Water Sports

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Under the Sea -- uh, Pool: ‘Mermaid Tails’ Spawn Safety Concerns

18 May, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

For a legion of young girls who have grown up watching “The Little Mermaid” on endless repeat in the DVD player, the newest pool trend, a mermaid tail you wear on your lower body, seems like a dream come true. Designed by a mother in Vancouver, BC, the tails are constructed from bathing suit material and have stuffing inside to appear more life-like, and an iridescent shine to appear more mermaid-like. Fans of the mermaid tails say they’re a great workout, a conversation starter and they enable swimmers to move faster through the water in the same way flippers might.

The mermaid tail, now marketed by Monika Naumann’s company 3-Fins, are being called this year’s hottest swimwear. But the $245 (yes, you read that right) tails are attracting criticism for more than just their price tag. Some municipalities are concerned that they could be a danger, particularly to novice swimmers. The tails were recently a topic of conversation at the annual Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel conference held from April 26 to 29 in Banff, Alberta.

"They bind legs together and make it difficult to safely maneuver in the water," Rob Campbell, supervisor of aquatic strategies for the City of Edmonton told CBC News.

The City of Edmonton has banned the use of the mermaid tails at all public pools because of safety concerns. Campbell told CBC that the fins are marketed at young children, who are often weak swimmers to begin with and lack the skill to swim by swishing the tail instead of kicking the feet. In addition, he said that swimming wearing the mermaid fin promotes excessive breath-holding, which can result in blackouts.

Concerns have been raised in the City of Calgary, but officials there have stopped short of a ban and instead are recommending that Ariel wannabes be made to demonstrate swimming competency before being allowed to use the tail in the pool. Users of the tails must show that they can swim for 25 meters (82 feet) continuously, tread water for two minutes and swim with confidence while wearing the tail.

"There's concerns that people won't be able to save themselves or they might not be able to make it to the edge or stand up and that's why we have a safety test," Jack Birkett, aquatic operations coordinator for the City of Calgary told CBC.

Another make of similar tails, or “monofins,” Fin Fun Mermaids, notes on its Web site that the tails are not suitable for very young children, and recommends them only for swimmers who can hold their breath and swim in the deep end. Monofins without the sparkly mermaid leg covering are used by some adult swimmers for a combination of fun and fitness training. They are also popular with “freedivers,” or swimmers who dive to deep ocean depths without the aid of SCUBA equipment.

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