For decades, little girls the world over have nurtured the dream of one day living life as a mermaid. In my case it was Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairytale that set my imagination wandering freely under the sea. Visions of gliding under the salty waves as a graceful, long-haired beauty with the shimmering tail of a fish – what’s not to love?
So, imagine my joy when my bestie Meg discovered mermaid classes. It started as a bit of a joke really. We were on the lookout for an aqua aerobics group when she stumbled across Sunny Coast Mermaids.
“Ha, we should give this a go,” she said. Secretly, I thought it was an amazing idea. Turns out so did my bestie.
So, on a clear-blue autumn Tuesday we donned our most mermaid-looking swimmers (which as 35-year-old mothers means black, tummy-covering pieces) and toddled on – sorry, gracefully swept – into Buderim’s Goodlife centre.
And while I certainly didn’t meet the criteria of a poised beauty, life as a mermaid – even if it was for only 45 minutes – was as brilliant as I could ever have imagined. It makes for pretty good Instagram fodder too.
“Sunny Coast Mermaids began late last year,” says Anyetta Newell, the co-founder of the group. “I have been in the fitness industry for over 10 years as a qualified personal trainer, health coach and aqua instructor, and have seen a lot of different fads come and go. Through it all I have always had a love for the water and the ocean and always wanted to combine the two.”
It seemed like a natural fit when Anyetta met marine biologist and ocean conservation warrior Regan McKenzie at their local gym.
“We realised we had a lot in common when it came to our love for water and belief in personalised health and fitness, and that we were both actually mermaids,” Anyetta says.
“With a lot more experience in the water than me, Regan introduced me to a few new concepts, one being the monofin, and from there we developed the idea that using the fin we could create a workout that incorporated all of the things we love.”
It was with nervous anticipation that we donned those fins and slid into the sun-warmed water on that Tuesday afternoon.
Would we sink, would we get a stitch, would we look absolutely ridiculous?
Turns out that none of that matters because mermaiding is one of the most fun things we have done in a long time.
Within 20 minutes we were propelling our feet through the water and into the air, impressing (mostly ourselves) with our graceful-esque handstands. We were all the more smug that even the super-fit Anyetta, who actually could pass for a real-life mermaid, struggled to perfect her own handstand.
“The fun definitely attracts people to this exercise. Many people are able to live out an inner-child dream of being a mermaid, and who doesn’t want to do that?” Anyetta laughs.
“Some have said they couldn’t stop smiling, while others have said it was so fun they didn’t even realise they were exercising. It also attracts those who love the water but still want a good workout in it.”
A workout it surely was. We discovered that there was so much more to mermaiding than laughter and trying to outdo each other in the gymnastics stakes.
After a few gentle laps gliding beneath the surface of the water, we moved on to the core strengthening portion of the class.
Squats, sit-ups, pull-ups – all the while in the water with a fin on your feet. Abs, arms and legs were all worked through cardio and strengthening exercises in a low-impact environment that is gentle on the joints.
The best thing is that the class is suitable for all fitness levels.
“The objective of our group is to provide an effective and efficient workout in water that incorporates a lot of fun and inspires people to embrace their inner mermaid or merman – yes, we have a couple of mermen – and increase their fitness and improve their health,” says Anyetta.
“It is also to see them connect deeply and meaningfully with themselves and their own bodies, with those around them and with the water, in particular our oceans, and to grow in their commitment to live consciously and sustainably.
“Our passion for a deeper and more meaningful existence in life drives us,” says Anyetta. “We believe in living intentionally and sustainably. We believe in connection with ourselves, others and this beautiful planet we live on and we believe that healthy is a lifestyle not a shape or size.
“We also believe in fun and have a passion for adventure and sharing it with others.”
I for one, am grateful for that.
To find out more, follow Sunny Coast Mermaids on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org