I dig this title they put up. I never waited for some plastics designer to decide whether I could swim again :) I just did it. The guys at Nike were right when they said "just do it", but as they did not invent that idea to "just doing things", it is not restricted to them either.
Inspired by amputee sprinters like Aimee Mullins (whose extensive collection of prosthetic legs includes creations by the late designer Alexander McQueen), Swedish industrial design student Richard Stark developed an elegant, water-friendly prosthetic called the Neptune. I wanted users to be able to choose from a variety of colors, like with shoes, he says. But to make sure form didnt drown function, Stark teamed up with a pair of competitive amputee swimmers and their coaches to solve the problems amputees encounter in the pool.
The fin is divided into three fingersa stiff digit in the middle flanked by two pliable oneswhich allows wearers to emulate the vaguely circular motion of treading water; swimmers can use the slider to adjust the Neptunes flexibility to match their strength. And in a modification suggested by one of the amputees, the fin can rotate 90 degrees to switch from the sideways kick of the breaststroke to the up-and-down motion of the crawl.
When Stark finished the project, he published photos and a video online and was surprised at how quickly the Neptune garnered a response. Amputees all around the world were asking me if they could order it, he says. Stark is trying to sell the concept as he pursues his masters degree, but many insurance policies dont cover a prosthetic thats strictly for swimming. So Stark will have to simplify his design and get the cost down to something people will be willing to pay out of pockethopefully less than $350.
Now, for competitive swimming, prosthetic aids are not allowed by regulation. So if you want to train for competitions, you may be better off without fins or paddles to begin with.
Besides and without any add-ons, it is absolutely possible to swim fast no matter what. Here is a training video of my front crawl swimming dated June 2008 (check the clock, it is a 25 m pool) and with that, there are other amputees that are a lot faster than me:
Personally I would not consider such add-ons. I tried wearing paddles once. They were far more of an obstacle than work with proficient crawl stroke. Also, size and hydrodynamics are relevant to consider. If you wear large fins you will be very fast, but you may overuse your joints. So, smaller fins may be better for longer distances. TRS offers a swimming add-on for arm amputees with a rather small surface area.
For leisure type swimming, speed is of absolutely no concern and I do not need any prosthetic supplement at all. But I guess there is some range of application where people find them cool, take them to diving or lake swimming, channel crossing, transatlantic swimming and whatever else. For most of these applications, these have to be affordable and with a target price of around 350$, this sounds like a fun product.
And besides the fact that this is planned to be a fin - once I can get such a design with colored plastics and great function for my prosthetic arm, hand or hook, gripper or terminal device, I will want one. Definitely.
- http://www.richardstark.tk/ Designer's website