In the wake of some very enjoyable testing of Specialfins and Matrix products, I was contacted by Mark Labocetta at Technosport, the North American rep for Omer, to see what I was missing by not slipping into a pair of the BAT fins.
Happily, this coincided with the now-infamous Keyz Kraze hosted by several Deeper Blue members in a much sunnier and bluer-watered Key Largo than my normal digs here in northern California. New fins to try out in warm, clear water. I should have bought Lotto tickets.…
Like those of other freedive-specific manufacturers, the BAT’s are fabricated with the latest thing in fins that ironically has been going on for years: fiberglass composites. What distinguishes the BAT fins is the level of tech that was stunningly evident when I tore open the box.
These things deserved framing and placement on the wall.
The laminations were fault-free, an easy thing to do as the blades are semi-transparent with one or more of the inner laminates having a camouflage print that shows through to the finished surfaces. The finished surfaces were what was really nuts. The upper was a glass-like surface that promised to sheet the water from it, and upon turning them over, the bottoms resembled the technology once reserved for Formula One race cars. Omer spent some serious ducats in tooling these things- the bottoms are CNC-milled to exacting thickness depending on the flex desired. These were the 30 model, the more flexible of the range of 20, 30 and 40. The CNC router took an exacting thickness from the laminate in very studied fashion- someone did his homework- must have been a diver himself !
The edges are left full thickness. Genius: this reduces the risk of cracking along their lengths. About a half-inch in, the router goes nuts. A pair of 3-inch channels is made to a couple layers less than a 2-inch center channel, the result being a slightly stiffer backbone for the decreasing thickness of the blade as you go out to the edge. Hold up your middle three fingers together in front of your face and note how the middle finger is thicker than the other two and you get the look. The channels are not merely cutouts, but are scalloped as they go from footpocket to end with more material removed as you near the tip. All this, and with an insanely clean finish- no stray fibers or broken lines that spell water absorption and eventual breakage.
The blades are flat, though the built-in bend of the Omer pockets gives them a touch of angle at the foot to keep them in the water when hanging out on the surface.
The braintrust behind these things also put in some time when it came to the rails. Not satisfied to go the conventional route of a “T"-shaped rubber extrusion bonded onto the blade, these BAT’s have a twist on the “T”. The edge of the blade is kept happy with a small “T” and then a half inch in from there, still in the same extrusion, is a bigger set of rails that do the water channeling bit that keep these blades pushing the water with zero sideslip. Zero. Zip. Nada. If you envision a capital letter ”H” and reduce the height of the left side leg of the “H” above and below the crosspiece, you’ve got it. Tres cool and functional at once. They oughta give Nobels for this stuff.
Once you slide these into your footpockets with the usual stretching back of the rubber siderails, and the two screws, remembering the little shaped retainers, the ooh-ing and ahh-ing ceases and the fun starts.
Being on the far side of svelte, I was thinking that the 30 model was going to be a tad flimsy and prone to overkicking but these acted as if they were extensions of my ankle. The flex was firm, yet pliable enough to let the fiberglass return to its favorite plane of existence. From the speed at which the water was going past my mirrored Mantis mask, and the delicious fact that I could see the bottom booking by some 70 feet below me, the BAT 30 blades were doing all the work.
When it came time to see what was going on down there, the tip over was done without splash or fanfare and the blades arc’ed nicely, helping me to make the first ten feet without effort or thought for that matter. I did notice that they responded a bit sluggishly to a bent leg/straight leg combo where the body does the work of starting the downward momentum thing, but reverting to my “flip" (both legs over my arse) sent me to the deep, and fast. My ears needed to do their thing quicker and the bottom came up at me with gusto.
There was none of the “oil canning” thunk of other fiberglass blades and none of the “whippy” flex of a less stiff fin. Just a definite downward and upward done with heaping loads of smooth.
I gave the blades some judicious push-offs from the bottom to see how they would react and all they did was look back as if to say, “SO?". Nice, especially if heading up involves needing that push because you’re lugging some dinner back with you.
Giving these blades the opportunity to be bi-coastal, I gave them a dose of Northern California abalone diving, often called senseless rock collecting by those not in the know, and they refused to scratch. And I tried. They slid off the kelp, shrugged off the rocks and just motored along without thought or a care in the world about the water being 30 degrees colder than the week before. I should have been as lucky….
One thing that was kind of lost on me, after algebra and relationships, was the dark tint of the camo. It looked dark out of the box, dark on the beach and dark in the water to the point that they might as well have been black, which is not a bad thing, but the leafy pattern was totally lost on me up here. In the sanguine blue of anywhere else, they didn’t blend in at all, but then neither do I in a black wetsuit. If you have to be blue, head of to the hardware store for the spraypaint.
The BAT blades are shorter than the other big-time fiber-based blades, the Matrix and C4, but make up for it in width. If you have been seen styling in the Millenniums, you have the shape down. A great middle ground between the Picasso Spuma spoon on ‘roids and the C4 quarter sheet of carbon fiber goodness, they present the spearo looking for the edge on getting down and back without beating yourself with an ideal blend of fit, form and technology. On a scale of 1 to 10, these aren’t getting returned to Mark. I figure that anyone spending time in the Southern California kelp lying in wait for a white seabass or yellow tail to pass, or you folks out East doing the same for stripers, will develop an instant like of these tools.
Give yourself the treat of a tryout at the shop or give Mark a call at 800 853-1911 or do the computer thing at www.omerdiving.com and be very well attended to.