Marine biologist Nikola Simpson and model Adellia Hope (right) gliding on the crest of the water in a huge clam shell. (Picture by Reco Moore.)
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Women and girls who are fans of the Little Mermaid movie can now fulfil their fantasy of becoming Ariel. Shona Catlin, the owner of Mermaid Barbados, told EASY magazine her daughter Kayla Catlin inspired her to create a business full of imagination.
“My daughter loves pool swimming and there were not many water-based activities she could get involved in here,” Shona said.
“It has been three weeks since I registered the company and already the response has been remarkable. I honestly didn’t expect the business to explode the way it did and I am extremely excited to see how everything goes when I get everything in place to offer the full package.”
The Canada-born real estate agent, who works in the United States, said: “I held a birthday party for my daughter and I brought in one tail from Mermaid Tails by Fin Fun Ltd. During the party several tourists gathered around the area taking pictures and after posting the pictures on Facebook over 20 people contacted me asking to hold parties for their kids.”
Shona said Mermaid Barbados took off the way it did because of social media. She believes posting her picture on Instagram drew attention to the business and people wanted to join in the experience.
“Everyone is into posting unique pictures online and there is nothing like this in Barbados so I guess that is why there is such a craze for it.”
To her surprise she received more booking for adults than for teens or toddlers. She explained that older women grew up watching Walt Disney princesses and dreamt of being one.
“I did not expect this to be honest. I even had a client who was celebrating her 40th birthday,’ she said.
“And another thing that surprised me is much people do not know how to swim.
“I only thought I would have to teach a kid how to swim so they can play in the tails but apparently there is this fear of the sea. So I am glad I have a swimming background. I swam competitively in Canada and I was a lifeguard all of my teenage life.”
Within a short space of time, Shona became the official representation for the Australian company Mermaid Tails by Fin Fun. She not only distributes tails for them but offers a photo shoot and organises birthday parties. She also offers swimming lessons with and without mermaid tails and soon will be offering
a snorkelling experience with sea turtles.
Shona is firm about intertwining education with fun and so has invited marine biologist Nikola Simpson to be part of the Mermaid business team. Shona said she wanted the company to be based on marine conservation since the island was at risk of climate change.
“It is our responsibility to protect and defend our sea and a good way to promote this is through fun and educational activities for children. I am trying to get them to think of themselves as mermaid super heroes and so far it is working.
“At our parties some of the parents get a little annoyed when their kids tell them they are not allowed to use plastic or straws. So incorporating this into the business is positive and a way of giving back to society and it would eventually have a greater impact.”
Mermaid Barbados is not only a thrilling experience for girls and women; boys and men can take part in the fun too.
Shona told EASY she also has pirate costumes for men and shark fins and life-sized alligator toys for boys. The 30-year-old also stressed that the suits and toys were child safe and light.
Nikola adds a workout plan to the business, making it a more holistic undertaking. She holds Fin Fit classes for teens and adults. She told Easy that the fin challenge was one “heck of a workout”.
“If you think extreme workouts were extreme then you have got to try doing abdominals with a tail. Shona has posted some videos of me doing these exercises but it is much harder than it looks. Classes have not commenced as yet, but when they do I want people to know that the idiom ‘no pain no gain’ is the perfect description for the exercises I have planned.”
Nikola, who is known for her heroic whale rescues, said that the exercise and environmental component of Mermaid Barbados makes it a more lifestyle endeavour for customers and helps them to understand the importance of coral reefs.
“The kids are taught safety and environmental tips and they become ocean ambassadors. We owe so much to the sea. For instance, 70 per cent of the air we breathe comes from little marine plants that produce oxygen. So we should not be afraid of the water and use sayings such as ‘de sea don’t have no back door’ to paint a negative picture of the element.
“Fish and other seafood are important meals in our diets so it is time we stop being afraid of waters that feed us,” said the 28 year-old.
Shona and her family only travel to Barbados during the winter season but she would like to start a summer camp. She added that her next venture is to organise with the local synchronising group called Mermaids and help them raise funds to compete internationally. She said she was touched when she saw how enthusiastic the mermaids and younger swimmers (star fish) were to dance with tails. It brought tears to see how passionate and energetic the girls were.
Shona also sent praises to Cheryl Carter from the Barbados Tourism Authority who helped her with the complexities of the business and she also thanked Dwayne Pollard for coming onboard and providing an aquatic experience with his “girl” Livity.
“What Dwayne is going to provide is really cool. Imagine being able to get up close to shipwrecks and swim with turtles. That is awesome.” (SB)