Well, sort of as I’ll explain – but in 2012 and 2013, Animal Planet left a lot of people with the impression that mermaids really exist after running two “mockumentaries”  (a.k.a. docufiction – fake documentaries) about them. Authorities and Animal Planet quickly set the record straight, and this would be old news except that rather than dampen people’s fascination with the myth of mermaids, it added fuel to an already blazing fire. Mermaids and mermaid lore are nothing new, yet in the last few years, public interest has ballooned to unprecedented levels. Why?

Perhaps, because now you can be one.

PADI Mermaid - Korea - Underwater - Diver

Almost, anyway, because today anyone can get a mermaid tail (just Google “mermaid tails” — there are hundreds) and then take a mermaid diving course. And by mermaid, I don’t mean only females, but anyone. Given the growing participation by both genders, “merperson,” “merfolk” or “merwhatever” is likely more technically accurate, but “mermaid” is what everyone knows (at least in English). Check out this video and you’ll see that mermaid diving is not only one of the fastest growing forms of diving, it is age/culture/gender inclusive and it’s as serious a sport as you want to make it.

Given that mermaid mythology is timeless, dating millennia while repeatedly emerging in popular culture (think about Splash, The Legend of the Blue Sea, The Mermaid, The Little Mermaid to name only a few relatively recent examples), what’s driving the recent explosion in modern mermaid diving? I think a few things are:

mermaids are real

Mermaiding has arrived. Mermaid diving is its own form of diving, and like scuba diving, tec diving and freediving, it’s taken time for early pioneering enthusiasts to borrow, adapt and invent gear and techniques specific to it. As these came into place, formal instruction and specifically manufactured equipment emerged with demand for them, allowing mermaiding to become more popular. Now it’s at the tipping point where it snowballs, with popularity generating accessibility generating popularity and so on – just as has happened with other forms of diving.

Mermaiding is artistic. Mermaiding has been likened to underwater dance because it’s about grace, form, costume and team interaction. It’s watchable, even by nondivers, so it is also a performance art. While other forms of diving have artistic aspects and applications, mermaiding is really the only one that is inherently an art form in and of itself.

Mermaiding only needs water. Most diving centers on open water, but mermaiding only needs a pool or confined water – this is one reason mermaid diving continued to grow during the pandemic. Travel restrictions didn’t impede mermaiding in local pools, or even backyard pools during full lockdowns. This isn’t to say you can’t mermaid dive in open water (it’s the focus of the PADI Advanced Mermaid course) – you absolutely can and many mermaids love it. But notwithstanding, even landlocked in a howling midnight blizzard, if you have an indoor heated pool, you can mermaid to your heart’s content.

Mermaiding can help save the oceans. Diving is probably the most inclusive activity there is, and mermaiding may be the most inclusive of all. While many freedivers and scuba divers are attracted to mermaiding, mermaiding draws nondivers interested in artistic expression, culture, mythology, or fantasy/cosplay – people who might not otherwise have thought about becoming divers. But, like you and me, once they discover the underwater world, they learn to care about it. Many join us as ocean advocates and PADI Torchbearers, going on to expand their diving experiences in the PADI Freediver and PADI Open Water Diver courses. So, in becoming PADI Mermaids, they become part of our mutual movement to restore the balance between humanity and the oceans.

PADI Mermaid - Korea - Underwater - Diver

Try it for yourself – contact your PADI Resort or Dive Center about the PADI Mermaid Program. They may even already be one of a growing number of PADI Mermaid Centers particularly committed to mermaiding. And when you go, take some friends – some who’ve not been interested in “diving” may be very interested in what mermaiding offers.

Seek adventure. Save the ocean.

Drew Richardson

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