’t know if it’s the awesome vintage graphics on the fin boxes that remind me of old James bonds movies or the old school font’s they use on the fins. I just really enjoy old fins. What’s funny is it’s been rather easy to collect fins, as there’s only a handful of people out there that are interested in old swim fins.
 

IMG_7454Black Churchills. These by far were the hardest fins in my collection to find. For awhile I didn’t even know of their existence, I had always thought the green Churchills were the first color of Owen Churchill fins. The blacks are tough to find for a couple reasons. First, they’re from the 1940’s. Secondly, they were used during WWII by the British and US Navy. You have to deal with WWII collectors that have deep pockets. Got lucky on these and didn’t have to pay too much.


 

IMG_7458Blue UDTs. Greg Deets gave me these fins and one day they will be framed and hung next to my family photo. Deets wether he likes it or not is almost a mythical character in our weird underground community. I’ve always been more focused on style and fluidity with my bodysurfing and to me Deets is one of the smoothest and cleanest bodysurfers around. The fact he invited me to his home and local surf break to give me a pair of his newly designed UDT’s before my first bodysurf trip to Hawaii will go down as one of the best days of my life. 

Never forget as long as I Iive Deets pulling out some unmarked VHS tape that had footage of guys bodysurfing Point Panics! I’d never heard or seen of the spot, watching that footage just blew my mind! The guy is a walking historian and legend in our community.

 

IMG_7461Yellow Dot Vipers. These fins bring back a lot of memories. Wish we had some awesome ceremony with robes and booze to make the Wedge Crew thing official, but we don’t. You pretty much know you are one of the boys when Fred Simpson starts giving you free fins. You have to hand it to Fred, he has always made sure the best bodysurfers were in his fins, not the most famous or the pro surfer who might sell him more fins, just good bodysurfers.


 

IMG_7453M.S. Viper. These are my daily driver’s. When I heard Mike Stewart was designing a fin I knew it was going to be something special before I even used it. It fits my wide foot, has a soft pocket and a stiff blade. Most important and an often overlooked positive of the MS is it’s drainage, hands down the best drainage on the market. If your fins don’t drain water, they slow you down and that means you’re blowing waves looking like a kook. No one wants to look like a kook.


 

IMG_7455Viper I-Beams. If there’s a fire I’m running straight for these over anything else! My best friend, mentor, man about Wedge, John Potato Head a.k.a. Kunu Karam gave me these fins! These were his daily drivers back in his glory days.  Whenever I pick these up, I imagine Potato just laying it down on some magical corner bowl in 88! What’s even wilder is Karam had the original canvas bag he got with the fins. For added flare I had the legend himself, Fred Simpson, sign the bag. An amazing fin with an amazing past.


 
IMG_7462Dafin. These are awesome. They always make me laugh! Most people don’t know this, but Da Fin started as an Australian company, today they go by Da Fin Hawaii. For some reason I like that the old ones that say “Made in Australia.” I had a groupie moment and asked my buddy MC to sign ’em for me.
Thanks to Sean for taking the time to share his passion for fins with us.