The new Decathlon diving fin is an eco-conscious design revolution

Using generative design, Decathlon created a diving fin that’s twice as light and has half the carbon footprint as the market benchmark.

Image courtesy of Decathlon.

Underwater shot of woman swimming over coral reef wearing Decathlon React diving fins

Salomé Berlemont-Gilles

June 3, 2024

min read
  • French sports equipment manufacturer and retailer Decathlon is reinventing the diving fin.

  • The innovative design minimizes environmental impact by reducing raw material usage and maximizes efficiency.

  • Using generative design, Decathlon has created a recycled plastic fin that is twice as light as the market benchmark, reducing its carbon footprint by 50%.

French sports equipment manufacturer and retailer Decathlon—founded in 1976 and with a global reach extending to 72 countries—continues to use technology to redefine innovation. Decathlon’s Raphaël Vis, circular project leader and designer, and Armand Macé, product engineer, recently tackled the challenge of reimagining an iconic piece of equipment for water sport: the diving fin. This ambitious project not only represents a significant technological advance but also embodies a sustainable vision that transforms people’s relationship with the products they use, proving that performance and environmental responsibility can coexist harmoniously and even open new business and human horizons.

A fresh take on the diving fin

The Decathlon team discusses its design process for the new React diving fin. (video: 3:59 min.)

Macé, a keen scuba diver, wanted to rethink the traditional design of diving fins. “Our objective was to create a disruptive object that moves away from classic models to embrace a completely new approach,” he says. His enthusiasm for innovation led him to envisage a radical transformation in the design and performance of the fin, seeking to optimize efficiency while minimizing the environmental footprint compared to the current range of fins on the market.

The challenge was to design a fin that would maintain constant stiffness, unlike traditional models in which rigidity decreases from the foot to the tip, while meeting stringent durability standards and minimizing the use of raw materials. “We decided to start from a blank slate,” says Macé.

Close-up underwater shot of Decathlon React diving fins on swimmer’s feet
The new React diving fin is designed to maintain constant stiffness from toe to tip. Image courtesy of Decathlon.

Vis saw the project as an opportunity to merge his design skills with his commitment to a more sustainable future. “This project is a synthesis of my passion for design and my responsibility to reduce our impact and respond to the challenges of the end of product life,” he says, adding that designing sustainable products goes beyond the use of recycled materials; it demands a comprehensive understanding of the product’s lifecycle, from conception to eventual recycling.

Technology for a changing world

Decathlon diving fin collage of design renderings in Autodesk Fusion
The generative design capabilities of Autodesk Fusion allowed the Decathlon team to explore hundreds of different fin iterations.

The turning point of the project was adopting generative design in Autodesk Fusion, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to explore multiple design alternatives based on user-defined constraints. With this technology, Decathlon has been able to create complex organic shapes for the fins that enhance performance while minimizing material usage. “Generative design has opened unexplored horizons for us, allowing us to explore design solutions that were previously beyond our reach,” Vis says.

Using generative design, the team simulated hundreds of fin configurations, meticulously analyzing every detail from weight distribution to fin flexibility. This iterative process confirmed that a simple deformation in the center of the fin was just as effective as lateral reinforcements in promoting optimal propulsion in the water.

The resulting React fin uses 50% less material than its predecessors and slashes the carbon footprint by 50% compared to the market benchmark. It also incorporates recycled materials and is crafted from a single type of plastic so it can be easily recycled at end-of-life without dismantling. It not only is more durable and aesthetically pleasing but also represents a giant leap in performance, efficiency, and environmentally conscious design. Rigorous testing guarantees the fin’s compliance with stringent quality and performance standards.

Decathlon diving fin collage of simulation test and results graph
Rigorous simulations and testing of the proposed fin designs led the team to a design that enhanced performance while minimizing material usage.

“We have changed our way of seeing the product. It is no longer just a question of power or speed, but also of lightness, aesthetics, and environmental impact,” says Vis, who is proud of bringing an innovative product to market in 2025 with Autodesk’s help. This transformation is particularly relevant at a time when consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases.

Turning a constraint into a design opportunity

Underwater shot of woman swimming down to coral reef wearing Decathlon React diving fins
Decathlon’s React fin has sparked interest among other product designers looking to combine generative design and sustainability. Image courtesy of Decathlon.

Making environmental impact a central driver of innovation can fundamentally reshape the perception of sustainability. When sustainability is no longer viewed as a constraint, it can become a powerful catalyst for developing new technologies and methodologies. By leveraging generative design and artificial intelligence, companies like Decathlon aren’t just responding to ecological expectations—they are changing their markets by introducing high-performance, less impactful products and making them available to a wide audience.

The React fin project was selected internally in 2023 as one of Decathlon’s best product innovations and is sparking interest from other designers to integrate this technology into their design processes. The project opens interesting prospects to enhance other sports equipment and could serve as a blueprint for minimizing product impact across various sectors.

The impact could extend beyond the realm of sports, aligning with global sustainability challenges. By reducing the consumption of raw materials and optimizing production processes, technologies like generative design have the potential to upend industrial manufacturing, making the process more environmentally friendly and enhancing long-term economic viability.

In reimagining the diving fin, Decathlon shows that change often starts with a step (or swim) forward into the unknown. Innovation and sustainability are here to stay in product development—and this project highlights how reduced material usage and enhanced performance can indeed work in tandem.

Salomé Berlemont-Gilles

About Salomé Berlemont-Gilles

Salomé Berlemont-Gilles has over 12 years of experience in content creation, strategy, and strategic communications. Her client list spans tech, luxury, and the arts, working with both corporate giants and startups. At Graitec Innovation and LVMH, she boosted engagement and drove digital change. She's also a published author, with two books to her name. Outside of work, Salomé enjoys reading, writing, her cats, cooking, traveling, and being a mom.

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