Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish writer of plays, novels, and poetry but is mostly remembered for his fairy tales of which he wrote more than 150, spanning nine volumes. In 1837 he penned the tale of a beautiful young mermaid, Ariel, who falls in love with a human male and dreams of becoming a woman.
Now, all over China thousands of young women are actively trying to turn themselves into mermaids.
The craze was started by Dada Li, who, in 2012 had her first experience of sea diving off Thailand’s Phi Phi Island. She says, “The world below the ocean surface looks completely different from land; I was amazed by the underwater scene, colourful fish and corals, and also the sensation of being in the water.”
Subsequently, Dada took a course in freediving. Freediving is simply diving without the assistance of tanks, using just fins, a snorkel and mask, and the power of your lungs. “Being a freediver,” she says, “I feel like I am an aquatic human, that I can travel wherever I want in the water,”
Dada became the first female freediving instructor in China but that still wasn’t enough. She had seen an old movie Splash, featuring a mermaid heroine who again falls in love with a human. So she began to look for ways to recreate the way a mermaid moves in and under the water.
The first problem was, of course, finding a tail.
There is a device used by freedivers called a monofin where both feet are placed inside a single fin but this was nothing like a traditional mermaid’s tail, so Dada decided to create her own tail, using lycra. Then she began to study videos of mermaid performances from aquatic circuses and other similar events.
She became China’s first mermaid diving instructor and in 2015 formed her own mermaid diving team.
There are now mermaid schools around the world with more than 1,000 instructors in China alone. The world’s premier dive school, PADI, says interest is booming – they now offer four separate mermaid diving courses.
On 28 April this year, the Atlantis Sanya Resort and Hotel, a marine resort on China’s Hainan Island, hosted a special event to mark its third anniversary. Normally home to over 26,000 marine creatures they welcomed a new form of underwater life – a huge gathering of mermaids. The subsequent performance of 100 professional mermaids entered the Guinness Book of Records. You can watch part of the performance below.
An it isn’t only women who are flocking to this new sport. Quite a number of men have also signed up.
So what is the difference then between free diving and mermaid diving?
Says Dada Li, “Mermaid diving is the distillation of freediving to me. It brought to life my fantasy, my creativity and my longing towards this mysterious creature.”
Whether or not she has fallen in love with a merman she doesn’t say.
Feature image via CNN