An unusual site is being spotted more and more frequently in Finland’s lakes – real-life mermaids. But these are not creatures of legend or sirens luring sailors to their doom. They are local girls who are dressing up in their own mermaid costumes and role playing for fun.
The rise of the mermaid
Mermaid culture, or ‘mermaiding’, has been growing in popularity around the world for several years now, mostly thanks to the rise of social media. Some create their own mermaid personas while others cosplay as famous mermaid characters in pop culture who have inspired their love of mermaids, the most popular being Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
A small number in the movement have been able to quit their jobs to become professional mermaids, such as Riia, a Finnish mermaid from Lake Saimaa (one of the largest lakes in Europe). As well as being a certified diving and swimming instructor, Riia makes a living appearing at events in her costume and giving mermaid classes, since swimming like a mermaid is a surprisingly good workout.
Ever thought of what it “takes” to be a mermaid entertainer? Don’t them mermaids just sit pretty and comb their hair all day? 😉 Well, that’s not quite true 😊 Now, close your eyes for a sec. Imagine having 15kg weight attached to your feet in a pool while swimming for 1 hour. At the same time entertaining a crowd of younglings while looking like you’re not drowning. Sounds easy, right? 😀 Making things look “easy” isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of work, dedication and million other things that happen behind the scenes that you might not always unfortunately get to see. What people usually see is the polished product. From countless work hours on planning shows, how to keep crowds entertained and engaged, prepping, taking care of safety, training, maintaining your skills, certifications to equipments. Long days of working, traveling and lugging heavy wet equipments. Exhaustion, bruises, runny eyes, occasional infections and other job hazards. This is a JOB. But to me it’s still THE BEST job in the world. I have had the most wonderful and the most awful experiences as an entertainer. But every customer, person or child I meet makes all the effort WORTH IT! To me performing isn’t about looks or how many likes I get on social media. To me it’s about bringing joy, letting people relax and even for a tiny moment allow their imagination to just run free. To express yourself, to love yourself and to courage everyone to believe in oneself. That’s what being a professional mermaid to me is about. ❤ • • #rakkaudestatyöhön #professionalentertainers #whatitsabout #supportyourlocalartist #workinggirl
A post shared by Merenneito Riia (@mermaidriia) on Nov 1, 2017 at 9:42am PDT
Mermaids in Finland
Most mermaids, however, are still hobbyists. The Finnish mermaid movement currently consists of only a few hundred people, mostly young girls, but is growing at an exponential rate. Most are centred around Finnish Lakeland, which is 25% water. Practically every local in this area has a lake within walking distance of their house and most stay at Finnish summer cottages or ‘mökki’ right on the lakesides.
The Finns’ strong connection to water and the clean and clear lakes are why mermaiding is becoming increasingly popular in the country. The water quality is some of the best in the world and the clear blue waters surrounded by pine forests make for great aesthetics, which are so important to modern mermaids. The majority of mermaids are drawn to the mystical fairy tale image of the mermaid and the sublime beauty of Finnish lakes fits them to a tee and makes for some great photos to share online.
Mermaids and social media
Social media is hugely important in mermaid culture. It allows enthusiasts to meet and keep in touch with others both locally and internationally and spread the word about the movement by posting beautiful pictures and videos. The unusual nature of the hobby means that girls often have to keep it a secret in their daily lives, but social media connects them to a ‘pod’ of like-minded people.
One example is ‘Mermaid Jade’, a 14-year-old mermaid from Joensuu in eastern Finland, who has over 800 followers on Instagram and has been featured regularly in the Finnish media. She and her ‘pod’ of around 20 mermaids share their activities on Instagram and keep in touch through Whatsapp.
3° vedessä uimista 🐳
A post shared by Merenneito Jade🧜🏻♀️ (@__mermaidjade__) on May 22, 2017 at 8:23am PDT
Another advantage of social media is that it allows mermaids to share costuming tips for how to do their makeup or waterproof their tails. The tails are made from monofin covered with decorated swimsuit fabric and cost several hundred euros each. They also take a lot of practice to use in the water.
With a combination of crystal clear waters and a small but devoted local following, more and more mermaids could soon be travelling to Finland from all over the world to test the waters. Growing attention online and in the media also means that more young girls in Finland will likely be joining the movement.
Look at this mermaid squad! 😊❤ Missing my euro pod family. This pic was from our get together last summer in the Netherlands. @mermaid_crystal_ was our amazing host and this year we’ll have first European Merfest meet up open for everyone! Can’t wait to meet you all! (Psst you might want to follow European Merfest on fb 😉). Also big BIG happy birthday to our ever so sweet @merman_arion!! Happy birthday! 🎉🎉 #mermaidsquad #europeanmerfest
A post shared by Merenneito Riia (@mermaidriia) on Jan 8, 2018 at 8:13am PST
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