The Aqua Lung Hot Shot Fin
This is a review of the new Aqua-Lung Hot Shot fins. I purchased these from my LDS, where I paid retail ($130) less 10%, since I am a working Instructor there, and received a staff discount.
I chose this fin because Janet & I travel quite a bit. We bring all our own gear, and the baggage allowances seem to be an exercise in “how much less will they allow this week?”, so, we have been actively looking to reduce our loaded weight.
At first blush, the Hot Shots looked as if someone read my mind. I saw a short, stubby, stiff fin, which could be used without a bootie (or, just a thin 3 mil freediving bootie). Excellent, I thought – the maneuverability of Jets, without the 3.2 lbs per fin, plus not having to pack the weight of thick booties.
For those not into reading the whole enchilada, here’s what I found:
- The average recreational diver, who travels to warm water: go buy a pair now.
- The “DIR diver”, or, a very experienced diver with precise fin control (you know who you are!): you’ll be sorely disappointed.
The Hot Shots
These are size Regular, which weigh 1.6 pounds per fin. These are grey with green trim. They also come in a black color with charming pink trim, which I declined.
Lightweight: The Hot Shot fins in size Regular. Each fin is 1.6 lbs (3.2 lbs for the pair)
The foot pocket is surprising. It is made from exceptionally soft material that feels like a cross between silicone and rubber, with an excellent shape. It fits over my bare foot like spray paint, with no pressure points. Nice!
Amazingly soft: the nicely-formed foot pocket
I had questions about the open-heel design; frankly I was expecting a full-foot pocket for warm water. And a heel strap seemed like a bit of a kludge. Amazingly, the soft rubber heel strap stretches easily into place (just like a spring strap), and the fit is actually more comfortable than a full foot pocket; the Hot Shot kind of envelops your foot in soft rubbery goodness, and is way easier to put on and take off than a full-foot fin.
I did try the fins wearing my 3 mil freediving booties. They fit just as nicely as without booties, and was just as comfortable as bare feet. A nice option for cooler water where you don't want cold feet.
Plus, the footbed extends all the way to the heel, so you have good transmission of power to the blade. It feels like 90% as much as a good full-foot pocket would have. So overall, the Hot Shot foot pocket is a home run.
Comfort with an easy entry. The fin also feels good with 3 mil freediving booties.
When Aqua Lung released the Sling Shots about a year ago, I was one of the people rolling my eyes. I was sure the fin blade would break, or the “Power bands” would break, or they just generally wouldn’t perform. Janet picked up a pair of Sling Shots and has been beating them pretty hard, and they have been amazingly durable. Nothing’s broken and they work well. Having seen this, I was a bit open minded-about the Power Bands on the Hot Shots, and willing to give them a try.
The 2-adjustment Power Bands.
Like the Sling Shots, the Hot Shots have silicone bands that adjust the resistance of the blades. These are easy to adjust – which I did almost immediately in the water. There is a definite difference in the force required to move the fin, so the adjustable concept really works! The easy position will feel eerily familiar to users of split fins, actually it’s just like wearing splits. And the firmer position feels like a regular ol' paddle fin.
Hot Shot (top) & C4 Mustang (bottom). Note similarity of blade-to-foot position.
Moving the pivot point of the fin from the toes to mid-foot is something that’s…different. The overall feel is of less strain on your foot and ankle than a solid fin. For those entrenched with years of experience in a solid fin, this lack of strain is interpreted as a reduction in thrust. The speed through the water tells the true tale, though. It’s a matter of ingrained perception. Actually, the feel is quite similar to my C4’s with the Mustang foot pocket, which has a significant angle between the blade and the foot, and nobody has ever accused these powerful freediving fins of not producing thrust.
The manufacturing quality is excellent, and there are all sorts of nice touches, like the molded in traction pads on the sole of the foot pocket.
Overall, there is a lot to like with this fin, and a lot of "outside the box" thinking that has produced some great features.
Diving the fin
Janet occasionally snickers at me and calls me the “Imelda Marcos of fins”. I will bashfully admit to this; I am picky about my fins and will choose what does the job best. With 10 pairs of fins, from $600 C4 VGR’s to $90 Jets, I always have something to pick from that does the job well. In this case, I will compare the Hot Shots to some common fins I use.
Hot Shot next to Rocket. Switching to Hot Shots will give you an extra 3 lbs in your luggage.
Dolphin kick - Good.
When I first got in the water with the Hot Shots, I dolphined the length of the pool. They felt much like Mares Quattro’s, with good whip and snap. Each kick gave immediate acceleration. Overall power felt to be 80% as much as the Quattro’s.
Flutter kick - Good.
The Hot Shots flutter nicely, and give good power with every kick. The blade stroke is stable, and doesn’t wobble like some lightweight fins I’ve tried. Again, it feels like about 80% of the power of Regular sized Quattro’s; perhaps 70% of the power of XL Jets. This is actually surprising given the tiny size of the blade on the Hot Shots; it’s almost as if they were optimized for this.
Back kick - Great.
I was quite surprised – crisp, powerful back kicks, without the tendency to cause the feet to climb like I’ve seen in some fins. They were every bit as powerful as my best fins for back kicks, the stiff-as-a-board Rockets; a touch better than Jets; and much better than Quattro’s. What a pleasant surprise! I could easily back my way down the length of a pool, staying ahead of flutter kicking students. I’m sure it wasn’t a design goal, but, it sure seems as if it was. Wow!
Frog kick - Poor.
Actually, terrible, now there’s a word that fits. The Hot Shots are so bad at the Frog kick, I actually looked back to see if they’d broken or something. They almost felt as if I was frog kicking in just bare feet – it took 3 kicks to go as far as I’d expect with a relaxed single frog kick. And I tried them all – Modified Frog, regular Frog, straight-leg Frog – nope. No power at all.
Helicopter turn – Odd.
The helicopter was odd and lurching. The back kick would work great – the opposite would flail. Not surprising, considering how poor the Frog kick is. I’d end up doing this lurching staggering pivot that had a hint of seizure to it.
The average scuba diver that travels often to warm water is the obvious target for the Hot Shots – the fins are light weight, don’t need booties, and pack well. It helps that it is great at the fining style most used by the average recreational diver too: the flutter kick. And finally, it adjusts to make either paddle fin users, or, split fin users, feel at home.
For the typical recreational diver, who travels to warm water and swims with a simple flutter kick, the Hot Shot is a home run. Don’t even think about it, just get some, they’re that good.
The Hot Shots aren’t for divers with refined propulsion skills; the Hot Shots will leave these discerning divers sorely disappointed. These folks most often use a Frog kick, and are used to pinpoint control as they stay in trim, which is not the Hot Shots’ forte.
I hope this review helps you!
All the best, James