Like many little girls influenced by Disney, I was obsessed with the idea of living under the sea as a mermaid. Even now as a triathlete, I wish I could glide gracefully through the water like a mermaid (although the bike and run elements might be a bit more tricky)!
Turns out I’m not alone in my mermaid fantasies as there is a whole community of people who enjoy wearing a shimmering tail and seashell bra. One of these fans is Anna Haskell, founder of South Coast Mermaids which offers mermaid swimming lessons, experiences and parties. I was invited down to Arundel Lido to channel my inner Ariel at one of Anna’s sessions.
On arriving at the pool, we chose our mermaid tails from the huge range of colours and styles supplied by Fin Fun Mermaid. I went for the gorgeous Pacific Pearl Atlantis design which has scales of periwinkle, mint, and aqua and 3D side and back fins. It looked great with my neon Funkita Eye Candy swimsuit.
The tails are made up of a monofin which is a rigid rubber fin with stretchy ‘socks’ attached to secure your feet and ankles. Over the monofin sits the printed fabric mermaid tail. It takes a bit of wriggling to pull the tail up and over your hips- probably the least graceful part of being a mermaid!
What is it like to swim with a mermaid tail?
The technique for swimming in a mermaid tail is the dolphin kick, a full-body undulating movement. I must admit I instantly wanted to kick my legs as I usually would when swimming, so it felt strange to move my legs as one unit. The power comes from the core and hips whilst the arms move in a breast-stroke like motion.
Once we had mastered the basics, we practised some more advanced mermaid swim techniques, like the tail-flick and log-roll. Mastering a hand-stand with our tails out of the water looked really cool with Arundel Castle in the background!
Actually the worst part was swimming without goggles or a cap and getting chlorine in my eyes and hair wrapped around my face!
Is it safe to swim with a mermaid tail?
There’s been some negative press around the safety of swimming with legs bound together in a mermaid tail, particularly for children.
South Coast Mermaids keep safety as their top priority. Children must have a particular swim ability and able to complete certain skills to take part in a mermaid session. The Fin Fun tails have a quick-release system so you can simply slip your feet out of the monofin. There are no straps holding you in, so you don’t feel ‘trapped’ inside the tail.
Endurance mermaid swimming
Mermaid swimming isn’t just about splashing around looking glamourous, it’s actually become the newest endurance sport. Anna actually completed a 12-hour continuous swim in a mermaid tail covering an incredible 30.4km!
Next, she’s swimming the distance of the English channel (in the pool) in a mermaid tail which should take around 14 hours. The provisional date is 20th September, you can choose a session to swim alongside her and be part of a world record.