March 29 is International Mermaid Day, which only began in 2018 as a promotion for the Freeform network’s television show Siren, now in its fourth season. During that time, ‘mermaiding’ – once an extremely niche activity – has become something of a global phenomenon. So much so that, in 2020, PADI launched a collection of courses, from the ‘Mermaid Experience’ – effectively a try-dive with a tail – all the way through to Mermaid Instructor.
Much as the older school of scuba divers might dismiss the concept, it has proven immensely successful, particularly in China, the most rapidly-emerging market in the world for ocean-based activities. While part of mermaiding might be viewed within the realms of sub-aquatic cosplay, it requires a set of skills that are not to be taken lightly, given that it involves extended breath-hold diving while wearing a tail-shrouded monofin that is not effortlessly removed.
While professional mermaiding is very much a performance art, with the mermaids (and occasional mermen) appearing in special events held by aquariums (and dive shows), mermaiding also makes for an accessible – and fun – introduction to the underwater world, where scuba diving and freediving are often seen as much more serious activities.
Norfolk-born Laura Hudson – aka Mermaid Twinkle – was crowned Miss Mermaid UK 2020 and Miss Ocean World Europe 2021–living out her childhood dream as a professional mermaid. Mastering the art of holding her breath for up to four minutes while gracefully gliding through the water, she has now become the first PADI Mermaid Instructor Trainer in the UK. We caught up with Laura during some downtime and asked her about how and why she’s chosen to dedicate herself to being a professional mermaid.
How did you get into mermaiding and where did it all begin?
In June 2018, I attended Mermaid Camp, organised by Hire A Mermaid UK (which trains people to perform as mermaids for events held in aquariums and dive shows). By a random turn of events, I had recently dyed my hair green and everyone said looked like a mermaid, so when they saw an advert for Mermaid Camp, they laughed and said ‘you should totally do this. So I did!
What inspired you to ‘take the plunge’, as it were?
I’ve always been a water baby, obsessed with spending any spare moment on holidays as a kid in the pool or sea, and always taking my swimming kit with me in case we had time to visit a beach on the way back from a day out exploring. As soon as we got back to the apartment or hotel where the family was staying, I’d want to get straight back in the pool if there was time before we went for dinner. I couldn’t get enough of it!
Why did you choose mermaiding over diving?
Because of the random turn of events leading me to Mermaid Camp, I discovered my ‘inner Mermaid’ first. I have since completed two try dives in scuba gear, but it feels so alien to be able to breath and see underwater for a change! I would love to explore scuba a little more so I can stay underwater for longer and see more ocean life, but my love and appreciation for what my body is truly capable of doing keeps me from donning the kit. I think I will always love the magical, ethereal beauty of mermaiding and freediving first and foremost, but hopefully I can find some time to give scuba a real go in the future, when I’ve stopped being so busy!
Tell us a little bit about working as a mermaid instructor
I am incredibly excited and grateful to be a PADI Mermaid and Freediving Instructor for Diveworld UK, expanding their incredibly successful dive club. They have been such a constant support and have encouraged me no end in such a short space of time, and I feel so overwhelmed to be asked by PADI to represent them on a global scale and make huge waves here in the UK. It’s everything I could have ever dreamed of and more. Through Diveworld, I want to create a safe, supportive environment for anyone and everyone to really discover their true potential, and have the confidence to believe in themselves.
Lugging around fins, monofins, and weightbelts – and I’m sure I will soon have a huge batch of tails for my students to choose from – is hard work, and one of the least glamorous parts of the job, but it still feels incredible to be following my dream and making other’s dreams come true
No matter what someone’s ambitions or hopes might be when they join a Mermaid Course, I want them to swim away with skills, knowledge and a real rush of excitement and joy at their own achievements and keen to explore their capabilities further. From perfecting the Dolphin-kick to blowing Mermaid Bubbles, or working on somersaults and barrel rolls, the courses are great fun and jam-packed full of skills.
As soon as my head dips under the water, it’s peaceful, it’s calm, and it feels like home, I hope I can bring that same feeling to others.
What do you hope to inspire in others, particularly the younger generation, through mermaiding?
I want to inspire others, not matter how or what it might be for. If I can show someone how powerful and driven they can be to follow a dream, then I will feel grateful to have made an impact. I like to get involved in PADI Women’s Dive Day and encouraging more women to get into water sports.
I also want to make sure I use the opportunity for the greater good, standing up for what is right in the world and getting justice for wrong. Campaigning and raising awareness for the state of our ocean due to global warming, coral bleaching and plastic pollution, for example, and being a part of the movement that changes the impact humans have on the oceans before it’s too late.
The ocean is my home and I am blessed that mermaiding is my full-time profession.