I went to mermaid school in Toronto and here’s what happened

I went to mermaid school in Toronto and here’s what happened

Here’s an embarrassing fact about me: the only movie I own is Zoolander. So when I received an email invitation to attend an AquaMermaid session—a fitness class in which you learn to swim with a mermaid tail—the only thing I could think of was this:


AquaMermaid was founded two years ago by Marielle Chartier Hénault, a Montreal swim instructor and entrepreneur who wanted to combine her dream jobs: swimmer, model and Disney princess. It now offers classes for kids and adults in 10 cities across Canada and the U.S. through its website—a website, I might add, that has a grand total of one merman photo. Oh, well. I signed up.


I arrived for class at the University Settlement pool on a bitingly cold Saturday morning. After I changed into my bathing suit, my instructor, Katie, introduced herself and helped me pick out a tail, a monofin—think two flippers fused together—covered in a fabric that stretches up to your waist. Fun fact: AquaMermaid sells silicone tails that start at $3,000.


Katie started the class by getting us used to wearing a tail in the water. It felt unnatural to have my feet locked together—I’d always been taught to pretend I’m pedalling a bicycle and spreading peanut butter to tread water—but that was the point. Keeping your feet together forces you to rely less on your leg muscles and more on full-body movements, which give your core a serious workout.


Once we were no longer afraid of drowning, Katie demonstrated a few strokes: the dolphin kick (hands together above your head, body wiggling like a worm), backward dolphin kick (ditto, but on your back), front and back flips, and a few other things my body had never done before. I was very bad at all of them.


After we’d mastered (or survived) the basics, we formed into a circle and threw a ball to one another while treading water. Katie told us to yell our mermaid names as we tossed it around. The choices were classic, if safe: Coral, Ariel, Ursula. I was Zoolander, naturally.


Next, we divided into two teams of three for a series of competitions. First, we had to choreograph a synchronized swimming routine. Ours consisted of a dive, a few dolphin kicks, a front flip and a high five. Then, we held a relay race to retrieve rings on the floor of the pool. Despite my shoddy start, my mermaid teammates dolphin-kicked us to victory.


The class concluded with a few minutes of free swim and some obligatory selfies. The session was simple and quick—about an hour long—but it was a great workout: by the time I got out of the pool and removed my tail, my abs and arms were sore, and I was exhausted. It was fun to pull a reverse Little Mermaid, but I was definitely glad to have my legs back.


AquaMermaid. $60 introductory class. Saturday mornings, University Settlement, 23 Grange Rd., aquamermaid.com.