When selecting the perfect swim fin it is difficult to find the perfect balance between power and comfort yet the swim fins offered by Brazilian company Kpaloa have come very close to achieving this rare balance. Read on as we offer a detailed full product review of Kpaloa Homem Peixe Flow and Tritão models. Is it time for some Brazilian flair in your life?
Having tackled some of the heaviest and most dangerous waves throughout the Latin Americas and Australia as a surf photographer I know of the great importance that a quality performance swim fin has in getting you in and out of the danger zone safely when challenging hazardous surf conditions. In large dangerous surf the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about the quality of your equipment whether it be your board, fins or leash there are no exceptions to the rule. You want not only for your swim fin to perform with optimum power and thrust to get you into the most critical and heavy situations but you will also need for your kicks to not only remain comfortable throughout extended and heavy use but to also last over time.
What Makes the Perfect Swim fin?
Unfortunately everyone's idea of what makes for the perfect swim fin can be diverse, varied and often conflicting which can make it difficult when deciding on the perfect swim fin for you. In bodyboarding circles the dolphin like “Churchill” style design has become highly popular for prone riders especially who prefer a more powerful controlled yet slower thrust while others (especially dropkneers) prefer a shorter, lighter fin that allows for rapid burst of speed over short distance but with the trade off being that they are slower than their longer counterparts over longer distances. With these two differing styles/tastes it is almost a tortoise versus the hare scenario.
Further to the short versus long blade scenario one must also consider the overall comfort of the fin. The overall comfort of the fin is directly influenced by the cut/design of the foot pocket/ankle strap, the softness of the rubber or silicon used and how the fin responds/moves in regards to stiffness vs flex. As your kicks will be on your feet for hours on end it is essential to select the most comfortable fin for your feet to avoid such issues as cramping and painful fin cuts and ulcers. As we all have different foot sizes, shapes and tastes it is essential that you select the fin that is best for you as what is good for one might not be good for another.
My Fin Preference
Being primarily a dropknee bodyboard my preference is for a shorter , lighter and more comfortable swim fin that will allow for quick bursts of speed and will not get in the way or slow me down when getting up into the dropknee stance while also being able to double as a competent swim fin for surf photography. My favoured fin selection in the past has mainly been the iconic Toob Bluntcuts and POD II’s. While I may sacrifice a little in long distance paddle speed these suit my style overall and I still use this style of fin for surf photography as I mostly tend to shoot shallow sand bottomed slabbing beach breaks. I have experimented with OG Vipers and Churchhills in the past but they just felt so heavy, cumbersome and restrictive for my liking and I found it almost difficult to get up into the dropknee stance when wearing them.
Kpaloa is a Brazilian company originally founded by the passionate Augusto Conti in 1983 specialising in the production of high performance surface swim fins made of high quality vulcanised rubber for bodyboarding, bodysurfing, swimming and rescue. The brand has almost a cult like following in Brazil and much of Latin America largely due to quality of their product and their strong support of the Brazilian bodyboard and bodysurf scenes. However, sourcing a pair of these Brazilian beauties outside of Brazil can often prove difficult although Kpaloa ship world wide via DHL and the fins have also listed on www.amazon.com. Furthermore bodyboard legend Jay Reale has recently added them to his online store EBodyboarding with the Originals retailing for $80 USD and the Tritãos for $85 USD respectively for our North American counterparts..
Kpaloa boasts an impressive list of riders on their books including high profile riders such as former bodyboarder world champions Uri Valadão and Neymara Carvalho, bodybsurfers such as Henrique Pistilli and Kalani Lattanzi and swimmer João de Lucca, who holds the Pan-American record. They show strong support for the Brazilain scene by sponsoring a range of grass root contest and clubs. In fact the first time I really noticed Kpaloa was while working in a Favela (slum) in Rio di Janerio I came across Escolinha de Bodyboarding a bodyboard score they were supporting for the children of the favela Rocinha. Supporting community projects as well as an initiative for plant rubber trees shows that Kpaloa have their social responsibility down pat which is great to see someone from the industry give back.
The Kpaloa Homem Peixe Flow Swim Fin
With the introductions aside it is now time for the review. The first fin I will review is the Homem Peixe Flow. The fin is based on the original Kpaloa fin design but offers a slightly stiffer and more rigid “blade”. The fin comes in an extremely attractive green and yellow tie/die (foot pocket) and black (blade) colour way making easily the most attractive swim fin I have ever used.
The first thing that struck me about these fins is just how comfortable they are. The foot pocket is wide enough that my feet do not rub on the sides and the ankle strap is narrow and perfectly designed so that it perfectly wraps around your ankle with virtually no rubbing. What I feel is the best feature of these fins is the softness of the soft rubber utilised in the foot pocket, it is soft, super soft.
