Given Dive Rite’s origins as a manufacturer of cave diving equipment, their outlook on what they will produce and why has always been rather pragmatic. In other words, best to not mess with a tried-and-true formula that works well.
Up in North Florida’s cave country (Dive Rite’s backyard) divers are always on the lookout for the types of equipment–from BCDs to fins–that can best handle the arduous day to day use of diving in subterranean cave systems. When traversing passages with high flow or stiff currents, the most desirable fins are those that offer a balance of power to work ratio, providing efficient finning for long periods of time.
To accomplish this, the most proven design is the paddle shape as they still remain the most suited for extensive finning with a sculling motion done with a frog kick. This is one of the main reasons it’s hard to find a cave diver wearing split fins. At the same time the criteria for a high-performance fin calls for the blade itself to be stiff, without sacrificing the appropriate amount of snap during the down stroke when a modified flutter or power kick is required. It is on all those merits Dive Rite positions their one and only fin in their product line, the XT.
I have seen this fin before?
Given a set of these fins to try out, my mind flashed back to the later 1990’s to another dive gear label called Apollo Sports who had one set of fins in particular called the Apollo Prestige came in one color, white with a wide black segment that ran down the center (from end to end) like a racing stripe. When Apollo decided to ditch all their full blade fins in favor of those with the split fin design, Dive Rite acquired the Prestige model from Apollo for their own product line.
While this affirms this particular has been around for quite some time, the question might be what’s different about them now.
To begin with, unlike the original Prestige’s, which were made of a polymer plastic, Dive Rite’s XT is fabricated with Monprene Thermoplastic Elastomer Compounds (TPEs), the material favored by many technical diving equipment manufacturers for its blended rigidity and flexibility. Differentiating the XT from its competitors is a slightly softer 61mm wide Monoprene center strip extending from the top of the foot pocket to the tip of the blade, which is added in during the injected molding process. So yes, the trademark 2.4-inch wide black racing stripe down the center is still in place, but instead of instead of white, the rest of the fin comes in Red, Royal Blue and black.
Having this softer material down the center of the blade allows the water to channel towards the middle and back away from the blade for added thrust during the down stroke. This is particularly important when using a modified flutter kick.
One thing that is relatively new about the XT Fin (updated in early 2020), is that it now features a POM swivel where the spring steel heel strap meets the fin’s foot pocket allowing for easier donning and adjustment. The POM Swivel features two position points for moving the buckle’s locking screws so that the diver can adjust the fit of their straps a little more to their liking.
I imagine you are now asking “What is the Dive Rite XT fin going to do for me?” Looking at the chatter about these fins on forums as well as other reviews, the XT’s seem to land in two camps; those who love ’em and those who leave ’em. The majority of these viewpoints center on the stiffness of the blades while finning.
There there is no way to objectively test a pair of dive fins to determine just how efficient they are. Fin tests in the hands of someone doing the evaluation is just that, a personal evaluation where the results are measured solely by subjective means.
Playing around with various fin strokes to see where they best serve in terms of efficiency and application, my first impression was “man, these babies are stiff!” Even after allowing my legs to acclimated to the XT’s characteristic stiffness I my own take away was that XT’s were a really decent fin for frog kicking, nearly as efficient when employing modified flutter, but somewhat unremarkable for mobility when it came to a standard flutter kick.
Overall, the XT’s are a robust, well-made paddle type fin with a comfortable foot pocket that will serve most divers in the cave and wreck diving persuasion well. I particularly liked the hinge effect of the POM swivel for taking the fins on and off in the water.
Dive Rite’s XT Fins are available in size small through X-large. The Monoprene materials used in the fins keeps the total weight of each fin down with a dry out of the box at around 4.75 lbs. with a slightly buoyant nature in sea water, which is good for maintain trim while finning.
For more information on Dive Rite’s XT fins and all other products Dive Rite offers, visit diverite.com