Continuum Fins have become one of the top brands in the freediving world.
The true meaning of Continuum
Continuum was a term which came up often during my studies. It’s a set of things which range between two extremes, but it’s a smooth transition from one thing to another – there aren’t any noticeable steps along the way. That’s what I’m trying to achieve with my fins – a smooth transition between the diver and the water. A good fin is stiff under the foot, and soft and fluid like the water at the other.
Who is Danny?
I grew up in a surfing family, so I’ve always felt at home in the water. I got into diving through spearfishing when there wasn’t any surf. I found it so addictive that now I’m always waiting for the days with no surf so I can go diving. I think the thing that draws me to diving is how it relaxes me. As soon as I’m in the water I’m not worrying about all the stresses of normal life.
I studied mechanical engineering and maths at Deakin University in Australia and then worked there as a research assistant – working on a lot of different projects, which began to focus on the carbon fibre composites area. Then I went on to start a PhD where I was developing a model to better understand how and why composite materials fail. I loved the research and development side of the PhD, but then when it came time to write my thesis I decided I’d had enough. I didn’t want to spend all my time at the computer. I wanted to make something. So I left and started continuum fins.
What is your favorite discipline in freediving?
Constant Weight Bi Fins for sure. I first started taking diving more seriously and got really into it during a trip to Kalamata which kinda happened by accident. I had a conference for work in Europe and had a few weeks of holiday booked afterwards for a surf trip. Less than a month before the trip I dislocated my shoulder while surfing and obviously couldn’t surf for a while. So I decided to go diving instead and do my AIDA three and four with Stavros in Kalamata. I still couldn’t lift my arm above my head at that stage, so I couldn’t do free immersion or no fins. That trip was when I really got obsessed with diving and ended up doing my first comp at the end of the trip, where I just did constant weight. Now that my shoulder is better I do enjoy FIM and CNF, but I still enjoy constant weight heaps more.
How is the diving condition in Melbourne?
I live about two hours drive out of Melbourne on the Surf Coast. Which as you can guess, is more suited to surfing than diving. We do have some great diving though – lots of great reefs and some wrecks to explore – you just have to pick the right days. We have access to around 60m for depth training, but it’s a bit of a mission. We have to get out around 10km offshore before it gets to 60m and its usually too rough to get out there. But on the right days it’s really nice – 20m+ vis and no currents. We had a really good summer this year, with plenty of calm days to get out wide. Winter isn’t so good for diving here – its always too rough to get out deep so we’ve been going to the lakes lately. The lakes are a great back up for when its too rough for the ocean, but its never as good as an open water dive. We’re starting to get a great community of divers together down here so there’s always someone to train with. The conditions can be a bit challenging, but when you get over to the warm places like Bali or the Phillipenes it’s just so nice and easy cause you’re used to the cold water and tough conditions. Getting in the water over there is like getting into a bath compared to here.
What triggered you to make the first pair of fins?
My first set of fins were absolute garbage. I was just getting into spearing at that stage and a mate had just got a pair of carbon fins. They seemed way too soft to be any good. I had a bit of resin and glass left over from making surfboards, so I thought I’d make a better set – stiffer fins would have to be better right? They were so bad that I gave up for a few years.
It took me a while to work out that softer fins were the go. Once I’d learnt more about diving, I wanted to try some fins softer than what was available in Australia. So I made my own. They turned out much better than the first pair, so I guess that encouraged me to keep working on them and making them better.
How do you test your fins and improve the design?
I test the fins out by using them. I’m really lucky where I’m set up that I can make a new set and then test them out the next day.
I’m a bit of a nerd, so I’ve put together a model on the computer to work out the stiffness and to get a bit more of an understanding of what’s happening with the fins. I think that’s really helped to accelerate the development of my fins. Looking at the maths behind it skips a lot of the trial and error involved in the development, but that can only get you so far. You’ve got to actually be able to use the fins as well.
Where do you make the fins?
I’ve set up a ‘cosy’ little workshop in my late grandfather’s shed. He was a mechanical engineer too, so he was always tinkering with stuff and had built a shed which was bigger than his house. When I was growing up, he was always out there fixing stuff or making things. I’ve built a dedicated space off to the side of that where I make my fins. It’s only a small workshop, but its got everything I need to make some top quality products. Its definitely not your average backyard shed.
The advantage of individually handcraft fins
Like anything, its got its pros and cons. A lot more time goes into them when I’m making them one pair at a time, but the advantage is that I’m not locked into large production runs. I can make a pair of fins, test them out the next day and then modify the design for the next set. It also means that I can customise them to suit individuals. It gives people the chance to get a unique product that’s more suited to their diving than a generic mass-produced fin.
The other great thing is that because I’m not mass producing, it gives me the chance to interact with the people using my fins – and that’s so satisfying for me. I don’t feel like I’m just making objects out of carbon and resin, I get to see the joy that people are getting out of what I’m making. And I think that goes both ways – people aren’t just buying an object off the shelf – they see the passion that goes into them, and they know they are getting something unique and special for them.
What makes Continuum Fins different?
I think I’m in a really good position to be making fins. I’ve got the engineering knowledge and experience to design and build them, but I’m also out there diving with the fins, testing them and always evolving the design. I mean there’s better divers out there, and there’s lots of people with more engineering experience than I have. But I don’t think there’s many with the combination of the two.
My Continuum fins are soft on legs and yet super powerful in the water. Any secret in this?
The secret is making fins that help people to use a good technique without having to think about it. Soft fins can work really well, but you have to get your technique spot on. People will subconsciously alter their technique depending on what fins they are using and how they feel. You need to be able to feel what the fins are doing in the water to be able to use them correctly. Some soft fins can feel like noodles in the water – they are moving with your feet but don’t feel like they are connected to you. What I’m aiming for with Continuum is that feeling of being connected to the water, getting the feedback from what the fins are doing and how you are moving through the water.
The most difficult moment of starting your own business
Finding the courage to leave a secure career to try something which I had no idea if it would be successful or not. I was confident that I could make a good fin, but at that stage I had zero experience running a business. I had no idea about marketing or sales or finances or any of those important business things. I think I’ve got a bit more of an idea about the business side of thing now, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.
How do you see the future of Continuum Fins?
I started Continuum fins because I wanted to make something. I guess I just want to keep doing that. I want to keep making fins and keep developing them to be as good as they can be. As much as I enjoy the hands on making of the fins, I’m really excited about the product development side of things at the moment. I’m working towards offering custom made foot pockets, and working on some exciting new prototype monos. I also want to develop the science behind fins to get a better understanding of how they work and how they can be made better. I’m teaming up with some of my old colleagues at Deakin to get some real science done. Mostly focused on materials and manufacturing optimisation for now, and then onto some in depth analysis of how to get the maximum performance. But mostly I just want to see people using my fins. That’s the most satisfying thing for me.
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