How to become a mermaid (no, really!)

Who hasn’t wished they were a mermaid at some point? Thanks to rise of “mermaiding,” children and adults alike can now live out these dreams of being half-fish, half-human.

To make the splashy escape into a fantastical underwater realm, all aspiring merpeople need is a costume mermaid tail, a sizable body of water and a healthy dose of imagination. While mermaid photoshoots are a popular activity, the mermaid tails themselves are also quite functional for swimming:

Of course, for some people, mermaiding is not just a hobby — it’s a profession. Whether they’re delighting audiences in aquarium shows or providing learning opportunities for tourists to get their own fins wet, the life of a professional mermaid is very much a real thing.

Just ask Agatha Henry, a mermaid instructor for the Phillippine Mermaid Swimming Academy (PMSA) on the island of Boracay. Every day, Henry (pictured below) dons her elastic Lycra tail and takes to the ocean to teach her students the ways of the mermaid.

During these mermaid lessons, Henry and her fellow instructors teach their students everything from mermaid swimming strokes and proper breathing to vital safety and self rescue techniques.

“To be a mermaid, you have to be able to hold your breath for extended periods of time, all the while maintaining composure and grace,” Henry tells MNN. “It is physically demanding, but it’s part of the fun.”

PMSA instructors are certified through the International Mermaid Swimming Instructors Association (IMSIA), which offers professional training for both performers and instructors.

So what’s it like to teach mermaid classes for a living? Well, first and foremost, when the ocean is literally your “office,” every day is a beach day! Secondly, all the swimming and physical activity is great for staying in shape.

The personal benefits are just one piece of the pie, though. Henry and her fellow mermaid instructors are also given a unique opportunity to take part in local conservation efforts and share the importance of the oceans with students.

“I get to learn all about marine conservation, and I get to participate in activities such as coral planting and reef rehabilitation,” Henry explains. “I get to do my small part in what should be a worldwide effort to ensure that our oceans will remain as vibrant and alive for generations to come.”

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