Skip to main content
ABC Homepage
Search

Mermaiding provides freedom and empowerment in the water for Nicola and her merpod

Adelaide woman Nicola Robey aka Mermaid Naqulaan runs classes for like-minded mermaiding enthusiasts.(Colourblind Images)

I've always loved swimming and the ocean, and I always felt that I swam as a mermaid whenever I was in the water, even before I had a tail.

When my husband bought me my first tail nearly seven years ago, it was the best Christmas present ever.

I started looking into mermaiding and discovered a worldwide community of it, and it's absolutely huge. In Adelaide, we have our own merpod. For me and a lot of other people, we identify as mer.

I started taking my tail everywhere we went on holiday — people were entranced by it, to the point that they were wanting photos with me rather than the scenery.

Water is like a "hug without the human touch", Nicola says.(David Sharrad Photography)

Liberty at sea

My favourite thing about mermaiding is the freedom — being able to be myself and feeling free in that environment. It's a combination of peace and happiness and a little bit of empowerment.

I swim every Wednesday in the ocean, no matter what the temperature, as long as the ocean is not too full on and dangerous. If it's fine, I will swim in my tail.

I do it at Henley Beach. It's just my place where I feel centred, where I can just feel truly happy.

Nicola loves Henley Beach, and takes to the water on a regular basis.(Instagram: mermaidnaqulaan/Kym Robey)

I run classes for like-minded mermaiding enthusiasts, working with people who quite often have trauma and find that water is a great therapy.

My classes have included people undergoing emotional trauma as well as physical limitations.

Water is kind of a hug without having that human touch.

Developing core strength

It is definitely a work-out, like any sort of swimming. It's quite intense — but it's not as hectic as doing some other sports.

It is a very good core work-out. You have to have a certain swimming ability, so if you can't swim you wouldn't put on a tail.

In summer, I will swim every day and I will do maybe about 20 laps in my own pool, mermaiding.

Nicola says she's become so accustomed to swimming in a tail, she struggles to swim in the regular way.(Instagram: mermaidnaqulaan/Kym Robey)

You do have to have a basic skill level of being able to swim at least 25 metres in freestyle, and have some understanding of the dolphin kick.

The dolphin kick is a segue into the butterfly stroke — and mermaiding is just a slowed down version of the butterfly stroke.

I personally find it a lot easier to swim that way. I swim faster and I actually struggle swimming with two legs now, which is bizarre.

Swimming skills a must

My husband came up with the idea of me starting a mermaid swim school. When I created the program, I went and became a swimming instructor, became a pool lifeguard, and made sure that I did the research on the types of tails, in particular the mono-fins that we were using.

Nicola stresses crucial safety advice for anyone even contemplating mermaiding.(Instagram: mermaidnaqulaan/Kym Robey)

As with other water activities, there have been instances of mermaiding presenting hazards to the swimmer. It can involve risks, especially if not done properly, without adequate supervision, safe equipment or proper training.

There was a viral video several years ago in which a woman put a child in a mermaid tail and asked her to do a flip. That particular tail filled up with water and the woman had to grab her child out.

That's why following basic safety advice is a must.

One of the biggest rules is no swimming alone. You always have to have someone with you, whether it's standing on the beach, standing at the pool or in the water with you.

Always watch your children — never leave them alone, even for a second. If you've got to go inside and go to the bathroom, that child needs to come out of the water.

Children under 10 should not put on a monofin, because their feet platelets have not developed properly and there is a chance it could inhibit that growth.

Know your own swimming ability — if you can't swim as a human, you can't swim as a mermaid. That's a blanket rule. You need to be able to have the basic swimming skills.

You need to be able to tread water, you need to be able to roll from your front to your back in an emergency.

You need to train your way up — you cannot start in a higher level monofin and tail. The entry-level ones are around $160, but my most expensive tail is $4,000 and weighs 15 kilos. You wouldn't go straight into a silicon tail.

Practice in the shallow water, getting your tail and monofin on and off first. Being able to do that very quickly is going to be really handy in case you get into trouble.

Cosplay and connection

Mermaiding is different for everyone — for some people it is about fulfilling a fantasy. It is a kind of cosplay.

I'm a 50-year-old woman but I don't feel like that when I'm dressed up like this.

I own 14 tails, multiple tops, crowns, wigs and accessories, and I like the variety. I like having different looks and I just like feeling that way when I'm putting on a tail.

But it does go deeper than that. Mermaiding for a lot of the mer community is about connection with the environment.

Nicola relishes the sense of freedom mermaiding entails.(Instagram: mermaidnaqulaan/Kym Robey)

I've developed a very big love of the ocean. I've gone swimming with seals off Eyre Peninsula in my mermaid tail and into a shark cage when a Great White came by.

I purposely picked my yellow and orange tail so I would be more visible to them.

I'm not sure I feel like a creature – but I don't know whether I feel 100 per cent human either.

Listen to Nicola's interview on ABC Radio Adelaide.

Posted