A mermaid’s tale

Ever wondered how amazing it could be if human beings had tails to swim like fish? Well, do not wonder any further because Mermaids Academies are opening all over the world.

by Julia Migné

Emily Keat, alias Cornish mermaid. © Derek Whickers

From Spain to the Philippines, passing by the USA and even the colder waters of the UK, Mermaids Academies have been emerging for the past couple of years across the globe. If you ever obsessed over the Little Mermaid as a little girl, this might be your chance to relive those childhood fantasies!

Becoming a mermaid though is not all about having fun while wearing a glamorous tail. Emily Keat, also known as the Cornish Mermaid, explains: “It’s hard work! It’s really psychological because your body is always going to tell you that you need to breath. So you’ve got to tell yourself that once you’ve done a couple breath up and everything, then you can hold your breath. After that, you just have to carry on and train yourself.”

Indeed, Freedive UK, a British company holding mermaid courses, is specialised in free diving which means that wanna-be mermaids can learn how to hold their breath underwater instead of using an oxygen tank. Of course, it would not be a mermaid course without involving you wearing a tail and — that’s where the fun begins.

A real mermaid have to be ready to brave the waves.© Emily Keat

“It’s not all about swimming in a straight line though,” reads Freedive UK’s website. “We teach you how to pose, move in 3 dimensions, swim with your eyes open and generally to remain looking good despite everything else!”

Swimming underwater with open-eyes, however, is no simple task. “The hardest part I found was to look elegant underwater,” says Emily. “Obviously you don’t wear a mask so you can’t see a thing but it’s all worth it, it’s really funny.”

But swimming with a tail does not just improve your underwater elegance, it’s actually also a serious workout. In addition to improving your endurance, it also strengthens your lower back, your abs, but also your arms, which have to compensate the fact that your legs are stacked together in a tail.

The tails can be made from various materials, depending mostly if they are to be displayed for show or tailored for serious swimming. If you have a passion for design, you can even try to make your own tail! Emily designed her first one in latex and explains that it took her about three months to finish it.

“I decided to make all the scales individually and to put them on individually, so it was tedious but since then I’ve made a silicon one and it took a lot less time to make. It’s a lot more durable as well, and that one took me altogether I think about three weeks. “

Unfortunately, silicon has a cost and the whole tail price tag reached almost £800. No worries though, all mermaid schools provide you with the tails and equipment so you don’t have to design your own.

“The hardest part I found was to look elegant under water.” © Mehgan Heaney-Grier

According to Fortune, there are around a thousand professional mermaids in the USA alone. Linda Wolbert, Freediving “Entrepremermaid & Edutainer, has been one of the earliest one. In addition to performing on films, adverts and in aquariums, Linda is also campaigning for the protection of the ocean and produced a few years ago an educational web series called Mermaid Minute.

So if you are passionate about swimming, designing tails or ocean conservation, or if you just want a fun and original workout, head to your nearest mermaid school and have a dive!

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