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"The feet and legs of a human being were not designed by nature for swimming . . . and the use of my invention converts the feet into swimming members of correct hydrodynamic structure and design."

— Owen Churchill

Swim fin patent model, 1940
Artifact Detailsview larger

Churchill hand-made this first swim fin of vulcanized rubber.

— Gift of Owen Churchill


Owen Churchill
Swim Fin Inventor

Owen Churchill's patented rubber swim fins transformed scuba diving and snorkeling. Although he won a gold medal for yacht racing, Churchill was not a proficient swimmer. In the 1930s, he saw Tahitian swimmers attach woven leaves to their feet to help propel them through the water. Churchill adapted the idea, making his fins out of rubber. Ridges along the side allowed swimmers to move with greater speed.

Name: Owen Churchill
Born: Los Angeles, California, 1896–1985
  • Gold Medalist, 8-meter yacht racing, Los Angeles Olympics, 1932
  • Skippered restored 1932 boat during opening ceremonies, Los Angeles Olympics, 1984
  • Holds patent for first rubber swim fins
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