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Indigenous freediving gear

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
203
82
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
I haven't posted for a while, so I thought I'd start a new thread to report what I've gleaned online recently about indigenous freediving equipment. I don't expect this topic to interest others who prefer using the very latest fins, masks and suits, but I'm a traditionalist when it comes to gear, preferring equipment that was current in the mid twentieth century and maintaining the principle "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" If that's not sufficient to justify this thread, then let's just say that Deeper Blue doesn't have many threads covering the history of freediving equipment and could maybe do with one more. So there! :)

Elsewhere on a different forum I am contributing a series of posts about the historical development of fins, masks and snorkels around the world. I'm familiar enough with trends in Europe and North America, but information from the Far East is harder to source and not just because of the language barrier. I collect basic gear and a while ago I purchased a snorkelling mask on eBay from a Korean seller. The mask came in a good old-fashioned cardboard box with the following on one of the flaps:
img310.jpg


These pictures led me to do a little online research into the Daihan Diving Sports company. I located some Korean online retailers stocking the masks pictured left and centre on the middle line and centre and right on the bottom line:
ee0185873.jpg
d6f72d8d6_1.jpg


I then proceeded to see what I could find out about the top line of images of fins made by the company. No luck this time on the retail front, but then I chanced upon pictures of the Haenyeo "Sea Women" of Korea who dive for seafood off the island of Jeju and earn their living by selling their catch to dealers and restaurants:
Haenyeo_lowres_shutterstock_1099157915.jpg

From my perspective, these yellow full-foot fins are clearly the same as those pictured on the top line left and centre on the mask box flap. If you're not convinced, take a look at the toe openings, which are particularly distinctive. Here's another image of a black pair:
IMG_1099.png

The Daihan Diving whale logo is just visible, while the distinctive toe opening and the centre line on the blade are both there. I've also found examples of Haenyeo divers with the blue open-heel adjustable fins pictured top left on the box flap:
PYH2016070610490005600_P2.jpg

So that's as far as I've got in identifying some of the products of the Korea-based Daihan Diving company. If anybody knows anything else about the company or the gear it manufactures, I'd be very interested to hear about it (company logo close-up below):
img662.jpg

What interests me as a historian of diving gear is the fact that these women divers have chosen locally made traditional diving gear to pursue their trade as seafood collectors. If the Haenyeo women freedivers have sparked your interest, you can read more about them in their Wikipedia article, which references videos showing them at work.
 
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OP
OP
DRW

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
203
82
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
I'm delighted what I've already posted has been given the favourable reception I was hoping for. I'm no further forward, however, in tracking these traditional all-rubber Korean fins back to an online retail outlet, let alone their original manufacturer. A breakthrough may emerge in the fullness of time, which is the nature of research, making the activity both painfully slow in the short term but potentially rewarding in the long run.

So back to the topic of indigenous freediving gear with a eastwards move to the islands of Japan where the Ama (Japanese: 海女) ply their trade:

Like the Korean Haenyo, the majority of Japanese ama are female and have been known to engage in seafood-gathering to earn their living. In the popular imagination, however, they have been associated with pearl hunting.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_hunting
As for ama gear, I'm going to focus here on the traditional diving mask worn by the diver in the image:

The mask is for sale on the English-language page on the Rakuten site at https://global.rakuten.com/en/store/a-k-k/item/10001302/?ranMID=36270&ranEAID=je6NUbpObpQ&ranSiteID=je6NUbpObpQ-THwZzSdveQ5.WWm52_v2qw&scid=af_gl_linkshare_je6NUbpObpQ&siteID=je6NUbpObpQ-THwZzSdveQ5.WWm52_v2qw, where it is described as a "circular" snorkelling mask. The Rakuten page has a chunk of Japanese unhelpfully posted as an image instead of text. I used an online optical character reader to convert the image to text:

海で頑張る海女さんのために誕生したマスワ。ゴム製の鼻隠し一眼メガネで、メガネ内の空気圧を自分の呼吸により調整できる為、水圧で顔や目が圧迫され痛みが出るといった負担が少なく、顔にフィッ卜するようになつたことでさらに深い場所に潜ることができる。昔から今でも変わらず愛され使われ続けてます。

An online translator came up with the following rendering: "This mask was born for the use of amas (Japanese female pearl divers) who work hard under the sea. This rubber single-lens mask encloses the nose. Since you can adjust the air pressure inside the mask with your own breath, the burden of pain and pressure from water pressure on the face and eyes is light. You can dive deeper wearing the mask on your face. This mask has always been loved and it will continue to be used for a long time."

The rest of the page is in English and can be read at https://global.rakuten.com/en/store/a-k-k/item/10001302/?ranMID=36270&ranEAID=je6NUbpObpQ&ranSiteID=je6NUbpObpQ-q8EzzpTJQVd16L9hDz_BIA&scid=af_gl_linkshare_je6NUbpObpQ&siteID=je6NUbpObpQ-q8EzzpTJQVd16L9hDz_BIA.

