Kristina ZVARITCH interviews Theo-Patrick FOURCADE the founder of Bewater®Monofins
Kristina ZVARITCH : Hi Theo, and thanks for sitting down with me! So, what exactly is this new project of yours I keep hearing about?
Theo-Patrick FOURCADE : I’m going to make fins, monofins and bifins.
I’ve been dreaming about this project for years, ever since I created my company in 1999! It’s been going around and around in my head and I never found the solutions that would have allowed me to create and manufacture monofins without any compromise and with all of my requirements. In recent years, I finally found the process I wanted to implement! So this year, I will be presenting monofins and bifins designed entirely in my workshop – handmade production with machines and tools specially designed for this project.
Since September 2021, I have invested in the renovation and fitting out of the workshop with machines specially modified in the factory for my needs. I had to receive them, install them, adjust them, and learn to use them. It was an exciting and sometimes difficult job, and many professionals had often told me that my project was unfeasible. But I have this madness and get into a trance, which with time, energy, passion, and obsession, ended up with me finally finding the solutions I was looking for. Solutions that were sometimes found after three hours of staring at the machines on my stool, that come up with in the shower, before I fall asleep, in the middle of the night, when I wake up…
KZ : That sounds intense! So, what makes you qualified for this project?
TPF : I have been swimming with a monofin since 1991. For many years, I had the chance to practice at a high level with the French team (FFESSM – CMAS) in finswimming and freediving. I participated in many national and international championships and had the chance to make a sportsman’s dream come true by becoming world champion in 2013 in Speed Apnea 100m.
I have a Degree in Physical and Sport Education, Sciences and Technology, and I am a certified swimming and finswimming coach and an AIDA instructor.
I created the brand ylon-aquatic® which markets products for swimming since 1999.
Having swam all of those years at a high level and with some knowledge of swimming technique and understanding of the laws of hydrodynamics and biomechanics is what helps in setting up a project of this type. As for the creation of the fins, it is my own experience in creating blades in 2003 (I was testing the vacuum infusion process which did not meet my expectations) that leads me today to bet on the manufacturing process that I am implementing. I am not inventing anything – I would say that I facilitate or make possible the creation of a blade that meets all of my requirements through dedicated solutions.
Are you asking me if I am qualified to make monofins? We will only know by comparing my monofins with existing ones, and it will be the athletes who will answer this question later.
What makes me think that I am qualified or that I can bring something more? I have been immersed in this sport for 31 years. I started swimming when monofins didn’t have an angle built into the foot pocket. I swam with some great athletes during training and in competitions. There were monofins everywhere in our bedrooms, in our garages, in our living rooms. We brought them back from every competition where we were with the Russian coaches and finswimmers, who were the first to have made a real business out of them and accumulated so much experience. We used to meet during the competitions in our hotel rooms and passionately compare the monofins that were for sale and the ones we used for training and competition. We would find spare moments in the warm-up pool to try out monofins made by the best, who were often the coaches of the world champions. We tested a lot of them…our shared passion and empirical experience helped us define the parameters that guided us in our choice of monofins.
There is also the experience shared with me by my coach Michel Kitchev, who is one of the first manufacturers of monofins and who still makes them by hand. I have followed and experienced this technological evolution in monofins, but the monofin of my dreams still does not exist. I hope to present it to you soon!
KZ : Okay, you definitely sound qualified! Can you tell me what will make your fins different?
TPF : To answer this question, it is worthwhile to have an idea of how monofins have evolved over time. Monofins were created for humans to swim fast with fins. During the 70s, in finswimming competitions, we went from rubber bifins to glass/epoxy monofins in an almost direct way (the regulations allowed it then). From then on, all forms of monofins were tested and slowly arrived at the general shape we know today. The blade of the monofins was first made by hand with a product diverted from its original function. Sheets of glass first used as fire insulation in Russian submarines, about 2mm thick and made up of several layers, were transformed into the blades of monofins. The Russian craftsmen removed layers of glass one by one with special tools in order to be able to customize the blade. They intervened directly in the hardness, flexibility, and nervousness (speed and ability of the blade to quickly return to its original shape after curving) to personalise it according to the specificities of the athletes (size, weight, strength, flexibility, etc.) and their disciplines (surface immersion, middle-distance sprint, etc.). This gave rise to unique creations – works of art!
Today, with time and profit in mind, most of the monofin blades on the market are standardised thanks to new manufacturing processes (glass fabrics pre-impregnated with resin). You can even find the same blades, used by different brands, with the foot pockets being the only difference. There is no longer a highly personalised design of the blade. I want to bring this possibility back to the monofin world. My process will allow great freedom in the manufacturing and creation process with the advantage of customisation and the ability to be reproduced.
I can develop or reproduce identically, with modern, reliable, and reproducible manufacturing processes, a handmade blade while avoiding any deep cutting errors that can sometimes weaken the blade and alter the mechanical properties of the lower layers. I can create a unique blade profile for the athlete, who with my help will determine the hardness or softness of the blade, its nervousness, and where they want the blade to curve. It will also be possible to modify the blade in order to adapt it to the evolution of the athlete throughout their career.
For the foot pocket, the choice of a one-piece moulded foot pocket of the same material would be easier to design, install, and is more commercially viable – but it is so much less demanding from a performance point of view. A block of the same material is mechanically inert compared to an assembly of different rubbers with different properties depending on their types, thicknesses, and densities. This assembly, by deforming, will give back energy which will help the work of the blade and will become the active interface, indispensable between the body of the athlete and the blade. Andronov-type foot pockets with an angle remain as my reference. The design of my foot pockets will therefore be “traditional” and will be made up of an assembly of several rubbers around a foot pocket structure that will allow me to offer sizes from 36 to 46. Customisation of the angle, foot support, and the discipline it’s designed for (sprinting, long distance, depth, etc.) – there are many parameters that we can control and customise. Building the foot pocket and being able to change it quickly is an essential asset to remain in the race for performance, and that’s what I want to be able to do.
Sometimes some athletes are disappointed with certain certified “made-to-measure” foot pockets that are not actually made-to-measure when they receive their monofin. This is not an impossible requirement, but rather a broken promise from the manufacturer. I hope that the quality of my work will be up to the task!
Customised or factory prints on the fin are also an important factor. A lot of prints proposed on the market alter the mechanical properties of the blade (its nervousness). The addition of material such as printed films or stickers on the fiber leave me speechless because I have no interest in buying fins made of glass and epoxy if there will be a sticker that will suffocate the mechanical properties. In that case, I might as well use plastic fins – it’s nonsense! My process (that I’m keeping a secret!) keeps all the mechanical properties of the blade, but will still allow you to customise it with your own design.
KZ : Wow, I can’t wait to see your fins! My last question, Theo – why exactly are you doing all of this?
TPF : The idea of being a craftsman and creating a beautiful object is a kind of personal fulfilment.
I’ve been so obsessed with this project for years that I have no choice – whether I succeed or not, I have to go through with this idea! Do you want to see proof that this project has been haunting me for years? I am the owner of the domain names monofins.com and monopalmes.com. I bought them in 2011, and now I’m finally going to use them!
Thank you for speaking with me, Kristina.
bewatermonofins.com, monofins.com, monopalmes.com
will link to a brand new monofin shop.