Tackling the recent scaremongering in the press has suddenly shot up my priority list, after a series of badly researched articles in some actually quite sensible newspapers. To my shame, one of them is one I used to work for…
Here’s the thing.
Mermaid tails are not inherently dangerous.
Photography by Grace Hill for Mermaiding UK
No more than snowboards, skis, BMX bikes, pole dancing, scuba diving, archery, getting on an aeroplane, driving, or any number of other perfectly normal sports & pursuits.
In all of which yes, you can die. If you are stupid enough to undertake a sport without any training and push it and your body to extremes, if you don’t take sensible precautions, if you undertake a sport alone with no buddy or safety spotter, and sometimes if you are just extremely unlucky.
The current story doing the rounds highlights one Harry Byatt, who drowned while snorkelling, wearing a monofin, in Zakynthos this summer.
While his death is of course tragic, he was not mermaiding – he was wearing a monofin, as divers and freedivers and snorkellers worldwide have done since the 1970s.
Freediving, while an extreme sport, is generally considered dangerous due to the extended breath hold and the depths divers reach, rather than the fin, which is simply a propellor.
He was not wearing a mermaid tail. He was not teaching mermaiding. Harry Byatt’s death had nothing to do with mermaiding. His death is, unfortunately, getting a lot of press attention because his mum was lady-in-waiting to Princess Diana. Which has nothing to do with mermaids or mermaiding.
If you have never touched a snowboard before, you don’t strap yourself to one and immediately launch yourself down the nearest black run with no training, backup or practice.
If you use your bike to commute to work on a road, you don’t start flinging it around underneath you the first time you ride it down a ramp at a skate park.
If you don’t drive, you don’t get in the nearest car, learn how to change gear and then immediately rag it round a racetrack at 100mph.
Similarly, if you have never worn a mermaid tail, you don’t start in the sea and you don’t immediately start trying to do tricks.
Like any other piece of sports equipment, you spend time getting used to it, you learn how it works and its limitations.
My recommendation for your first few swims in a mermaid tail is to make sure you’re in water you can stand up in – stay in the shallow end, or use a pool with a constant depth. It means if you do get into difficulty, you can just right yourself and stand up, or kick off the tail and stand up.
Never swim alone
The first rule of swimming, let alone mermaiding, is never swim alone. Never, ever, even get into a pool without someone else around who is capable of getting you out of the water in an emergency.
Regardless of your ability, experience and knowledge, accidents can and do happen, so swimming with a buddy is the safest way to enjoy the water. With or without a tail!
Children in tails
If you are a parent with a child who is desperate to be a mermaid, it is your job to make sure they are safe. This means:
- Making sure they can actually swim before letting them try a tail.
- Don’t just buy them a tail, help them put it on, coo at how sweet they look and then let them get on with it – it’s not difficult but it is a different movement to the ones taught in most swimming lessons, so will take some getting used to.
- If buying a tail, doing your homework and making sure it is reputable and has safety features (like the ones I’ve chosen to stock, which have quick release foot pockets, are buoyancy neutral and are open ended).
- Staying with your child and keeping an eye at all times while they are swimming.
- If possible, booking a mermaid class so they can learn in the safest possible environment.
- Not letting them swim alone or just with their friends, with a tail.
This is basic common sense – and if common sense is used, mermaid tails and monofins are no more dangerous than any other piece of sporting equipment.
If I sound patronising or like I am stating the obvious, it’s because there is an old video which does the rounds every now and again, where the captions are all “mermaid tails cause small child to nearly drown” and when you watch it, it’s obvious that the pool is too deep for the child’s ability even without a tail, and the parent just leaves the child to it, and she doesn’t have the ability to right herself.
Remember the pros have training
Professional mermaids make it look easy – with their beautiful photos, long breath holds, underwater grace, open eyes and bubble kisses, they can give the impression that anyone can do this.
It’s (literally) their job to make it look realistic and effortless.
While I don’t want to shatter the illusion of real mermaids, especially for little ones for whom it is completely magical, I do want to emphasise that these ladies and gentlemen generally have a lot of training, a lot of experience and are not to be blithely imitated without similar training and experience.
Don’t push your limits
Mermaid tails are not inherently dangerous. Monofins are not inherently dangerous. But like any sport and sporting equipment, they can be dangerous if used improperly, without training and without regard for safety and common sense.
The rising trend in mermaiding is not going to lead to more drownings unless people’s stupidity rises along with it.
Even real mermaids need to stay safe
Don’t swim alone, keep an eye on your kids, don’t try swimming in a tail if you’re not a strong swimmer, swim in lifeguarded areas – if you do all of these things, your tail will bring you more joy than I can articulate.
I am always happy to talk about safety – drop any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
With love & narwhals (because underwater unicorns),
Mermaid Kerenza Sapphire xoxo