"Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun..." Thousands of millenial girls in their tender years knew these lyrics; the singular hope and dream of The Little Mermaid, Ariel, was to be able to walk and run on land like a human. Ironically, even decades after Disney's now retro animated feature made a huge splash, nearly every little girl that watched it vice versa wanted the experience of being a mermaid. The dream continues for many and now thanks to Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy's swimming courses bubbly life beneath the surface is actually within reach. We spotted Andrea Brillantes joining a Boracay Mermaids swimming class at PMSA's Boracay HQ and we just needed to find out more for you frustrated humans. The mermaid school classes are now available at four locations in the Philippines: Manila, Boracay, Cebu, and Anilao, Batangas (Anilao details not yet on website).
"The idea of being a mermaid is more powerful than the fear of water." - Anamie Saenz, co-founder of the internationally recognized Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy (officially part of the International Mermaid Swimming Instructor's Association).
We caught up with Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy co-founder, Anamie Saenz (licensed NY makeup artist and past co-founder of Groupon PH) who together with long-time friend Normeth Preglo-Parzhuber a licensed diving instructor and Franziska Limmer, another licensed scuba diver, founded the school. Anamie answered a couple of relevant questions for us interested mermaiding applicants, no voice in exchange for a magical spell needed.
Do we need to know basic swimming before becoming mermaid students?
Anamie: Knowing basic swimming skills helps, specially if you've taken formal swimming lessons. With the regular swimming lessons you use both fit. With mermaid swimming, your feet and legs are together so you use a different swimming technique. This means different muscle groups are utilized plus and your usual buoyancy is also different. We do cater to non-swimmers but we suggest a private class. In fact we've had a few non-swimming adults who have learned to swim and overcome life long phobias/traumas from their childhood. The idea of being a mermaid is more powerful than the fear of the water.
How many sessions are involved in completing the first level and what are the skills taught at the start?
Anamie: We give Level 1 to students that complete and actively participate in the 90-minute lesson but are not totally confident with ALL the strokes. Level 2 is if they are able to complete and confidently execute all the basic mermaid swimming strokes.
Level 1/2 or Introduction to mermaid swimming:
• Mermaid introduction
• Mermaid tail fitting and rental
• Education on looking after and swimming with the tail
• Safety briefing
• Directed photoshoot – learn the most striking Mermaid poses (using your own camera)
• Mermaid lesson – learn the four basic swim strokes and breathing techniques
• Freestyle session – a chance to practise your new skills
• Max depth 3 meters
• Certificate card of achievement will be sent by mail
Anamie: Some students need to take a few of the intro classes before they can progress to Level 2. And some can go direct to Level 2 on their first try. Its different per individual. When the mermaid instructors assess, aside from having fun, safety is the main focus. Part of the safety is keeping in mind that if you've given a student a level 2 they will need to be ready to do level 3 (advanced) which means taking a boat out to sea and swimming at a 10 meter depth with confidence.
Level 3: Advanced Mermaiding
• Introduction to and theory on Advanced Mermaiding
• Introduction to the underwater world
• Learn techniques; proper use of snorkel gear, how to execute handstands, bubble-blowing and underwater mermaid tricks
• Learn advanced breath-holding techniques
• Learn the correct way to safely equalize
• Rescue and self-rescue exercises
• Max depth 10 meters
What are some of the health and physical fitness benefits of mermaid swimming?
Anamie: Swimming in general is a great cardio exercise. Mermaiding is the same but with more focus on the core. Before every lesson we do active stretching to warm up our muscles, from the head down, to avoid cramps during the lesson which happens often to swimmers due to the sudden change in temperature or using different muscle group the you're not used to. Aside from the physical benefits, mermaiding is good for an individual's mental and emotional wellness. Once you put on the mermaid tail all the stress and problems of the world seem to disappear and you immerse yourself in the moment. You will never see a grumpy mermaid.
