I got stabbed by my board during Gloria and ended up with gangrene. Had a muscle and artery remove, and a skin graft laid over the hole. I've gotten used to using 1 fin while snorkling. I just put the sole of my fugged up foot on top of my good finned foot and use both legs.
Paipo sounds like a good way to get back into it. I have a friend who kneeboards, lost a leg in a MC accident years ago - dude charges I will try to post a pic or 2 from his last trip to Indo. He has no problem catching waves with 1 fin + arms. If you want to you will find a way to make it work.
Austin is a good place to start, really nice guy, talented shaper.
Yeah, my friend had a few boards shaped by Austin. I would love to surf but never really could. So I sponged and now going to get a paipo. I've had foot issues since 94 which would have made surfing very difficult if not impossible. Glad your friend is able get out there--a real inspiration
Austin Saunders makes quality surfcraft and starting building paipos after I chatted with him one day on a "ding repair run" while in VaBeach/Norfolk for work. He specialized in old style longboards but builds everything from paipo boards to the big dogs.
In terms of paipo design you have many options... probably more so than the normal range of foot surfing (shortboards, longboards, fishes, etc.). Choose something that fits your surfing style for starters and go from there. Fins or finless. As with other surfcraft the fin shape, size and configuration can turn a bad surfing vehicle into a great one or visa versa.
Swim fins are very personal--your foot size/shape and ankle/leg/knee strength are all factors. Try them on for fit on the land and then try them out in the water. Once you figure out "fit" you can focus on blade size (surface area) and blade flex in the water. Different fins also require a slightly different kick pattern so it usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to figure it out (less than a minute for others... either great or awful for you).
If you could somehow fuse to Churchills together w/ one foot pocket, so it looked like a dolphin tail, I think that would be ideal...there might be fin out there like that...I will look at some point today.
Back in the day, I saved up forever for my first set of church hills, and lost one the first time I used them. Went a whole year using just one. Took some getting used to, but totally doable. Webbed gloves helped.
The H2O's are the most common paddling gloves these days. There are several versions. I prefer the ones with the wetsuit type material for better grip and flexibility. There is a newer variety out that has a shiney hand surface but they tend to be stiffer and not as good a grip. Work into using paddling gloves gradually otherwise you might end up with shoulder problems.