Though monofins are also employed by free-divers to maximize and streamline their power while conserving energy, the real beauty of using these fins – which resemble a dolphin’s powerful tail in form and function – is exemplified in the speed of finswimming. A finswimmer in top form can reach more than 11 km/h (6.8 mph) in the water, which is almost 3 km/h (1.9 mph) faster than the speed of a top freestyle swimmer. Nonetheless, just like the swimmer the finswimmer uses only his own body power to propell himself forward.
But reaching these speeds takes time and plenty of hard training. A Formula One driver goes through years of rigorous training in several classes of the motor sport before he might be allowed to join the “king class”. Likewise a finswimmer also needs years to develop and reach his full potential. His body has to memorize the dolphin-like movement until it is second nature and he can do it in his sleep. Small mistakes costing mere hundredths of a second can make or break a race, just like in the top class of motor sports – split seconds count. The exitement of a 50 meter sprint race with two or three finswimmers hitting the wall at almost the same time is like no other in water sports. But finswimming events are raced in various disciplines at distances ranging from 25 meters (usually for younger athletes) to marathon distance races of up to 25,000 meters in open ocean or lakes. Each venue and race has its own particular flavor and excitement. Sometimes in long distance races, a breakout finswimmer can gain and keep the aladin138 lead position for the bulk of the race only to get overtaken in the final 20 meters by a competitor who better learned to preserve his strength throughout the race and finish strong.
For all its excitement, finswimming is still not a well-known sport. Popularity is low in part because the fins, especially the extremely fast hyperfins, are mainly hand-crafted and thus expensive; and partly because media coverage of finswimming events is thin. Finswimming rules and disciplines have been approved by the International Olympic Comitee in 1986 but still the sport is far from any participation in these prestigious sport games. To be considered for participation the sport has to first garner more popularity, as only “widely practiced sports” are allowed to enter into the “mother of all sporting events”. A lot of behind-the-scenes work will have to be done to make this goal come true.
The internet is one medium that already sports finswimming content. Plenty of websites exist where both enthusiasts and the curious can mine for information about the “Forumla One” of swimming. Finswimming clubs or swimming & scuba diving clubs with finswimming departments have their own homepages and well-known monofin manufacturers like TRITON offer their equipment via their own internet presence. There even are communities like Fin City where finswimmers and everyone interested in the sport can find and meet like-minded people the world over and exchange information. Fin City is much more than a social community though. It features a Finswimming Wiki, a directory where knowledgeable members can create and edit articles about their sport and disseminate their knowledge available to the whole finswimming scene. Important events are published in the Finswimming Event Calendar and enthusiasts can exchange ideas and opinions in the Finswimming Forum. To make the sport more visual there is a Finswimming Photo Album and plenty of links relevant to finswimming that can be found in the Finswimming Link Directory.
With the help of Fin City and other dedicated websites and with the promotion of the sport in other medias such as television, finswimming has a much better chance of finally becoming an Olympic sport. By contrast, some finswimming enthusiasts believe that it is undesirable to go “Olympic”, maintaining that finswimming should go the way of golf or Formula One which are not Olympic sports yet remain extremely popular. Whatever the personal opinion, the sport has great potential to become at least on par with its slower and more famous cousin, classical swimming – if not even more so. And let us not forget that the elegance and speed of a finswimmer evokes one eternal dream of mankind: to move like a mermaid or merman through the water is now one step closer to being realized.