The thing about water shoes is that you don’t realize you need them until you’re head over cut-up heels in some godforsaken watering hole in western Massachusetts. But when you do get around to searching for a pair, you’ll immediately notice that most are of the geriatric-scuba variety that read as deeply uncool unless you can style them with Cecilie Bahnsen. Or unless they’re the Nabaiji Aquafun from crunchy sports brand Decathlon, which look like a crossbreed of The Row’s sold-out-everywhere nylon sock shoe and Loewe’s PVC Flow Runner. (Dominant traits: a “naked” design and slipperlike shape).
We’ve been on Aquafun Watch since February, when fashion person and illustrator Jenny Walton put them on her Instagram Stories from a holiday in Miami. She’d bought them, it turns out, six months before, in Milan — she’d been looking for an air mattress at the Decathlon shop when she stumbled upon them. “They immediately made me think of The Row,” she says of the Aquafuns, which she first saw last summer in Marche, where a few Italians were wearing them on the rocky beaches.
Though the Aquafuns are technically available online on the Decathlon site and at Walmart, they are nearly impossible to procure (unless your size falls on the extreme ends of the spectrum). For as long as we’ve tracked them — the last four months — they’ve stayed consistently out of stock in sizes 6.5–7.5, 8–9, and 9.5–10.5. Why could this be? The Aquafun is constructed entirely from polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC, otherwise known as good ol’ swimming-in-your-bloodstream plastic. With that bit of knowledge, the mystery likely comes down to — say it with us — supply-chain issues. According to B2B site Plastics Today, there is a shortage of PVC right now due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has “played havoc with the price of oil” and subsequently, that of plastic. (Decathlon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
As of press time, just two of six sizes are available — a rare women’s 8–9 and a dainty 5–5.5 — so we’d recommend doing what we’ve done: Keep Decathlon and Walmart open as perma-tabs. (We haven’t found the email-alert system to be fast enough — once, we were notified that the 6.5–7.5s were back in stock, but they’d already disappeared when we clicked in. And there are seemingly no non-sketchy alternative stockists of the Aquafun out there.)
Walton, meanwhile, is now on a separate hunt — for an elusive all-clear version, which she also spotted on an Italian gentleman in Marche last summer. We haven’t been able to track down any all-clear Aquafuns, but did find these, from Cressi, which are just about $10 more and easily available in most sizes.)
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