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DOL-Fin Orca Makes Big Splash In Okinawa

The 2010 Freediving World Championships were held in Okinawa from June 30th to July 10th.  Top freedivers from all over the world converged on the Tokyo Dai-Ichi Grand Mer Resort in southern Okinawa to compete in three separate disciplines* to earn points for their national freediving teams. 

Freediving is a form of underwater diving where the diver conducts the dive free of any form of breathing apparatus.  Instead, he or she must conduct the dive in apnea (without breathing).  Divers dawn slick suits and powerful monofins, descending into the ocean like elegant pseudo marine mammals with a distinct mer-human quality; but one of them was different.

Inventor, designer, engineer and freediver Ron Evan Smith from the USA was there competing in his first World Championships event with his radical prototype for a new form of monofin.  The technology, which uses a hydrofoil for propulsion, is called Dynamic Oscillating Lateral-Fin, or DOL-Fin; and the freediving prototype is known as the DOL-Fin Orca.  With it's bold black and white color scheme and wing like fin resembling the tail of it's namesake, the DOL-Fin Orca rallied a lot of attention at the competition.

Ron with teammates Andrea Kawabata and Annabel Edwards after his successful 150 meter dynamic performance.

By competition's close, about a quarter of the contestants had strapped on the strange device and given it a try in the pool.  Everyone who tried it was surprised at how well it worked, and Natalia Molchanova, the most accomplished freediver of all time, liked it so much that she used it during her official dynamic performance in the competition.  In her thick Russian accent, she claimed "I think it is very good for dynamic", and said she would like the opportunity to try using the device for constant weight depth diving.

"The technology works, and there are many advantages to it for freediving" claims Ron.  "It clearly performs up there with the best monofins on the market, but it is far more comfortable and durable, giving it much better overall utility, especially for recreational freediving." 
Natalia preparing for her dive

Ron plans to continue improving the DOL-Fin Orca and develop it into a production monofin.  "Expect the production model to be even better than the proof-of-principle prototypes I had at Worlds", he says.  With its already stunning performance and continuing improvements, it would appear that the DOL-Fin technology could really advance the sport of freediving both recreationally and competitively.

* The first event is called Constant Weight (CWT).  In this event, divers attempt to dive down along a vertical line to a bottom plate to retrieve a tag resting at a depth previously declared by the diver.  The diver must swim down, retrieve the tag and swim back to the surface under their own propulsion.  The second event is called Static (STA).  In this event, contestants simply hold their breath while floating in a pool of water with their face submerged, earning points for the length of their apnea.  The third event is Dynamic (DYN), where the contestants earn points for horizontal distance swum under their own propulsion on a single breath of air.  In each event the contestants must not lose consciousness or motor control; if they do, the points earned for their attempt will be forfeit.