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South Africans splash into mermaiding as a sport

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – A dozen South Africans dressed as mermaids and mermen frolic in a Johannesburg pool, mimicking the movement of the mystical sea creatures.

Mermaiding is a fast-growing sport worldwide, and now South Africa has its own school to teach it – the ‘Merschool’.

Before diving in, students each slip on a brightly coloured fabric tail ending in a monofin.

The swimmers are black and white, from 13-years-old to in their forties. They include a schoolteacher, a yoga instructor and even an accountant.

“It’s lots of fun,” said mermaiding instructor Izelle Nair.

“It’s for fitness, it’s for fun, it’s for fantasy, it’s therapy – but most of all, mermaiding is a sport.”

In the water, students undulate up and down the pool perfecting their dolphin kicks, or practise sculling – hand movements to propel the body also used in synchronised swimming.

“We swim with a dolphin technique and we use sculling, and then we put it all together and we work out a little sequence,” Nair said.

To be a mermaid – or merman – all that is required is a little technique, some breath-holding skills and a love of costumes.

Underwater, students attempt a graceful aquatic backflip under the guidance of instructors.

Another mermaid coach from the world of synchronised swimming Nadia Walker said both sports have much in common.

“The back rolls, some of the warm-ups and activities that we do, come from swimming,” she said.

The school hopes to send at least one contender to next year’s World Mermaid Championships in China – and that one day the discipline will become an Olympic sport.

ABOVE & BELOW: Zelda Welgemoed swims in the pool during their mermaiding class at the Merschool in Kayalami, near Midrand; and Ann Bender poses for a portrait in her mermaid attire at the Merschool centre. PHOTOS: AFP