Mermaid Competitions: The Latest Splash in Professional Watersports

Join us as we delve into the depths of this fascinating development. We'll explore the history, the skill, and the passion that drive mermaids to compete, and we'll discover why this sport is capturing the hearts of spectators and participants alike. Whether you're a seasoned freediver, a swimmer looking for a new challenge, or simply someone who appreciates the joy and beauty that watersports bring to life, there's something magical about the world of competitive mermaiding waiting for you.

Corinna Schwozer

11/4/20234 min read

Have you ever held your breath, diving into the depths, and wished you could glide through the water with the effortless grace of a dolphin and the mystique of a creature from ancient lore? This is the allure of mermaiding, a hobby that has captivated the hearts of aquatic enthusiasts and dreamers alike, and especially freedivers, with their deep love for the ocean, are finding mermaiding a natural extension of their passion.

From Entertainment to Competitive Sport

The concept of humans donning a mermaid tail for aquatic adventures isn't a product of modern whimsy but rather has roots that stretch back over a century.

One of the earliest recorded instances of mermaiding in popular culture can be traced to Annette Kellerman, an Australian professional swimmer who, in the early 1900s, performed as a mermaid in a glass tank at the New York Hippodrome. This act not only showcased the athletic prowess required for mermaiding but also highlighted its potential as a form of entertainment.

The next big event on the mermaiding performance timeline would be undoubtedly in 1947, where in the tourist attraction Weeki Wachee Springs / USA the first recorded mermaid performances enchanted audiences with their underwater ballets and breath-holding displays. But mermaiding is not just about putting on a tail and swimming; it's a form of self-expression, a nod to mythology, and a celebration of the fluidity and beauty of the human body in water and the connection between humans and nature.

In recent years, this enchanting pastime has taken a competitive turn, making waves in the world of watersports. From hobbyists to professional athletes, mermaids and mermen across the globe are taking to the pools and oceans to showcase their skills in what is now being recognized as a serious sport.

The modern competitive scene, as we know it, arguably took off in China on the 28th of April 2021, where 110 professional mermaid performers set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Underwater Mermaid Show. This event was a precursor to the establishment of mermaiding as a national sport in China, with the first National Mermaid Competition marking a significant milestone. Since then, PADI, the global diving organization, has organized eight more competitions throughout Asia, cementing mermaiding's status as a competitive watersport.

A Nod to the MerKing

In our recent two-part interview series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Andy, the MerKing, who secured the second prize at the Chinese Mermaid Competition in 2023. His insights into the competitive world of mermaiding, the camaraderie among participants, and his vision for the future of the community are both inspiring and indicative of the sport's bright future. To hear his first hand experience, definitely watch these two videos:

Prior to the Chinese Mermaid Competition - a competition very much focused on the aquatic skills of its participants -, Andy participated in the “King & Queen of the Seas Merfolk Competition” this year, which focused a lot more on the character, costumes, audience interaction and camera savyness. Even though Andy told us that his strong suit is the athletic and aquatic side of mermaiding, he also convinced the jury of the “King & Queen of the Seas” and went out of it as fabulous winner and therefore MerKing.

Categories and Judging Criteria

As for most folk, the mere imagination of a “real mermaid” is already quite the feat, trying to imagine a mermaid competition is even harder; so let’s have a closer look at this phenomenon:

A mermaid competition is typically divided into several categories, each designed to test different aspects of mermaiding.

Breath-holding, a skill familiar to any freediver, is fundamental, as it allows the mermaid to perform underwater for extended periods. It’s the part that connects mermaiding and freediving so closely. Synchronized swimming expertise is also advantageous, as many routines are performed in groups, requiring impeccable timing and coordination. Artistic performance is another critical element, with competitors drawing on dance, gymnastics, and even acting to enhance their routines. The judges - usually experts in freediving, synchronized swimming, or underwater performance - additionally look for technique & tricks, smoothness of movement, how much of the pool is being covered during the presentation and synchronation in case of team cateogires. Competitors are often required to perform complex maneuvers, such as barrel rolls, tail flips, and dynamic poses, all while maintaining a graceful composure. However, the mermaid's ability to tell a story or convey emotion through their routine is as crucial as their technical prowess.

At its heart, competitive mermaiding is an art form that marries the physical demands of watersports with the creative expression of performance art. It's a discipline that requires athletes to be in peak physical condition, possess a deep understanding of aquatic dynamics, and have the ability to captivate an audience with their underwater artistry.

Making a Splash: The Impact of Mermaid Competitions on Watersports

Mermaid competitions are not just a display of aquatic grace and fantasy; they're a burgeoning part of the watersports world. The recent 2023 China Mermaid Open Championship is a testament to the sport's growing prominence. Held at the Atlantis Sanya, this event has not only drawn attention to the athletic prowess required for mermaiding but also spotlighted the venue as a prime watersports destination.

Yet, as mermaiding's popularity surges, so does the focus on safety. The use of mermaid tails, integral to the sport, has raised concerns from organizations like the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), which cautions against potential risks. This underscores the importance of safety in the sport's evolution, ensuring that the enchantment of mermaiding doesn't eclipse the necessary precautions.

As we look to the future, the integration of mermaid competitions into the watersports community is poised to continue. These events offer a unique blend of performance art and athletic discipline, captivating audiences and participants alike. For those in the watersports community looking to dive into this world, the path is clear: embrace the allure of mermaiding, but never forget the importance of safety in these aquatic endeavors.

Closing Statement

As mermaiding continues to make a splash in the world of competitive watersports, it's clear that this enchanting activity has found its place in the sun—or, more fittingly, beneath the waves. Whether it's the allure of embodying a mythical creature or the challenge of mastering the aquatic ballet, mermaiding has proven that it's more than just a fleeting trend; it's a sport with depth and staying power that we invite all watersports enthusiasts, especially our freediving friends, to consider mermaiding as a new avenue for joy, beauty, and athletic challenge.