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Carl H's Review - Maldives diving / snorkelling!

2015 Lunocet Pro Review – Carl H.

After following the development of the Lunocet on the web for several years, I purchased a 2015 Lunocet Pro from Ultimate Swim Fin in February 2015.

My Luno arrived in mid-February in a timely manner as promised by Ultimate Swim Fin. The first thing I noticed was that craftsmanship is top notch and it is generally very rugged. Assembly took me a little while as there were no instructions with it and the Sidi cycling shoes that I purchased to use with it needed to be adjusted match the mount on the fin.

I spent more than a month practicing with it in a pool before taking it with me for a week in the Maldives. It is remarkably comfortable for a couple reasons. First, it has a more relaxed angle on the ankles than other split fins or monofins. Second, the idea to use cycling shoes is a stroke of genius. They fit much better than the pockets on any fins I have ever owned. My previous monofin was a Finis Rapid and the pockets were uncomfortable bordering on painful. I also use a pair of ankle height neoprene booties in the Sidi shoes. They may not be necessary, but I find them comfortable and they are useful if you have to take the fin off to walk over any sharp objects.

There is a bit of a learning curve to using the fin. Obviously it is quite different than normal split fins. It is also quite different from my Finis Rapid monofin. For reference I am 6”, 175lbs and I never had the feeling with the Luno that the tail was wagging the dog. I frequently had that feeling with the Finis Rapid. The Luno is interesting that (with one stiffening pin in) a small amount of effort gives a very respectable speed. However, more effort does not give a proportional increase in speed. Yes, you can go faster (in fact a LOT faster), but the big gain is being able to comfortably maintain a speed that would be tiring with split fins.

Some tips for learning to use a Luno:

  1. Use a pool!

  2. Relax.

  3. Swim under the surface first. It is easier.

  4. Don’t try to go fast at first. Just use an easy stroke.

  5. Keep the vertical stroke length fairly short.

  6. Try to have the same force on the up and down strokes. This will give a nice smooth constant speed.

I have made some interesting observations about the Luno. First, it generates a very small amount of turbulence. For example, if I swim the length of a still 25m pool under water with the Finis Rapid, when I surface and look back, every fin stroke is clearly visible on the surface. With the Luno under the same conditions, there is nothing. My daughter was swimming laps in the pool and I tried passing within 60cm (2ft) under her and she commented that she did not feel any wake from the fin. Second, because of its streamlined design, it feels like there is very little drag from the fin. If I kick hard and coast under water, I don’t feel like there is something pulling back on my feet.

Finally, some notes from my trip to the Maldives where I used the Luno for several hours a day of snorkeling and free diving. Assembly and disassembly for luggage transport is wonderful, however it is not very practical in the field. This means you will be carrying the Luno fully assembled and you are guaranteed to get strange looks from the locals.

When drift snorkeling, I was idling against the current and taking multiple free dives to get pictures of clownfish. I didn’t think much about it until the rest of my family who were all using split fins zipped past and I noted that they had to really work to go against the current – I and I hadn’t even really thought about it.

Even if you are an experienced snorkeler/freediver, I do not recommend using the fin over coral with less than 1m of water between you and the coral. The risk of damage to the coral is too high. Over a sandy bottom it can be used down to bout 30cm of water.

When needed, the Luno can deliver remarkable speed. I had the opportunity to chase after and swim eye to eye with a 1.5m black tip reef shark. It was the fastest I have ever swam – I could feel the water trying to tug my mask off from the speed. Our guide, who was using split fins, commented that I just disappeared going after the shark.

The fish were definitely less skittish when I approached with the gentle strokes of the Lunocet than when other approached with the turbulent wake from split fins.

Boat launches are easy – sit on the side, put all your other gear on, put the Lunocet on and gracefully fall off the boat.

Boat returns techniques vary depending on the arrangement. If there is a ladder, pass your other gear up, then unbuckle the Lunocet and pass it up. DON’T DROP IT BECAUSE IT WILL SINK IN EVEN SALT WATER!

If there is no ladder and you have to come back over the freeboard, first pass all your other gear into the board. Then hang onto the freeboard and push yourself down as far as you can. Then kick as hard as you can with the Lunocet for several strokes before pulling up with your arms. I was shocked at how easily I launched myself over a fairly high freeboard. (The crew on the boat was also surprised.)

Launching from a sandy beach presents a bit of an issue. Unlike with regular fins, you can’t just walk out backwards. Sitting sideways to the waves seemed to be the easiest position. To launch you just spin, stretch out, roll onto your belly and float. I recommend practicing the rolling over maneuver a couple times on dry land before trying it in the surf. The fin is about 750mm wide and you have to flip it over also. It is not difficult with a bit of practice. Unweighted I needed about 30cm of water to launch. With 5lbs of lead onboard I needed 40-50cm of water to launch because the weight causes the fin to ride a bit lower in the water. This is similar with my conventional fins.

I’m not very good at U-turns yet. I kind of have to stop and gently spin myself using my hands. It may be possible to do better with practice.

We went to South Ari Atoll to see whale sharks. We did get to see one small one (7m). Of our group of 9 snorkelers, 5 were not fast enough to catch up to the whale shark. 3 got to see it, but did not get close. Thanks to the Luno, I caught up with it and got to swim eye to eye for a short ways and take pictures. However, there were a large number of other snorkelers around the whale shark and the width of the Luno proved to be a problem in a crowd. I probably whacked a couple people with it. In 20/20 hind sight, I should have just gone under the other snorkelers.

I would summarize by saying that Lunocet Pro is a remarkable design and of the highest quality. At low to medium speeds it is extremely efficient – far beyond any other fins or monofin I have ever used. Perhaps most importantly, I have found it to be fun to use. It is not something that I have left sitting on the shelf – I take it with me to most of my pool sessions and use it as part of my workout. I am very much looking forward to taking it to the Maldives again later this year!