But looks and comfort aside do they perform when it really matters? I have utilised the Homem Peixe Flow fin for both bodyboarding and surf photography. In regards to comfort the Kapaloa Homem Peixe Flow are the first fins I have ever owned that have not cut my feet or resulted in foot ulcers as my feet adapt to the new fin. In the past I have had at least small fin cuts until my feet adapt and toughen up to the new fin but thankfully this was not an issue with the Pexie Flow in my case. Can you say that about your favourite swim fin?
As I tend to prefer a shorter lighter fin these fins presented absolutely no transition from the style of fin I currently used. With the fin design being fine tuned in the punchy beach breaks of Brazil they allowed for smooth changes of direction and posed absolutely no problems for quick dropknee get-ups. With the hard blade of the fin not being rock hard like some fins on the market this allowed for slight flex and extra propulsion when kicking. While for surf photography in slabby shallow shore breaks I found the fin to work a treat as the quick burst speed helped you to get in and out of the impact zone safely while the short blade also was super functional when standing/walking on the shallow sandbank where long fins may prove more cumbersome and awkward. Oh and another added bonus is that these comfortable little bastards float in salt water greatly aiding in their retrieval in the worst case scenario.
In regards to fin drainage the drainage holes are located around a third of the way up the footpocket so neither foot or the toes block them permitting the water and debris to flow through. I did find that this drainage system is not quite as efficient as drainage system located at the bottom of the fin and occasionally sand and shells would get stuck at the bottom of the fin. I wouldn't see this as a major issue unless you regularly surf spots with shingle, pebble or shelly bottoms then you might find them slightly annoying in this sense.
Homem Peixe Flow
Super comfortable cut and ankle strap.
Super soft rubber foot pocket.
Short rigid blade for rapid bursts of speed.
Medium thrust power.
Drainage system could be improved.
Hard rubber can bend upwards from standing on sandbar for surf photography.
Punchy beach breaks.
People who value comfort and quick speed over slower more powerful thrusts.
Bodyboarders (especially dropkneers), Bodysurfers, life guards, swimmers and surf photographers.
In summary I found Kpaloa’s Homem Peixe swim fin to be an extremely comfortably light weight fin that allows for quick bursts of speed.
The Kpaloa Tritão Swim Fin
Next up we have the Kpaloa Tritão a recent release by Kpaloa offering up a longer and wider blade alternative fin style similar in style to DaFin which is highly popular among surf photographers. My pair came in an attractive black and grey tiger stripe colour scheme and again Kpaloa offer up a string of alternative colourways as pictured below.
Just like the Peixe Flows the Tritão swim fin comes with a comfortable foot pocket and ankle strap but if I thought that the Pexie Flows were comfortable the Tritão take comfort to a whole new level. Kpaloa have used highly elastic, soft rubber formula in the foot pocket where the soft rubber moulds around your foot making them hands down the most comfortable fin I have tried. In the image to the right you can see how the foot pocket molds and adjust to my foot movements which is not possible with a stiffer foot pocket. I suppose this is the innovation you get when the son of a rubber industrialist starts making swim fins.
Kpaloa have integrated features into the Tritão fin inspired by nature with slightly protruding mini fins to emulate the dorsal of dolphin to help the fins adhered to the wave face although I found it hard to gauge the actual impact of this feature but you can read more about this in the advertising image below. As I prefer a short fin for quick burst of speed it took me a little while to get used to the longer fin style and to be honest at first I wasn’t won over by them. Personally I wouldn’t use them for dropknee as they are tad to long for my liking but they will most likely work really well for prone bodyboarding and bodysurfing.
However, for surf photography these fins really grew on me the more I used them. The Tritãos gave nice smooth control thrusts and are stupidly comfortable on the feet. For the smaller more shallow shore break days I will probably stick with the Pexie Flow but for the larger days with longer paddles and stronger current then these are definitely the go. The Tritãos are now my fins of choice for surf photography. This strategy is inline with Kpaloa’s mindset as they believe you should have different fins for different conditions (ie a quiver) and I must sat it is pretty hard to argue with that logic. Furthermore these fins float in salt water just like the originals and they also have the same drainage system.
Super, super comfortable cut and ankle strap.
Super soft flexible elasticised rubber foot pockets among the most comfortable fins on the market today.
Good to great thrust power.
Long wide blade for powerful drawn out thrusts.
Drainage system could be improved.
Large surf conditions with long paddles and strong currents.
People who value comfort slower medium to powerful thrusts.
Prone Bodyboarders, Bodysurfers, life guards, swimmers, free divers, snorkellers and surf photographers.
In summary the Tritão’s offer a crazily comfortable yet still power swim fin best suited to a slow drawn out paddle style and larger surf conditions.
Overall Impressions of Kpaloa Fins
There you have it Kpaloa’s Homem Pexie Flow and the Tritão swim fins. These fins offer a crazily comfortable high performance alternatives to the tried and tested generic “Churchill” style and the highly popular Dafin swim fins. In my humble opinion these latest swim fin offerings from Kpaloa’s would rank among some of the most comfortable and functional fins on the market today for bodyboarding, bodysurfing and surf photography but hey don’t just take my word for it and go take them for a swim yourself.