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Mermaiding, the artistic swimming activity in which people wear mermaid fins and tails, is growing in popularity around the world.
The activity has led to the formation of mermaid swim schools, groups and conventions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Philippines and China, according to the Associated Press.
Previously, entertainment venues around the country had led the performative sport.
Such venues hired trained swimmers with acting chops, including professional mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hill, Florida, and various casinos and lounges in Las Vegas.
Conservationists and visual artists also brought attention to the sport in the early 2000s as they donned mermaid tails while swimming with sea life or while serving as educators or entertainers at parties or special events.
Mermaiding has become more accessible with the rise of monfins and fabric mermaid tail companies that sell these themed swimming accessories to children and adults.
Hobbyists and professionals opt to swim in pools and open water for personal enjoyment.
“Life is so much better when you learn to have just a little bit of fun, or a lot bit of fun, because we all believe in magic at some point,” Merman Maui of Los Angeles told the Associated Press.
“A lot of times, life can get pretty dull and boring,” he added.
“So why not just enjoy every aspect of it that you can?”
Maui, a dancer and choreographer, documents his merman adventures on social media and works with three mermaid production companies, according to his Instagram account.
Marielle Henault of Montreal also told the Associated Press that she thinks mermaiding is a fun activity.
“When you put your mermaid tail on at the beach or pool, you become a superstar,” Henault, 31, said.
“Kids and adults — everybody’s happy to see a mermaid,” she continued.
Henault’s love of mermaiding has helped her grow her business, the AquaMermaid School.
It offers mermaid swim lessons, certification, mermaid tail rentals, purchasable mermaid apparel (seashell bras, silicone and fabric tails, monofins and T-shirts) and mermaid performer bookings throughout Canada and the U.S.
Over in Australia, Lauren Metzler, founder of Sydney Mermaids, is planning to teach mermaid swim classes now that she has her certification.
She likes to swim at Manly Cove Beach, a popular swimming destination in Sydney.
“Some people have a coffee in the morning to wake up. Some people have a mermaid swim,” Metzler told the Associated Press.
“The more we open up our imagination and accept everyone for how they are, it makes it more of a beautiful experience,” she continued.
“The sky — or ocean floor — is the limit of what you can do with mermaiding.”
In the Philippines, mermaid swim instructor Queen Pangke Tabora has been teaching swimming and freediving lessons full-time at a rock beach in south Manila.
“The world outside is really noisy and you will find peace underwater,” Tabora told the Associated Press. “It’s a good skill in the real world, especially during the pandemic.”
Tabora’s mermaid school, DIVERSity by SeaReynang Pengki, references the mermaid community’s acceptance and her personal journey as a transgender Filipina woman.
“Everyone can be a mermaid,” said Tabora to the AP.
Last year in China, mermaiding received mainstream recognition from Guinness World Records after 110 professional mermaids performed the world’s largest underwater mermaid show at the Atlantis Sanya, an ocean-themed resort in Sanya, Hainan Island.
Mermaiding comes with its own set of risks, since the participants’ feet and legs are bound together with monofins and tails.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and Swim School International (SSI) all offer courses in mermaiding.
Fin Fun Mermaid, a leading monofin and mermaid tail company, shares a safety guide that recommends aspiring mermaids follow seven safety procedures when entering any body of water.
The tips include swimming when there’s adult supervision (particularly for children); making sure you’ve already mastered regular swimming; putting on monofins at the edge of the water instead of hopping in with legs bound; swimming only in areas where you’re comfortable; learning how to kick off monofins and tails in case of an emergency; making sure you know how to breathe while swimming or floating on your back; and being considerate of other people in your surroundings.
Mermaid conventions (“Mercons”) are now held globally — and just recently, masses of “merfolk” swarmed New York streets for the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.