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

By Luc Rinaldi| Photography by Giodano Ciampini
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.,


Sign up for This City, our free newsletter about everything that matters right now in Toronto politics, sports, business, culture, society and more.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy.
You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Big Stories

The Battle for Leslieville: Gentrification, opioids and murder in the city’s most divided neighbourhood
Deep Dives

The Battle for Leslieville: Gentrification, opioids and murder in the city’s most divided neighbourhood