A majestic turquoise-and-gold tail splashes the surface of a public pool. Anomalous, beautiful creatures frolicking in the water, occasionally peeking out from their masks and snorkels. Half-woman, half-fish.
Since Disney’s Princess Ariel first hit the big screen over two decades ago, many little girls (and some boys) have dreamt of becoming a mermaid.
Now mermaid Crystal, as she is known, is helping turn those fantasies into reality through her swimming classes in The Netherlands.
“It’s amazing,” smiled a starry-eyed Marijke Pie, 27. She added: “It’s every little girl’s dream.”
Marijke, Lize and Katja are among the first pupils at Crystal’s Meermin School Nederland.
It is billed as the country’s ‘first professional school’ for mermaids and is only one of a handful in Europe where the phenomenon of “mermaiding” is beginning to make waves after arriving from the US and Canada.
At the public swimming pool in the central Dutch town of Zeist, the would-be mermaids are learning to swim like Ariel, where their legs firmly bound in tight material tails.
Daubed in bright aquatic prints to resemble shiny scales, the faux tails take some time to wriggle into before they can slide into the water for some intense underwater aerobics.
It’s all in the technique, according to Crystal, who says “the movement begins from the tummy”.
Her advice? Keep your feet together, don’t bend the knees too much, but try to do a dolphin kick using your abdominal muscles.
Crystal usually teaches wearing just her swimsuit, preferring not to be weighed down by her 15kg tail.
She bought it online, made-to-measure, from Hawaii-based Finfolk productions, where customers design their own tails for €3,000 (S$4,540). So great is the demand that the site boasts of a waiting list of nine to 12 months.
A shell-shaped bikini top, earrings like stars and a mother-of-pearl spiral in her hair complete the look.
Once in costume, a transformation takes place. Magical and mysterious, Crystal says she feels free.
“I can go where I want. I’m graceful in the water. I feel more beautiful in the water. There’s no stress, no pressure and I am away from all the technology. There’s a real tranquility. It’s incredible” she says.
But becoming a mermaid or even a merman takes weeks, if not months, of training.
Initially, the apprentices are dubbed selkies (the creatures of Gaelic folklore who live as seals but shed their fur to become human on land).