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15 Secrets Real-Life Mermaids Won't Tell You

BuzzFeed News spoke to a "mermaid" from the Netherlands about life underwater, her training regime, and what she loves most about being half human, half fish.

Hanna van der Gaag is a 23-year-old "mermaid" from the Netherlands.

On land, van der Gaag is a dance teacher, but once she gets in the water she's "Hanna the Mermaid". Van der Gaag performs in pools for special events and children's parties, and she's been travelling round the country for a year.

BuzzFeed News caught up with the Dutch mermaid and here are some of the things we learnt.

1. Some mermaids are more famous than others.

One of the most famous mermaids today is Mermaid Melissa from Orlando, Florida. She is an activist turned entertainer who aims to educate people about the ocean through underwater performances. She's also the only woman in the world to be legally named Mermaid.

Mermaid Hannah from LA is also an ocean activist, aiming to raise awareness of the ocean and its animal life.

2. For van der Gaag, being a mermaid isn’t about activism.

"When I swim, I’m totally in the moment and I don’t think about anything else," van der Gaag told BuzzFeed News. For her, becoming a mermaid is a form of relaxation.

3. Having said that, swimming like a mermaid requires a lot of training.

Gold Circle Films

Van der Gaag trains three times a week in a swimming pool, and during her practice she'll wear the mermaid tail, also known as a "monofin".

4. The mermaid tail isn't as heavy as you'd expect, but it's quite tricky to manoeuvre.

The tail weighs around 2 lbs and it's covered in lycra. The fin is made from plastic and it's very rigid and stiff above water. Van der Gaag told BuzzFeed News: "It's hard to believe it moves so beautifully underwater."

5. Being a mermaid is an expensive profession.

6. You might not be able to do it full-time.

7. Being a bit DIY-savvy will allow you to cut the costs.

Propaganda Films

"I ordered the fins online but I customised them to make them as dreamlike as possible," van der Gaag told BuzzFeed News.

8. It takes *at least* 15 minutes to get ready before a performance.


Van der Gaag explained the process:

Inside the mermaid tail I have to wear rubber socks. The part of the tail that holds my feet is made of rubber, which feels quite stiff. The socks help to keep everything in place. After I've put them on I pull the fabric up to my waist, and then I have to make sure that stays put too.

9. You will need some assistance.

10. It's important to hone an elegant swimming technique.

According to van der Gaag the most important thing to remember is that your movements stem from the waist first, to achieve elegant and gracious strokes.

"You have to practise a lot in the beginning, because you can't just do a normal breaststroke," she explained. "The more you practise, the better you'll get."

Van der Gaag added that it's a good idea to mix up your routine, choreograph some cool tricks, and swim on your sides and on your back.

11. Be prepared to work with children.

A lot of performances that professional mermaids get asked to do involve children's parties, which according to van der Gaag are the most fun: "They think I'm a real mermaid and they want to know everything about me – where I came from, how I swim, and what I do as a mermaid."

12. Some kids will find you a bit scary.


"Small children will be too scared to take a photo of me," van der Gaag explained. "But if their mum or dad comes to sit with them, they tend to be OK."

13. The best part of being a mermaid is that you get the best of both worlds.

14. Of course, not everyone will "get" what you're doing.


When van der Gaag tells people she's a mermaid, they don't fully understand until she shows them videos of other mermaids in action. Luckily her close friends and family are on board, and they even help her brainstorm new performance ideas.

15. And finally, "mermaiding" is already taking off as a global trend.