Mermaid tail enthusiasts cry foul over Edmonton pool bans
Petition asking Edmonton to reconsider ban garners nearly 600 signatures
Krista Visinski is determined to be a mermaid, even if she's not allowed in the water right now.
The Edmonton mother has been preparing for more than a year to become a professional sea nymph and teach exercise classes, host children's parties and appear at public events.
But her plan was recently put on hold when the city announced a ban on mermaid tails, a trendy swim accessory, in all its pools.
The 24-year-old delivered a petition to the city this week with nearly 600 names, some of them parents of children who dream of swimming like Ariel from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid.
It makes people happy. You can't be mad or sad when you see a mermaid.— Marielle Chartier Henault, AquaMermaid Academy founder
Others, calling themselves mermaid advocates, say anyone should be able to swim with a tail.
"Other mermaids in Canada are afraid that a ripple effect is going to happen, more bans will happen," Visinski says.
Mermaid tails have been on the market for a few years but recently started gaining popularity in Canada. Several companies make different versions, but most tails consist of a colourful fabric around the legs that stretches from the waist and over a neoprene monofin that holds both feet.
They can cost $100 or more.
A City of Edmonton spokesman says there is concern the tails promote holding one's breath under water for long periods of time and can lead to blackouts and drowning. Christopher Webster says the Edmonton has no plans to lift its ban, but may allow for an exception so Visinski can continue her tail training.
Perry Fulop, a manager with the City of Surrey in British Columbia, says officials there have also banned tails during public swim times, because they appear to be hazardous for inexperienced swimmers.
But if there is demand, pools may hold specific mermaid swim times, he says.
"I think we like the idea of children using mermaid tails. We're just trying to figure out the best method of implementing it."
Proper supervision is key
Other communities require swimmers with tails to complete a swim test before they can flop around in their pools.
Eric Browning with Fin Fun Mermaid, a U.S. company that produces tails, says in a letter that his company has never heard of swimmers blacking out in its four years of operating.
"I guess if a person holds their breath long enough, they can black out even if they are not in a pool," he says.
Visinski says she understands why there might be a safety concern with children. But if they're properly supervised and taught how to swim with bound legs, there shouldn't be a problem.
"If you're playing hockey, you have skates strapped to your feet. If you're going sledding, you're sitting on a piece of plastic and going down the hill at crazy speeds ... There's inherent risk with everything associated with kids."
Some defenders have compared mermaid tails to snowboards, which were banned from some ski hills when they first hit the slopes.
Marielle Chartier Henault, founder of AquaMermaid Academy in Montreal, says she thinks tails will eventually gain acceptance.
Her company started teaching mermaid classes in February and plans to expand to Toronto and Ottawa this summer.
The tails combine fun with exercise and, for many, make fantasies come true, she says.
"It makes people happy. You can't be mad or sad when you see a mermaid."