2,000 Dives And Still Kicking - Review of the Mares Volo Power Fins
Back in my career as a full-time instructor and guide, I have worn – as you might imagine – a fair number of different fins. Of all of those, the Mares Volo Power are, by a very long way, my favourites. So much so that although they’ve been around for a while now, I’ve just bought a new set.
I’ve always been a big fan of Mares fins ever since I bought my very first pair of AvantiX-3 and later a set Avanti Quattro +, my preferred choice of ‘entry-level’ paddle fin for beginners.
Somewhere in 2007 I inherited a set of the original Volo range and the first time I wore them I was astounded at the difference in feel they provided, without sacrificing too much of the thrust available from stiffer fins. My feet felt lighter in the water, although it did take a while to get used to the extra bendiness of the Volos.
Over the years I tried various types of split-fin but they just didn’t agree with where I wanted to put my feet at any given time, and although the tech school might swear by jet fins, I’m not a techie, and they made me feel like I was diving with lead boots.
Forced back into paddle fins for a time, I realised how much strain they were placing on my calf muscles and ankles. Needless to say, this is something that divers who wear paddle fins regularly – as I had previously done – will become accustomed to, but it suddenly felt like I was having to work so much harder to get around.
When I moved to Sharm in 2009 I found a set of Volo Power fins in one of the local dive shops and although they were twice the price of the Avanti Quattro Plus, I took a chance and have never looked back.
The Volo Power fins are longer than the original Volo series (which are no longer available) and the increased surface area and channel length provide much greater thrust as a result.
The downside is that the lack of rigidity, which works so well for power, does mean the fins tend to get pushed around by currents, particularly when you’re not moving, or swimming across a current, and this can take a few seconds of manoeuvring to overcome.
At the same time, one of the accusations levelled against the Volo Power is that they are no good while swimming against a current, and after several thousand dives in these fins in some extremely currenty places, I can assure you that this is not the case.
The best analogy I can come up with is that it’s like riding a bicycle up a hill. If you try to do this in a high gear then it takes a lot more effort to turn the pedals, but if you can, then you will make progress. Conversely, it’s much easier to spin the pedals in a low gear, but then you have to pedal more rapidly to progress at the same pace.
It looks a bit daft but rapid, fairly shallow flutter-kicking within the wake of your own body works very well indeed, and the flexible curve of the Volo Power’s blades will propel you along very nicely indeed. You need to move your legs faster, but the overall effort is less.
It is also possible to back-fin. While this is hardly the preserve of regular recreational divers, it is nevertheless possible with Volos. I freely admit that the ‘standard’ technique employed by GUE divers with jetfins does not work, it looks quite ridiculous and is only possible with Volos in completely slack water. But given that back-finning is not really a recreational thing, this bothers me not in the slightest.
I like Mares’ ABS buckle system, which is effectively a regular strap but with lockable clips – a bit like ski boots – which makes donning and doffing the fins easy without having to adjust straps or unclip things that fall off. Although springed ‘bungee’ straps are becoming very popular, I don’t particularly like them.
In terms of wear, my first set of Volo Power fins lasted me the better part of 2,000 dives, although realistically I should have replaced them before they got that far. Nevertheless, despite a few cracks, a small split in one of the channels, and a fair number of bite marks acquired during an absolutely epic battle with a titan triggerfish at Gordon reef in 2010, they served me fantastically well with the only problems to report being two broken fin straps.
I bought them for €149.99 in 2009 so at around 5p per dive, I would suggest they were more than excellent value. I do, however, describe them as ‘Marmite’ fins – wearers either love them or hate them – and although they are fairly old now, I do recommend that people try before they buy – as I would with any fin that deviates from the standard, all-purpose paddle.