Wetsuit Neoprene Projects From the Bottom Up: Part 4: Surf Fin Heel Protectors

So, I’ve taken out the wetsuit I’ve been chopping up for projects and figured I’d go for another one.
So far, out of this wetsuit, we’ve gotten:
1 Beach Wallet,
2 Sea Specs Cases,
and
1 Passport Cover.

Here’s the remainder of the suit up until now:

So I thought a good project could be some replacement heel protectors for my surf fins I use for bodyboarding and bodysurfing. Below are my much loved Churchill’s, with the Custom X heel protectors I bought ages ago. They are a life saver- I used to have TERRIBLE blisters on my heels from the fins and would have to end a session early because of the pain. These protectors are certainly in need of replacement, and they are hard to find, so this is a great opportunity to make some more!

Surf Fins with a Heel Protector Removed for Demo

So I placed the old fin heel protector on my cutting board with some weights on it (as you can see, it’s pretty gnarled up), and it’s around 4″ by 7″:

Old Heel Protector being Measured

Given this measurement, I compared this to the material I had left on each leg of the suit, and found that I could get 2 pairs of these, one from each leg, and that would still leave me with most of the torso neoprene left.
So I cut each piece across with shears, then cut 4 pieces at 4″ by 7″ with a rotary cutter.

Each bit of leg, cut open at the inner seam
Pieces cut out with the rotary cutter

Now, the original heel protectors had a piece of 1″ Velcro half at the top long edge of each piece, but one half was on one side, the other half on the bottom of the other side (VERY IMPORTANT to remember- this is supposed to be like a tube around the heel of the surf fin). I looked through my stash, and I only had 3/4″ Velcro, and I was too lazy to make a run to the fabric store, so I just went with what I had, coming in on the top edges 1/4″ instead of putting the Velcro flush with the long edge.
Since I was using the neoprene as the original 1 mm thickness, not seaming it together, I decided to use my machine to sew the Velcro on. Of course, like the past projects, you can hand sew using Fireline or fishing line to secure the Velcro easily enough.
For sewing this, I used a regular foot, black polyester thread (NO Coats and Clark please…ewww), a 90 weight stretch machine needle, and a regular 2.5 length stitch. NOTE: I should have really used a longer stitch, more like a 3.5, but live and learn.
I started by sewing the uppermost edge of the Velcro, keeping the edge of the Velcro in from the neoprene edge about 1/4″. There’s a little edge on the Velcro you’ll notice- try to sew on that, not on the hooks, but do your best. Once I finished that edge, I kept the needle down, turned, sewed on the short edge, then turned and sewed down the inner long edge, completing the rectangle. I did this all over again for security since the Velcro needs to be durable for heavy use. The pictures are crappy, but you get the idea:

Turning and sewing down the short edge

Sewing down the inner long edge

You’re going to do this again with the loopy side of the Velcro, only make sure to turn the piece OVER and place it along the other long edge.
After I was finished with both pieces, I did a fit check, and the piece fit the same as the old ones, but I did notice that for my size fin, I could have cut them a little shorter on the short ends to prevent some gathering, but I also wanted to make sure they covered all the way around the heel, even to the sides. I also cut the corners off of each rectangle to make a cleaner look and avoid unnecessary material sticking out. I also show a comparison in the second picture below between the old and new protector.

Surf Fin Heel Protector with Corners Cut
LEFT- Old Heel Protector, RIGHT- New Heel Protector

Something else I noticed about the old heel protector is that they had a little drain hole (?) in the middle, above one of the Velcro strips:

Drain hole on old heel protector

Since neoprene doesn’t fray, I could poke a hole into the material just the same and that’s what I did for each of mine:

Hole above Velcro
1 Pair of Surf Fin Heel Protectors Completed with drain hole

Voila! Now, I’ve got some new cushy heel protectors I can customize for my fins, and I’ll finish up the other pair for the Hubster’s Churchill’s.
All I need do do is call up Keith Malloy and tell him I’m ready to star in his next bodysurfing film follow up called, “Aww, That’s a Shame”.

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