Before you take the plunge, this is what you should know if you're planning to learn how to mermaid while you're onboard theGenting Dream cruise.
8 DAYS: What are some key things that beginners should look out for the first time they swim in a mermaid tail?
KATRIN GRAY: First of all, make sure your swimming skills are good and you feel completely comfortable in water. Make sure to either have an experienced buddy with you in the water or someone who supervises you directly. Then, get into your tail and give it a go.
Besides the ability to swim, what other qualities should mermaid students have?
It depends on what level you want to practice mermaiding. If you do it just as a hobby in swimming pools, the fitness level doesn’t have to be too high but you should generally be in good condition. If you want to work as a mermaid or practice mermaiding on a little more intense level or maybe even go for swims in open water, you definitely need to have a good fitness level. Mermaiding is exhausting and blisters and cramps always happen.
What are the adjustments you have to make when you're swimming with the tail?
First of all, you need to be an experienced and confident swimmer before you start swimming in a tail. Being a mermaid is tiring and many people, especially children, underestimate how hard it actually is. The movement, which is a whole-body movement that stretches like a wave from your chest into your feet, comes pretty natural for most of my students. But some people have trouble understanding the principle of the movement and bend their knees too much while keeping their upper body pretty stiff. It is important to remember that the whole body needs to move and the knees only bend a tiny bit — remember that real-life mermaids don’t have knees!
You're also able to hold your breath for three-and-a-half minutes. Is that even humanly possible?
They key to a long breath hold is relaxation. During the preparation for a breath hold, you need to concentrate on belly-breathing and ideally exhale twice as long as you inhale. Your body and mind should be relaxed during a breath hold, you should not think about the time. Yoga and other breathing exercises are a great addition to breath hold training and of course, I recommend joining a proper freediving course. Please never practice breath holds in the water without an experienced buddy. Even with the right training, there is always a risk of blacking out.
What other types of training do you do to keep in shape for the job?
I do like to practice yoga since it helps you to control your body, mind and breathing. It helps you to relax and to see the positive in everything. I have done all sorts of sport my whole life — ice-skating, gymnastics, dancing, horseback riding, riding motorbikes, kickboxing etc. I think I have a pretty good fitness level. Therefore, I don’t have to train particular muscle groups. Yoga and mermaiding keep me fit enough.
What’s one thing that your beginner students always tell you about trying to swim with the mermaid tail on?
They are surprised at how tiring it is. Most students are just so excited that they actually forget that they have to swim with their legs tight together. Often, I get e-mails from parents telling me that their children went to bed much earlier than usual because they were just so exhausted!
How did you first get the idea of setting up the first mermaid school in the world?
Like most little girls, I had a dream of turning into a real-life mermaid. About 20 years after I watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid for the first time, I became a scuba diving instructor and then decided to make this childhood dream come true. I created my first tail out of a monofin, neoprene and latex paint. It was nice to look at but not as effective and practical to swim in as my tails today. I was already working as a scuba instructor when I created my first tail, so I already felt at home underwater. I took freediving classes to learn the right techniques on how to hold my breath for a longer time. Practicing the mermaid movement was not really necessary because I had practiced that movement since I was a child. All my life I basically played “being a mermaid” every time I was in the water and swam dolphin style underwater. In May 2012, I officially became Mermaid Kat. I lived in Thailand back then and quickly people found out about that “girl with the fish tail” from Phuket. I got hired for birthday party and luxury events. Performing as a mermaid made me realise that I wasn’t the only girl who dreamed about being a mermaid. So I decided to help others to fulfil their dreams too. As a scuba instructor, I taught people on how to be safe in and underwater all the time, so I decided to open the Mermaid Kat Academy.
You’re also an underwater model. What’s the secret to looking great underwater?
For underwater photo shoots, you need to have many years of training in scuba diving and freediving. You need to be able to hold your breath for several minutes underwater and still be able to look natural when salt and chlorine water get into your eyes, nose and sinuses. You must be completely relaxed in the water and work mostly blind, as you can’t see clearly without a mask or goggles. You might work in bad water conditions like big waves, strong currents and cold temperatures. Sea sickness, hypothermia, ear infections and sinus infections are basically part of your job. Usually it is quite easy to keep your eyes open when you swim underwater as a mermaid. Only some swimming pools have a very bad water quality and sting your eyes so much that you can’t keep them open. Saltwater and good water condition pools sting too but after a short while you’ll get used to it. If you keep your eyes open underwater without a mask, you cannot see clearly. Depending on the light and visibility, you might see shadows, shades, shapes and colours. Without a mask, water will also enter your nose. That’s another thing a professional mermaid has to get used to. Some mermaid performers may use masks or nose clips to avoid water entering the nose and sinuses. I prefer using only my skills even if it means being less comfortable underwater.
Mermaid Academy At Sea is happening on Genting Dream from May 25 to June 8. For bookings and more info, go to https://www.dreamcruiseline.com/en/.
Photos: Genting Cruise Lines