FOR AS LONG AS I REMEMBER, I had never felt comfortable in water. My childhood dream of becoming a mermaid faded away as soon as I tried learning to swim – I felt I was just not made for it. I kept choking, felt panicky and could never really relax.
So I forgot about this little dream, and went on with my life.
One day on a trip abroad I was given the chance to scuba-dive with sharks in an aquarium. I was so impressed by these animals that I became passionate about them, did some research and came across mermaid Hannah Fraser, who had danced under water with tiger sharks. My forgotten childhood dream was reignited, and I decided that I would make it happen – I would become a mermaid.
I bought my very first swimmable-fabric mermaid tail online from Finfun, but my first mermaid swim in a pool with my sister felt horrible as the chlorinated water burnt my eyes. This was far from my vision of being the Little Mermaid.
However, I kept pushing my psychological and physical boundaries and, over time, reached a level of confidence I would never have expected.
With sharks on the Twin Sisters wreck in the Bahamas at 13m.
My passion for sharks led me to want to raise awareness of their need for protection. The Jaws image still pervades, but as divers know sharks are an integral part of the eco-system, help to regulate it and deserve to be respected and defended.
I discovered with joy a video of Deepblue, said to be the largest female great white ever seen, off Mexico, and decided that my mermaid name should be Mermaid Deepblue.
Now I needed to learn to scuba-dive properly if I wanted to enjoy plenty of inwater time with the sharks while, for the mermaiding, I needed to perfect the art of freediving. And both skills would be essential for my planned underwater modelling.
Luckily at that time, 2014/15, mermaiding was trending in the UK. Freedive UK was proposing to run its first mermaid course, and I was a participant. Later, Learn 2 Freedive started offering mermaiding and freediving lessons, as well as occasional aquarium shows.
The first large UK mermaid event finally took place in 2017, as more than 300 “merfolk” gathered in Bexhill, making their mark for Guinness World Records.
I started on my freediving training, but unfortunately was stuck for two years at a maximum depth of 7m because of equalisation issues.
Unwilling to give up, however,
I contacted Steve Millard of Learn 2 Freedive, who immediately recognised the problems I was having. One weekend of open-water practice and I had passed my AIDA 2 depth exam – I was ecstatic!
I also qualified as a PADI Open Water Diver and started diving with sharks, soon followed by my first modelling experience with them, guided by talented photographer Pia Oyarzún from the Made in Water project.
Her eye for amazing dive-spots and the professionalism she and her safety team displayed enabled me to achieve amazing outcomes very safely from the outset.