Fins are the hardest scuba product to review because your experience is subject to your body, the dive conditions, what fin you wore on your last dives and much more. Because CETATEK’s aquabionic warp1 is as they say, “a different fin with every kick”, it took this review challenge to a whole new level. We always require at least 8 dives on any fin we are reviewing. With the warp1s we have over 30 dives, in all kinds of conditions. Additionally, I went back and forth between the Warp 1 fins and other brands and kept noticing different things about the warp1s on each testing cycle. Now here is why the warp1s have earned our editor’s choice award.
Introducing the warp 1
CETATEK Products, Inc., a new venture out of North Vancouver, BC, Canada, has introduced a sophisticated fin design that is based on what they term “warp” technology. The acronym stands for “water adapting responsive propulsion.” This technology spreads and cups the fin blade as the diver kicks harder. CETATEK says that it “creates an automated adaptive response for underwater propulsion.”
The claim is that this design allows the diver to have the best of both worlds, an easy kick fin at leisure, reminiscent of a good split fin, and a power fin when you dig in and kick. The ads say this fin will be flexible and maneuverable at low thrust and become increasingly more powerful when more propulsion is needed. While many fins in the past have tried designs that mimic nature, the Aquabionic seems to have come the closest. It really reminds me of seeing seal’s fins warp and cup as they pull out of a power turn. We were impressed that Simon Morris, VP of Marketing and Sales for CETATEK, has a long history working with major dive manufactures and has staked his reputation on this one. He knows fins and claims the warp1s is a game changer. We have now had a chance to dive the fin and here is our report.
Although the warp1 looks like a pivoting blade fin, when you first hold it you can see that it is not. It could be also called an expanding paddle fin. The warp1 blades have lateral pivoting points to allow the blade to change geometry and expand the surface area under a load. It is most like a seal’s fin in that it warps open, gathers up the water and then jets back into shape. If we could only turn our ankles 90 degrees and whip our feet to together like a seal this fin may give us super powers. But the design still does add a unique quality to our human legs that we have not found in other fins.
Just like a wine taster may report about the wine having legs, the first thing we always hear from a fin tester is how the fin effected their legs. In the case of the fin it is about how much they felt the kicks in their legs. What we call “soft legs” would be the kind you feel you get from split fins and some pivoting blade fins like the Mares Volo. You don’t feel the kick in your legs. You feel your movement through the water but do not feel like you have any resistance when you kick. On the other hand (hold the pun), “hard legs” would be the kind you feel from most paddle fins or the really stiff pivoting blade fins like the Scubapro Seawing Nova Gorrilla (not to be confused with the softer legs of the Seawing Nova). If the fins legs are really hard you kick and “feel the burn.” You move but you feel it in your legs. A fin’s legs are becoming more important as divers age and want to protect knees and ankles from excess strain.
Even though you can move in calm waters on a relaxed dive with little effort from the fins with soft legs, hard legs often comes with the power to get around in currents. The hard leg fins also tends to have a lot more control for finer movements and tech style kicking.
The warp1 straddles both classes. If you first start off fast with the warp1 you mostly do feel the burn and may think this is a fin with hard legs. But if you slow down and kick with less strain you still move fast and feel it much less. As I used the fins my body started to learn just how to kick the warp1s for the best comfort/speed ratio in different situation.
Another unique aspect of these fins is that you don’t just feel movement through the water with the warp1s, you definitely feel a surge when kicking hard. I am not a power kicker and can be generally happy with comfort split class fins. However, after awhile I became addicted to the control I had with the warp1s. I felt like a diving humming bird. I could zip in, out and all around with ease and speed. I then noticed that my favorite soft leg fins started to feel sloppy and non-responsive.
Often we hear divers say they want a fin that doesn’t make their feet float. We found the warp1s to be well balanced in this respect. They seemed just about neutral buoyancy. They felt light but never felt floaty in the water.
Although you will often hear sales people and manufactures claim that X or Y product is the best for every diver; it “just ain’t so.” From fins, to masks, to regulators, to etc. there are not only pros and cons for each product, there are products that are the right fit for you and not for your buddy. Fins are one of most diver specific products on the market. We hope more dive shops add a demo fin service so that divers can try before they buy. Russ Radtke’ comments did a great job of describing some of subtleties of this factor in his post on Scubaboard.
A Second Opinion by Russ Radtke
We are impressed with the forum post we found by Russ Radtke. He artfully explained another nice feature of the warp1s. I had similar feelings about my testing but Russ did a much better job of articulating it. He compared the warp1s with both his regular recreation fins, the Scubapro Seawing Novas and some of the standard tech fins and noticed how the warp1s bridged between the two categories. Russ said of the Seawing Novas’ “I like them because they are gentle on the knees and ankles, and can really move when you need them to.” On the other end of the spectrum he spoke about the divers that need tech kicking (e.g. frog, helicopter, etc.) and commented that, “traditional tech diver fins are GREAT for moving you around with tech style kicks, but in my opinion, they are rather stiff and unforgiving on the knees and ankles.”
Now about the warp1s, Russ and his buddy found that: “They work GREAT for tech kicks. I have found that even gentle frog kicks can really move me around in these fins. Back kicking and helicopter turns are as easy as in traditional tech fins. In the same gear, with traditional tech fins, I get sore ankles by the end of the day. Not in the warp1s! Although there is certainly more resistance on the ankles with the warp1s vs my Seawing Novas, they are MILES ahead of the tech fins in regards to comfort. The only time I got even a LITTLE sore with the warp1s was when we did open water rescue and safety drills, including tired diver tows and long surface swims to “panicked” divers. That said, these fins really can move with a strong flutter – I was moving through the water really well!”
I concur with Russ as I also noticed feeling my ankles during and after a long surface swim with the warp1s. However, this seem to diminish after more dives. I almost wonder if there was break-in period with Warp 1s.
The warp1s are $225 msrp. CETATEK also offers an aquabionic stainless steel spring straps for $49.95.
The aquabionic warp1s seems to offer the recreational diver a fin that can perform like a tech fin with more comfort. Reviewing this fin reminded me of the time in the kayaking world when everyone said you could not build a kayak that would work on flat water and moving water and then they did. With its innovative technology the warping blade fin has become the newest class of fin.
The warp1 fins certainly combines many of positives from the other categories without giving up much to the negative. Vacation and occasional recreational divers who only do relaxed dives and prefer a soft leg fin may not be comfortable with this fin. But others who want a fin with delicate control, the power to move and who don’t mind feeling a small resistance during kicks should consider the warp1.