My fintastic stint as a mermaid—and how you can be one, too

Mermaid Farasha (center) teaches mermaid classes at Westgate.
Photo: Miranda Alam / Special to the Weekly

Mermaid School

Many dream of becoming a mermaid. And now, a crop of mermaid schools have arrived in Las Vegas to turn myth into reality. Well, sort of.

At the Westgate, Mermaid Farasha (human name Deneen Millner) began teaching Mermaid School on the resort’s new third-floor pool last month. For now, the classes are limited to guppies ages seven to 12, but private Embrace Your Inner Siren classes are available for adults upon request.

“I feel so free,” Farasha says of swimming with a tail and fin. “It’s magical and beautiful underwater. I feel very fast and powerful.”

Farasha grew up near the ocean in Southern California. While she says that she has “always been a mermaid,” she turned professional in 2012 after going to a mermaid convention and ordering a custom-made tail (these works of art are constructed from fabric, sequins and/or silicone, and can cost up to a few thousand clamshells).

“My first swim in a tail was very natural,” says Farasha, who attributes her skill at mermaiding to her background as a swimmer and belly dancer. Farasha says that the response to Mermaid School has been “mermazing” because it combines fantasy, imagination and physical movement.

So how does it all actually work? To answer that question, I dove into an AquaMermaid class at the Municipal Pool. AquaMermaid is a mermaid/swimming school that began in Canada and has since expanded to a few cities in the U.S., including Chicago, Phoenix and, of course, Las Vegas. (It has been training merfolk here since October.)

Humans begin their magical transition by strapping a monofin onto their feet, which is somewhat like a snowboard for swimming. Then they lay down—mermaids don’t stand—and shimmy on the fabric tail, which feels kind of like a mono-legging.

Once the transformation is complete, the instructor teaches the basics of mer-movements: how to float, give “fin fives,” dive to the bottom of the pool, splash your fin and perform the mermaid undulation, aka the dolphin kick.

Moving this giant fin about felt a bit awkward at first—it has so much more traction in the water than dainty human legs. But in the hour session, I advanced from fearing that I’d sink in the middle of the pool (noodles and life jackets are available, but some swimming experience is pretty necessary) to feeling like a magical dolphin that soared through the water with speed and more grace than I normally have on land.

“It was really fun,” says Beth Totillo, a tourist from North Carolina who chose the mermaid name Pickle. Totillo and her friend Brenda Peralta found Aquamermaid through an online search for unique things to do in Vegas. After the class, the women said their favorite part was just seeing what it was like to be a mermaid.

Aquamermaid Saturdays, 1-3 p.m., $60 per lesson or $225 for three months. Municipal pool, 431 E. Bonanza Road, aquamermaid.com.

Mermaid School at Westgate September 1-30, 9 a.m., $25 per class, ages 7-12, adult classes upon request. Westgate Las Vegas, 702-732-5648.

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