Yes, There Are Mermaids
The mermaid obsession might make mythological sightings, poolside staples.
When Columbus sailed to the New World, he reported spotting mermaids in the warm, shallow waters of the Caribbean. Despite the mythological sighting, he was unimpressed, noting that the creatures were by no means as beautiful as depicted in folktales. Though he and his crew probably confused manatees, or sea cows, for the fabled mermaids, a recent trend might make mermaid sightings much more likely. Across the globe, females of all ages are donning mermaid tails, bringing aquatic fantasies to life.
Beautiful, alluring, and mysterious, these mythological creatures sum up salient aspects of femininity that continue to resonate with kids and adults alike. It’s no wonder Disney’s The Little Mermaid, or Daryl Hannah in Splash, still delight audiences.
Recently, the cultural obsession with mermaids was brought to new heights when celebrities like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus hopped on the trend, wearing skimpy bikini tops and monofin fishtails to give their under-the-sea fantasies a more tangible feel. Mermaid outfits are not just for Halloween parties anymore; they’re the perfect ensemble for a day spent luxuriating by the pool, beach, or even your bathtub.
To meet the growing demand, “mermaid schools” are springing up around the world, where girls can learn exactly how to swim strapped to wearable tails. In Toronto, the Aquamermaid program surfaced in February of 2015, chock-full of mermaid aficionados eager to learn all the aquatic tricks. Sixty dollars, plus the cost of a rental tail, covers a one-hour class where students learn to effortlessly glide through the water. It’s actually much harder than you might think.
“You can feel it in your stomach and hips the whole time,” fifty-seven-year-old Nancy Mactavish told the CBC. The tails are not just a hobby, they’re a full lower body and core workout.
They’re also good business. The classes were so popular when they started in Montreal, they quickly spawned similar programs in Toronto. “We actually have a lot of popularity in our adult classes, surprisingly,” said Olivia Ginty, a certified lifeguard who calls herself a “mermaid instructor.”
The mermaid trend has also managed to swim across the pond. In Tarragona, Spain, a small town just south of Barcelona, the Sirenas Mediterranean Academy has introduced over 500 students to the mer-lifestyle, attracting devotees from as far and away as Turkey. Founded in 2013 by Susana Seuma, the Academy was her way of dealing with a debilitating car accident that left her unable to continue at her job as a sales floor manager.
At first, Seuma used the tails purely for recreation, but quickly realized their therapeutic qualities. She currently teaches several clients who’ve found new inner strength following crippling physical injuries. One young Spanish woman recently had a leg amputated, but there was no evidence of her disability as she swam through the water in her monofin.
“She looked every bit the mermaid,” Seuma beamed to the Wall Street Journal.
While some are quick to jump on the bandwagon, others urge pause. Several pools have banned monofins, labeling them unsafe especially for novice swimmers.
“I suppose this is an activity that beats nothing…but from a safety perspective I’d much rather see people teaching their kids to swim and to stay on the surface where lifeguards can monitor them,” B. Chris Brewster, president of the United States Lifesaving Association, told the Wall Street Journal.
The pop star is thoroughly enthralled with monofins, donning them on more than one occasion. Here she’s shown relaxing with her two sons, Jayden and Sean.
Apart from dressing as a mermaid for Halloween, Kim treated her daughter North, and niece Penelope to monofin lessons while on vacation in the Caribbean.
The VMA host recently wore a fishtail for an Instagram post. She’s just being Miley.
That hasn’t stopped a whole host of celebs from diving into the new trend. Back in July 2015, Miley Cyrus was photographed sporting her mermaid tail. In August, Kim Kardashian Instagrammed pictures of her daughter North and niece Penelope taking mer-classes on their family vacation on St. Barts. Britney Spears also posed with her sons in full mermaid garb.
The mermaid obsession isn’t just for kids. At Dive Bar in Sacramento, California, dozens of professional mermaids entertain patrons through a series of elaborate routines in a forty-foot aquarium populated with fish. It’s no easy feat, especially in a tank filled with seventy-five hundred gallons of salt water. Even seasoned swimmers find the work pretty grueling.
“It’s really hard, which is something I don’t think people fully understand, because we want it to look effortless,” Rachel Smith, who’s been working at the bar since it opened in 2011, told Fast Company. “Our legs are tied together, the fish are running into us, and it’s dark. Our tails weigh up to thirty-five pounds, but the salt water makes us float, so we have another ten pounds strapped between out legs; the movement is all from your core, so your abs are really working as you go.”
The whole phenomenon was propelled, at least in the past decade, by networks of online communities. These merfolk take their obsession to the next level by speaking in mermish—a neological language formed with words from books about mermaids, fused with their own linguistic inventions. Some have even grown their hobby into a livelihood, and source of celebrity.
Whether it’s girls looking to live out childhood fantasies, moms searching for a core workout that rivals Pilates, or celebs getting in on the trend, anyone can partake in the mermaid obsession. While Columbus might have mistaken manatees for mermaids, if he was around today he’d be hard-pressed to refer to these fishtailed ladies as anything less than breathtaking.
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