As long as I’ll live, I will never understand why Ariel was so desperate to get out of that ocean. You’re a mermaid princess, you’re an up-and-coming musical sensation with the court composer writing songs just for you, and you’ve got a massive underwater cave full of cool, weird stuff. Talk about ungrateful.
Ever since I was eight and watched the epic mermaid movie Splash !, I was obsessed with all things fin-related. I turned socks into tails for my Barbie dolls and would stay in the bath at night for hours trying – and failing – to turn my skin into scales.
Many years later, my obsession with new seashells may have finally been vindicated because Mermaids are everywhere in 2017. Kim K hung out with mermaids on vacay with Penelope Disick and North West, Miley Cyrus shoed off her Blankie Tail on Instagram and Vanessa Hudgens and Bella Thorne have both posted photos wearing beautiful mermaid tails.
Ariel might have had gadgets and gizmos a-plenty but we’ve got t-shirts, tote bags, scale print leggings and a mermaid-inspired make up line from Cover Girl on the way. Even
Splash! is getting the Hollywood remake treatment, this time with Channing Tatum playing the role made famous by Daryl Hannah – thank you, gender equality. But what if a mermaid tail blanket isn’t enough to satiate your fin fever? Obviously there’s only one thing you can do: you go to mermaid school.
The Dalands Swim School in Thousand Oaks, California didn’t seem like a likely spot to run into a bunch of mermaids – we were half an hour from the beach for a start – but when I arrived, I was met by Virginia Haskins, aka Catalina Mermaid and owner of Sheroes Entertainment and founder of the LA Mermaid school.
While still on two legs, Virginia explained I would be crashing a training session for her ‘professional mermaids’ – performers who travel all over the world attending events and product launches, playing mermaids in films and hosting children’s parties. Although I’m guessing these are very different parties to the ones I attended down the local leisure centre in Doncaster.
Waiting on the edge of the pool were four women sat next to a mermaid tail holding a bottle of baby oil. Watching them oil up their legs, wriggle in and out of their tails and shuffle up and down the pool on their bellies, I’d say it’s probably easier to trade your voice to the sea witch. But once they were in, it was worth it. The tails are insanely beautiful, each one custom made from dragonskin silicon by Finfolk productions, costing upwards of $3500. Since it was my first time in fins, I opted for a more affordable tail from
The 2 Tails, a woman-owned mermaid tail manufacturer in Los Angeles. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as the silicon tails but as soon as I pulled it up over my legs, something amazing happened. I was a mermaid. Not literally, but you get what I mean.
Once I was in the water, Virginia took me through some basic moves. Since mermaids don’t have knees, all your tail movements have to come from your hips and your core and while you can use your arms to pull yourself along, most mermaids don’t, so front crawl isn’t really an option. Once I’d got to grips with the basics, Virginia and the other mermaids showed some synchronized swimming drills and I started practicing the tricks of the trade.
Turns out professional mermaiding isn’t all flipping your fins and splashing about in the pool. Every mermaid has to be able to entertain a crowd and that means performing on the bottom of the pool or tank, blowing bubble kisses and even showing off your best tail stand, all with a smile on your face. And trust me, grinning like a loon when you’re struggling for breath and blinded by chlorine is MUCH harder than it sounds. Have you ever tried to sink to the bottom of a swimming pool with your legs strapped together and then blow out all the air in your lungs? If you have, well done, it’s incredibly difficult.
The greatest skill to being a mermaid is making the whole thing look easy when it really isn’t. Not only are the girls from Sheroes beautiful, graceful, and elegant, they’re also practiced entertainers and trained lifeguards with CPR, AED, and First Aid certifications.
And talk about strong. Ninety minutes in the pool wearing my tail was tougher than any workout I’ve ever endured and by the end I was exhausted. My core ached from swimming without using my legs, my arms burned from heaving myself in and out of the pool and no number of handsome princes could have lured me away from a post-pool nap. Mermaid fitness classes are usually the big thing.
Mermaids might be having ‘a moment’ but I discovered there is a massive ‘mer community’ already out there. Ely Pouget, creator of The 2 Tails mermaid tail estimates that they have sold almost one million tails to everyone from toddlers to wannabe mermen worldwide.
There are even where you can learn how to flip your fins.
Tired, damp and with supposedly waterproof mascara all over my face, when the session was up, I said farewell to my new merfriends but as I readjusted to life on the land, I was sad. I’d expected to have fun and I’d hoped to meet some interesting people but what I hadn’t anticipated was the sheer joy of whizzing along the bottom of a pool, how happy I was every time I mastered a move and meeting such genuinely enthusiastic and happy people. I had fallen in love with mermaiding.
To quote my new merbuddy Splash (or Odette to use her land name), mermaiding gives you a real sense of ‘Fin-ergy’ and by god, if there’s anything I love more than mermaids, it’s a pun and these girls were full of them. Fin-tastic. So if there are any mermaids out there who want to trade my legs for their tail, I’m more than up for it. Call me crazy if you like but I just want to be part of that world.
Written by Lindsey Kelk for Glamour Magazine