My family recently moved to the beach. As surfers, we spend a good portion of our down time in the water or on the sand. It's only natural that our home's interior would be an extension of our lifestyle, especially the decor in our one-year-old daughter's room.
Living in this region, I didn't think it would be too challenging to find ocean-themed accents featuring imagery of fantasy sea creatures like mermaids. But I had no idea just how popular they had become. And not just out of the water.
Some consider it an extreme sport. A few call it exercise. Others say it's an art form. Whatever it is, there is a new trend in aquatics: mermaid tails.
In parts of Canada and England, there is growing interest in the use of mono fins, in which a user's two feet are placed inside one fin to create a powerful whale-like swimming motion. The activity has been described as part free-diving and part synchronized swimming, and has attracted users of all ages, from children to adults, and it is particularly popular among females. To accommodate the demand, schools have popped up in various regions, including Mermaid Cove Swim School/Aquatails in Colorado or Aquamermaid Academy in Toronto, featured in the video below.
Not everybody is accepting of the movement. In fact, several facilities in England and Canada have banned the use of the fins, arguing that they pose a serious drowning risk. In Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, Canada, they no longer are permitted because officials say they are a safety hazard. So much so, in fact, that their use became a topic of discussion during the Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel conference this past April.
"They bind legs together and make it difficult to safely manoeuvre in the water," Rob Campbell, supervisor of aquatic strategies for the City of Edmonton told CBC News in an email, adding that they promote breath-holding which can lead to blackouts.
Others argue this is why the schools are needed. That's the philosophy behind Ian Donald's mermaid course. Recently, he spoke with Susan Greenwood of The Guardian to discuss his approach to the "sport." “I’m always trying to not have people dying,” he told her. In her report, she goes on to write:
Inadequate training and knowledge of one’s physical limits can lead to unconsciousness and death. So, on one of Ian’s one-, two- or three-day courses intense breathing techniques are taught, as well as how to swim through hoops and pick seashells up off the floor without goggles on.
Of course, there's been a backlash from users who claim the devices, when used properly, are fun but also promote a healthy lifestyle.
I personally know a girl aged 11 who is an avid mermaid tail user. But she also happens to be a competitive gymnast. It turns out, she also is a very good swimmer sans tail, her mother says, and she attributes that to her daughter's regular use of her tail.
But just because people like something and even can do it well, doesn't mean it's safe. I'm just starting swim lessons with my daughter and I can't imagine her using a tail when she's older, but I can't say for certain either way how I really feel about them . What are your thoughts on this new trend? A dangerous toy not to be used in aquatics facilities? A useful tool to help swimmers become stronger? A fad that quickly will fade? Take our quick survey and let us know your opinion about this new movement.