Mermaid tail safety concerns lead to temporary ban at Chilliwack pool

A girl and her mother have started a petition to remove a ban on the use of mermaid tails at pools in Chilliwack, B.C.

Nicole Lambert and her mother have started a petition against the ban

Nicole Lambert saved up for a year to buy herself a mermaid tail. (Sharon Lambert)

A girl and her mother have started a petition to remove a ban on the use of mermaid tails at pools in Chilliwack, B.C.

Nicole Lambert, 11, bought her bright orange mermaid tail after saving up her babysitting and housesitting money for a year. 

"I went to the waterslides and there was this girl who had one and I thought it was so awesome," she said. 

"It's just a really fun way to get out and exercise. And also you get a lot of attention and it's really fun having people think you're a real mermaid sometimes."

Mermaid tails are an increasingly popular pastime with children and adults alike. The flipper works like a pair of fused scuba-diving fins, while a separate piece of fabric is pulled tightly over the legs and hips for the full mermaid effect.

Lambert says she had only used her new mermaid tail about three times at the Cheam Leisure Centre when a lifeguard approached her and told her they weren't allowed anymore. 

Sharon Lambert, left, says she wanted to teach her daughter Nicole how to stand up for herself. (Sharon Lambert)

"I felt like giving up and selling it, and was really upset," she said.

But her mother, Sharon, took the opportunity to teach her a lesson. She encouraged her to start an online petition rather than just accept defeat. 

"What inspired me was my daughter. She's a pretty shy, non-confrontational girl and I just don't want her to get walked over in life," said Sharon Lambert.

"One day she's going to face bigger challenges than no tails, and I want her to learn to deal with those."

Safety concerns

Nicole and Sharon Lambert were told the tails were banned due to safety concerns. 

Recreation Excellence, the organization that operates the pool, says mermaid tails come with mixed safety reviews. 

"Because safety issues have been documented in the past, we believe we need to investigate the product, its use, and determine the extent of the safety challenges that may exist to make clear judgements and policy," said the organization's president Tom Watson by email. 

"Until we have completed our review we will be holding off on allowing the use of the mermaid tail and any similar such devices in the facilities we operate."

The Chilliwack pool isn't the first to ban the toys. They're not allowed in pools in Edmonton, and Calgary doesn't allow them when a pool is crowded. 

Sharon Lambert said she too had safety concerns prior to her daughter using the tail. Before she even let her buy one, she made her do a swim test to determine if she had the skills to use it safely. 

She says she supervised her daughter while she used it, and didn't let her go in the deep end. 

Sharon Lambert says the ban is "understandable."

"With young children they probably aren't safe," she said. They do need parent supervision ... there is a potential hazard."

But she and her daughter also say the pool could put safety provisions in place rather than an outright ban. Their suggestions include a swim test, keeping mermaid tail users to one part of the pool, or even offering mermaid tail swim lessons. 

Recreation Excellence says it will determine its permanent policy on mermaid tails following its review. 


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