News / Edmonton

Less than majestic: Metro reporter who hates swimming tries being a merman

Reporter Kevin Maimann tried out Edmonton's first Aquamermaid class at Don Wheaton YMCA.

Metro reporter Kevin Maimann as a Mermaid.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Metro reporter Kevin Maimann as a Mermaid.

I’ve always hated swimming.

Taking classes as a kid, I failed the second level five times before I gave up entirely.

I could probably dog-paddle or tread water to save my life in a crisis, but I don’t plan to test that theory.      

So when I learned Edmonton was getting its first mermaid class at Don Wheaton YMCA, I thought it could be a chance to start over.

I’d join adults who were all learning together, in an environment where I didn’t have to worry about looking silly. Because, let’s face it, we all kind of did.

Not that I mean to denigrate the growing global trend of swimming in mermaid tails.

Aquamermaid’s Edmonton owner Gilles Nowlan, an avid swimmer and scuba diver, said many aspiring mermaids sign up for the classes to live out childhood dreams they’ve had since watching The Little Mermaid.

Nowlan came at it through cosplaying at comic expos, and then started making his own fins.

I joined a trial run of the adult class, where we got one-on-one help from instructors who had just learned mermaiding themselves and then developed routines they teach with remarkable skill and confidence.

I started by slipping on a blue "monofin,” made from a silicone-plastic compound with rubber Spandex fabric tail that goes over both legs, and barely squeezed my feet into the two scuba-diving flippers hooked together at the bottom.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

The tails are mostly designed for women as they make up the majority of enrolees, but they’ll fit a slender merman like myself in a pinch.

Once the tail is on, there’s no walking or hopping (for obvious reasons), so you'll have to scuttle your butt down the side of the pool.

Nowlan swears the fins can help a swimmer glide through the water more efficiently and with less effort, but let’s just say I didn’t quite make it to that point.

The fin was heavier than I expected in the water and a challenge to lift out when swimming.

My flopping and flailing was less than majestic.

Adult classes focus more on fitness than fantasy, providing a robust full-body workout, so at least I got that much out of it, though I paid for it with sore legs the next day.

Thanks to expert teaching from my instructor Courtney, I was able to not only keep myself from drowning, but she said I was actually doing pretty well by the end.

She was probably humouring me, but I’ll take it.

Nowlan said enrolment has far exceeded expectations ahead of Edmonton's first Aquamermaid class on Sept. 16.

Anyone who's interested can still sign up online.

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