I saw the ads of Dark Fin gloves in many surfing websites, they seemed an interesting option to catch more waves and paddle faster. I wanted to buy them, the price was good (about $30) but after see some online comments about them "tiring fast", changed my mind. Following a discussion about wave catching gloves over on the forum, I was offered to review a pair for Surfing Waves, who kindly sent me a pair in ML size (they fit well, as the photos show).
In the instructions Darkfin recommend to use calcium powder to put them on, unfortunately I don't have calcium powder at hand. So I took them to the beach, put them on and the first thing I noticed is that they are not that easy to put on. They feel like regular latex gloves except that the material seems far more resistant.
Paddling with them was immediately uncomfortable; some water and air got inside the gloves and paddling felt unnatural and my hands felt bubbly and heavy. They definitely don't feel natural like they advertise. I believe there's little to do to avoid this as you can see in some of the pictures the wrist part of the gloves do not stick completely to the skin leaving a gap where water could come in, wearing the wetsuit on top of it helps a bit but you still get water and air inside the glove, I don't know if using calcium powder could have prevented this.
They of course, allow you to move more water thus giving more speed to the board. Unfortunately I got tired in 10 minutes, and my arms and hands felt incredibly heavy, that plus lifting the water-air filled gloves was a true ordeal. The grip on the board is also not that comfortable or natural.
I tried to catch a wave hoping they would give me incredible speed but to my surprise I was slower than normal because now I was paddling in slow motion because my arms felt so heavy and missed the wave.
They also feel invasive and don't allow you to feel the water, I've never used gloves when surfing before and didn't know they could steal so much from the sensation of surfing, I do wear boots sometimes and they don't feel that invasive.
Then I felt incredibly anxious about taking them off and waited for a wave to take me to the shore, didn't care about standing up on the board, I just wanted to be pushed to the shore. I took them off (which is not that easy) and went on again, and was able to catch 3 waves before having to leave since I just felt extremely tired after trying the gloves.
There was no way I would want to try them again but did do in order to give them a fair review. I went surfing the next day without the gloves at first and was able to catch some nice waves, then decided to try the gloves again. This time they material was really stiff and were almost impossible to put them on, took me like 5 minutes and hurt my fingers, then got tired right away, was able to catch a wave, didn't feel particularly fast at catching it because they tired me up when paddling, and just went straight to the shore and took them off.
In summary, they actually don't feel like they're designed for surfing, they're just too invasive and don't feel like they improve your surfing skills. Perhaps if I were to use them for many many sessions so my body would develop the strength and stamina to paddle with them then they could be used to catch more waves and swim faster, but even so they would still feel a bit invasive IMO.
A better application would to use them just for swimming, I'm pretty sure you would develop strength and stamina and some amazing fat triceps, I'm actually going to give them to a friend who does swimming and see if he can develop a stronger upper body by swimming with them. That being said, I don't recommend them for surfing.
I've been surfing on and off since I was 13 but never really got into it until two years ago that I dedicated myself to dominate the basics and continuously improve my surfing. I'm currently 30 years old and consider myself an intermediate-level surfer, I dominate the basics, can handle myself in the lineup, can do turns, and I'm starting to try more advanced movements such as 180s, ripping the wave off the lip etc.
Thanks to Colleen @ Darkfingloves.com for providing the gloves featured in this review. Thanks also to avillax for taking the time to review them on our behalf. avillax is a regular over on the forum.
Have you tried these gloves yourself? if so let us know how you got on with a comment below.