March 30, 2023

Brief history of finswimming: from Leonardo da Vinci to the University World Cup

2 min read

It took many years before the prehistoric communities understood that the body, aided by movements copied from the observation of those carried out by aquatic animals, could advance horizontally in the water.

Leonardo da Vinci, in the sixteenth century, hypothesized auxiliary means to be placed at the feet by observing the legs of a duck.

The first modern fins were created by Louis de Corlieu, in France, around 1920: paddles for the hands and fins for the feet.

In the ’30s rubber fins assumed particular configurations for military activities and were proposed both to the French Navy, in 1934, and to the British Admiralty, in 1935. It was the Regia Marina Militare Italiana that, being the first to realize the operational possibilities that fins could offer, adopted them for its own underwater raiders: Gamma.

During the Second World War, Luigi Ferraro and Franco Pavone performed extraordinary feats with their fins on their feet, which earned them the Gold Medal for Military Valor.

Ferraro perfected the theoretical scheme of operation of the fins and in 1952 the fin of the technological revolution took shape and life: La Rondine.

In 1955, Franco Pavone founded Sub Bologna, the first Italian finswimming club, a milestone in the Italian finswimming movement.

Already in the ’50s, the Germans Ristan and Bergann recorded the first draft of a monofin by fixing two fins together.

Between 1969 and 1970, the Soviet Podorov developed a monofin with a rubber blade reinforced with metal, only later he began to use fiber plates.

In Italy, the idea of the monofin was realized in 1968 by Franco Pavone with a prototype called “double”, because it contained the feet in two shoes bound on a single blade.

Between 1990 and 1992 the Russian club Skate invented and developed a monofin called Wing; but the real revolution took place in 1999/2000, when Andronov developed a new monofin with a better hydrodynamic shape, inserting an angle between 10 and 20 degrees between the blade and the shoe.

And here we are today, where finswimming is an established and structured sport, widespread and practiced in all five continents. The athletes who practice it are the fastest in the water and, most likely, also the most beautiful to watch, given the sinuosity of their bodies in action.

The first edition of the University World Cup, to be held in Lignano Sabbiadoro (Udine) on 1st and 2nd April 2022, will sanction the entry of finswimming into the FISU world, which will thus be able to appreciate the spectacular nature of this discipline, very rich in both charm and history.

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