New mermaid school to offer Edmonton sea-siren experience

A new fitness class coming to Edmonton will help you realize your childhood dream of becoming a siren of the open seas — in the deep end of a pool, at least.

Unusual fitness classes appeal to the Ariels among us

A mermaid school is set to host its first set of classes in Edmonton this fall. (David Benz)

Ever dreamed of being a mermaid or merman?

A new fitness class coming to Edmonton will help you realize your childhood dream of becoming a siren of the open seas — in the deep end of a pool, at least.

Aquamermaid School, an aquafit program for aspiring mermaids, is set to take the plunge with its first round of classes at the Don Wheaton YMCA this September.

The program allows adults and children alike to channel their inner Ariel by swimming with a "monofin" — a Spandex fabric tail, complete with sparkling scales, that goes over both legs and ends with a wide fin.
Aquamermaid school teaches both adults and kids how to swim wearing mermaid tails. The school says it offers both a workout and a chance to realize those mermaid fantasies. (Aquamermaid)
The craze for mermaid tails has a lot to do with the 1989 Disney movie The Little Mermaid.

While Ariel the sea nymph trades her tail for a pair of legs, there are a lot of people who would like to do the opposite.

"People can live out that dream, that fantasy and yet you can be active," Aquamermaid owner Gilles Nowlan said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"We combine synchronized swimming with it. We teach you new tricks every week. It constantly evolves."

Swimming with mermaid tails — or "mermaiding"—  gained popularity a few years ago when the fins first started hitting the market. Aquamermaid has been riding the wave ever since.

It's now the largest school of its kind in Canada. Since opening its first school in Montreal two years ago, Aquamermaid has since opened locations in Ottawa, Toronto, Chicago and Phoenix.
School in session at Aquamermaid in Toronto. (CBC )
If the Edmonton classes prove a success, the company plans to dip into the Calgary market next, said Nowlan.

Offerings include basic lessons on tail-swimming, advanced techniques such as underwater choreography, and themed birthday parties. Tail rentals are included in the cost of classes.

The artificial tails have prompted some safety concerns. Edmonton banned fins at its city-run public pools in 2015, fearing that the foot-binding swimwear might endanger young, inexperienced swimmers.

City officials may have gone overboard with the outright ban, Nowlan said.

Aquamermaid swim instructors are certified lifeguards, and there is one instructor for every five students, he said.

People taking part in the classes are tested to ensure they can safely manage the monofins.

With proper instruction and supervision, the tails can be used safely, Nowlan said. He's hoping the city will reconsider its ban.

There is a standing invitation at his classes for any city officials who want to test their mermaid skills, he said. 

Once you're gliding through the water, Nowlan said, it's clear just how amazing the siren experience can be. 

"We teach you how to maintain a tail, how to put it on safely, and pull it off safely and how to have fun," Nowlan said.

"I just love it. You go through the water more efficiently and faster. It's way different."