Whose idea was this? Let’s create a thing that binds kids’ legs together and then they can jump in the pool! We’ll make it even more irresistible by modeling it after a Disney character and turning the kids into mermaids. Yes, mermaid tails have arrived.
You can go to school in Toronto or Montreal to learn how to swim with mermaid tails, The Toronto Star reports:
Disney’s aqua-heroine Ariel longed to be human, but a mermaid school that hopes to come to Toronto offers the opposite: a taste of life under the sea for two-legged folks.
AquaMermaid, launched in Montreal earlier this month, teaches kids and adults how to glide through the water wearing mermaid tails from the waist down.
“It’s just a fairy tale in everyday life,” says founder Marielle Chartier Hénault, who hopes to open a Toronto location this summer.
The idea came to Hénault, a model, during an underwater photo shoot in which she posed as one of the mythical sea creatures. “I really liked that experience and I thought it was a really good workout,” she says.
Call me a killjoy, but this mermaid thing just sounds like a bad idea. You can package it up as a good workout, and this is something proponents like to do:
AquaMermaid classes, held at various wave pools throughout Montreal, are based on synchronized swimming techniques. During the poolside warm-up, students lie on their sides practising the abs-intensive “undulation movement” — a skill that any self-respecting mermaid must master. Slowly, they make their way underwater, their legs bound by scaly spandex in hot pinks and blues.
But just how great is the workout anyway?
It’s not exactly a demanding exercise, suggests New York fitness blogger Jessi Kneeland, but then again a fun activity like this doesn’t have to justify itself on those grounds.
“Calling it a good workout is a bit patronizing and misleading,” Kneeland told the Star, suggesting it’s also unnecessary, “as though the joy of acting out our favorite childhood fantasies wasn’t enough of a reason to do something.”
Forget the quality of the workout. I’m not down with the idea of selling a childhood fantasy either, especially at the cost of safety. Isn’t it enough to get little girls to want to be princesses? Do we need to throw mermaids into the mix along with them?
I’m not the only one who worries about the safety of a swimming costume that binds the legs together. Edmonton just banned mermaid tails from city pools. It’s not for the reasons that might first occur to you — that is, the fear that inexperienced swimmers will drown with their legs bound. Though that is of course a concern, the real worry is about the children who swim proficiently with the tails. The City is worried they’ll hold their breath for too long, black out, and drown.
Rob Campbell, supervisor of aquatic recreation for the City of Edmonton, said the mermaid tails could make for a great 10-year-olds birthday party with the right supervision.
“We might get there, but right now we’re just more concerned about the safety of patrons.”
The colourful mermaid suits with sparkles and fish-scale patterns are sold online and started to take off about a year ago. A mermaid school in Montreal opened several months ago with fitness classes for children and adults.
Strong swimmers can use them to swim like a fish underwater, but Campbell is concerned children might take several large breaths in a row or hold their breath for too long and black out as they swim.
“If you black out in a pool, you’re going to drown. That’s the biggest problem with it,” he said.
Even experienced swimmers can fall victim to what the industry calls “shallow water blackout,” Campbell added. If anyone plans to use the mermaid suits at a lake this summer, they should be supervising their children very closely to make sure they don’t hold their breath underwater too many times in a row.
Calgary, also in Alberta, is not imposing an outright ban. But according to this report they are requiring anyone who wants to wear the tails to take a test, as follows:
For now, Calgary lifeguards are making swimmers take the following test before they can wear their toys in a public pool. They must:
- Swim 25 meters continuously.
- Tread water for two minutes.
- Swim with confidence while wearing the mermaid fin.
“There’s concerns that people won’t be able to save themselves or they might not be able to make it to the edge or stand up and that’s why we have a safety test,” said Jack Birkett, aquatic operations co-ordinator for the City of Calgary.
The Lifesaving Society of Alberta recommends pools across the province also adopt a “mermaid swim test,” and not ban them.
I’ve not seen them face to face, but it sounds as if the mermaid tails are getting popular enough that they’ll be making appearances at pools and beaches everywhere this summer.
If you want a sense of how they work and what the kids look like when they’re swimming in these suits, check out the video at the beginning of this article on cbc.ca. I confess that it looks kind of cool. But I wouldn’t be rushing out to let my kid (if I had a kid) attend a birthday party organized around learning to swim with mermaid tails.
Not only do they strike me as unnecessarily risky, but combining that with the Disney princess/mermaid thing…no thank you.