A online fishing equipment retailer also stocks the mask at www.fishing-friend.com/item/a-37/. The Japanese text here provides a little more information about the mask's specifications:

A single-lens mask suitable for underwater use by amas and others. Because it has a stainless steel frame, it is rustproof and strong.
IKARI A-37 circular snorkelling mask. From 12-year-old to adult use. Single-lens mask made of natural rubber.
Material
■ Lens: 3.3 mm reinforced glass
■ Frame: Stainless steel
Size
■ M Diameter: 12.5cm
■ L Diameter: 13.5cm

Details at http://www.fishing-friend.com/item/a-37/.

The mask is priced at ¥ 2,419, which is roughly equivalent to £18 sterling. Ikari makes a traditional range of masks and fins in addition to the ama-style model.

While reading about the ama-style mask, another Ikari item caught my eye:


The upward arrow caption "下部には空気穴" means "There are air holes in the lower portion", while the downward arrow caption "ス卜ラツプは調整可能" means "The strap can be adjusted".

It took me a while to realise that this "diving mask" was actually an "aquascope", or underwater viewer, fitted with a strap and buckles to attach the device to the face. Western counterparts will usually be longer, made of a material other than rubber and completely devoid of any headstraps:
 
OP
OP
DRW

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
203
82
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
An online retailer in the Philippines recently offered the following hand-crafted diving mask for sale:

Specifications of AnoSaiyo Snorkel Diving Mask Goggles Handicrafted Hand Made Rubber Glass Fisherman Use Classic
  • Brand: No Brand
  • SKU: 263432495_PH-366885671
  • Model: AnoSaiyo Snorkel Diving Mask Goggles Handicrafted Hand Made Rubber Glass Fisherman Use Classic
  • Warranty Type: No Warranty
What’s in the package? Handmade diving mask x 1. Price: ₱300.00

300 Philippine Pesos amount to almost six US dollars. This must be the first time I have come across a diving mask being hand-made nowadays for online sale.
 

hteas

Well-Known Member
Mar 9, 2005
910
108
148
71
Anchorage, AK
The photo I would most like to know about is the Duckfeet knockoffs. Duckfeet are becoming impossible to find, at least in the US, and the natural rubber version had a really good feel to them.
I love seeing the old stuff you find. brings back memories.
Thanks!
 
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OP
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DRW

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
203
82
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
The photo I would most like to know about is the Duckfeet knockoffs. Duckfeet are becoming impossible to find, at least in the US, and the natural rubber version had a really good feel to them. I love seeing the old stuff you find. brings back memories. Thanks!
Do you mean this image from the Daihan diving mask box, Hteas?
img310f.png

I haven't found any images yet of these fins either on sale or in use.

Here's a picture from the Orange County California Public Libraries archive:
cdm16838.contentdm.oclc.org1.jpg
cdm16838.contentdm.oclc.org2.jpg

The caption at https://cdm16838.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16838coll1/id/1016 reads: "Duck feet brand diving fins manufactured by the Spearfisherman Company, 7521 Clay Street, Huntington Beach, April 16, 1951."

And the following vintage ad archived at SkinDivingHistory.com demonstrates the manufacturer's awareness of multiple cloning of the Duck Feet design:


The History of Duck Feet is a very well-researched online source of information about these iconic fins. As for their availability nowadays, I'm no expert on Duck Feet or on the material used to make them, but there's a pair of new "Voit UDT Swimfins" currently on sale at Atlantic BodyBoards:

 
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hteas

Well-Known Member
Mar 9, 2005
910
108
148
71
Anchorage, AK
Yeah, those are the ones. I had a pair in the early 60s. Skin Diver had an article in the mid-60s showing how they were made. A really good fin.
 
OP
OP
DRW

DRW

Vintage snorkeller
Jan 5, 2007
203
82
118
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Not quite what I meant by "indigenous", but here's a homemade diving mask from New Zealand:

One of the first dive masks made in New Zealand uncovered

Veteran swimmer and diver Myra Larcombe with her original dive mask, which was made from a car inner tube. Photo/ John Stone
The story behind it.... by: Kristin Edge. Kristin Edge is a reporter for the Northern Advocate.

A piece of New Zealand diving history has been uncovered but the Northland owner is unsure of what should be done with one of the first diving masks made in the country.

Myra Larcombe, who is a sprightly 91-year-old, was searching through boxes at her Opua home last week looking for something else when she came across the 65-year-old mask.

She bought the mask off the inventor and Northlander Leo Ducker in 1954.

Before the 1960s it was difficult for many New Zealand divers to obtain gear from overseas. The solution was often to make equipment from materials to hand.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/marine/news/article.cfm?c_id=61&objectid=12253049
 
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