4-Star certified Level 4 Mermaid Saira Nepomuceno always wanted to be a mermaid (in photo above: Pro-bowler Paeng Nepomuceno's daughter, Saira) . With her above par swimming skill (Assumption High School swim varsity and captain of the Polo swim team) she also taught some classes for a couple months.
Saira: "Well especially the kids, when you're doing the mermaid kick it involves a lot of core muscles, usually ones that they have never even used and activated yet. We don't put them in the tail until we see that their kick without the tail is right."
"...it's always been my dream to be a mermaid (laughs) but we didn't do underwater performance until we got our first big gig out of the country. We really trained with the scuba equipment. It's called hookah diving. So I was teaching for about 6 months before we actually started diving deep. At the same time the mermaids I was with entered a free dive org so we were training a lot. I am a licensed diver with PADI and I was a swimmer in high school. "
In what country was mermaid swimming first officially recognized as a sport or recreation?
Anamie: We can't tell you about other mermaid organizations but we can only answer for PMSA. We don't see it as a sport we view it as a lifestyle. It is artistic expression that promotes self-discovery. It's a way of challenging yourself and seeing how your body can serve and surprise you in ways you would have never imagined. Its about poise and grace, appreciating the ocean's value, and more importantly being an ambassador of the sea.
This simple track by Matt Simons, "Catch And Release" the deepend remix, gives us all the mermaid feels.
In what year did Mermaid swimming begin in the Philippines and how many students were there at first?
Anamie: We started Nov 1, 2012. We had our first mermaid camp with 10 kids ages 8-12. And from there we developed our teaching methods and continue to improve as we grow.
What are the safety precautions that need to be taken when mermaiding, are there protocols?
Anamie: As mentioned before safety is our main concern. Part of the requirements to be a mermaid swimming instructor is to have water safety certification. We set the tone at the beginning of the lesson during the briefing; that what they signed up for is a lesson and everyone needs to listen to the mermaid instructor.
Anamie: No one should swim off on their own and everyone must stay with the group, we establish a buddy system. By doing so, we also create a bonding moment among like minded strangers, at the end of the class everyone are friends. We have a ratio of 5-6 adults (who all know how to swim) to one Mermaid instructor. For kids 12 - 4years old we do 3-5 with guardians present or in the water with their child.
Anamie: We have asked people to leave a class when they are being unruly or disrespectful, we explain to them as nicely as we can, that this behaviour is putting themselves, other student and the mermaid instructor at risk. The distraction also takes away the fun in whole thing experience.
How young are your youngest mermaiding students and what is the minimum age for open water mermaid swimming for children?
Anamie: They are as young as 4 years old, as long as they can fit in a mermaid tail.
How much is a mermaid tail and is there only one supplier students should buy from?
Anamie: The particular mermaid tail brand we use is : www.mermaidtailfactory.com PMSA founder Normeth Preglo-Parzhuber decided to create this brand because the initial mermaid brand we were using was not durable. The mono fins broke easily so she set out to find a durable mono fin and found artist from the Philippines and Russia to create colorful designs for the mermaid skins.
Anamie: There are 2 types of swimmable mermaid tails: silicone and fabric. Silicone tails must be customized and molded to your body and also use a good quality mono fin. These are very expensive. The fabric mermaid tails are less expensive compared to the silicone. They come in different colors and sizes and the skins can be interchanged. Most companies sell the skin separately.
Are there any touching anecdotes or true stories about students whose lives have been changed or positively affected by learning how to mermaid swim?
Anamie: One story that stands out is about a woman in her late thirties who conquered her fear of the water, due to nearly drowning as a child, and actually learned how to swim through mermaiding In the beginning, she was even afraid to put her head in the water.
Anamie: As the class progressed so did her confidence. Everyone in the class was very supportive and cheered her on. She was so happy and proud of herself because there was the first time she braved holding her breath for more than 1 second underwater without freaking out.
Click over here to see where Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy holds mermaiding classes/courses in the following locations, nationwide and also check pricing the of the mermaiding courses available.
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Photos from: IMSIA.eu, Instagram.com/andreabrillantes, Instagram.com/boracaymermaids