Real-life mermaid swims in freezing sea all year round and can hold breath for 4 MINUTES
A mum-of-three has devoted her time to becoming a real-life mermaid who swims in the open sea all year around and can hold her breath for up to four minutes.
Emma Harper, also known as Mischief the Mermaid, undergoes six hours of intense cardio training in and out of the ocean each week to ensure she is in peak condition to tackle the waves.
The 41-year-old from Truro, Cornwall, spends most of her days swimming in the open sea, filling the water “with mermagic” by teaching others how to safely be a mermaid, and also modelling.
She is able to dive to depths of 65ft in a 35lb bespoke silicone tail dubbed ‘Pollock’ while holding her breath for up to four minutes, but is aiming to increase this to a whopping six in the future.
Along with the Cornish Merpod, Emma campaigns for cleaner oceans and champions the mental health benefits of being in the sea.
The underwater artist, who is married to 50-year-old Craig Harper, said: “I started mermaiding years ago when I did free-diving.
“I was the mermaid that first swam into Newquay and infected the water and since then mermaid spores have turned everyone.
“There are lots and lots of mermaids but I think what makes Mischief the Mermaid, and Cornish mermaids, unique, is that we actually do it in the ocean with the swell and the rips.
“The wave of mermaid magic is happening, the mermaids are assembling.
“I’m excited about it because I think it’s our chance to get people aware of the oceans so that they’re safer around water.
“On the topic of mermaiding, people do roll their eyes and they straight away assume I’m a woman that just dresses up like cosplaying.
“We are mermaids because we have a living heartbeat, I dive happily 20 metres down, I spend most of my time in the sea so for me mermaids are real.
“I can hold my breath for four minutes, but I want to do six minutes in future.”
Emma’s love for the sea started when she was a youngster, spending hours in the water or sitting on the beach “squeaking like Madison” from the hit 1984 movie Splash.
The mermaid instructor, who teaches Scuba Schools International [SSI] ocean mermaid courses, said: “I was a keen swimmer as a child and I’ve been mermaiding since I was a little one.
“I was that child that would sit for hours on the beach with a sand tail around them and would squeak like Madison off Splash.
“I just love the mystery, I love the fact that no-one could actually tell me they weren’t real and they still can’t because we don’t know what’s in the deepest fathoms of the ocean.
“There are so many dark places we’ve not explored – we know more about space than we do about the ocean.
“But because of our human fears we have to say they’re not real, but we don’t really know.”
This progressed to wild swimming and monofinning – swimming with a single fin for both feet – all over the UK as an adult.
Emma, who’s been teaching mermaiding for a year, said: “I’ve lived all over the UK, I’ve done it [swam] in lochs and monofinned everywhere.
“Some mermaids think it’s about posing on rocks and looking pretty, but mermaiding is a lifestyle for me.
“It’s a connection to the ocean, a connection to my own body, my mental health and it’s inspiring young people to want to learn about the ocean.
“[Mermaiding] it’s a reminder that we are a tiny part of something big and beautiful. It’s such a freeing and meditative state that you become.
“Everything peels away – stress, phone calls and emails – you have to stop and be in the moment, listen to your heartbeat, lower your heart rate and just fly.
“It’s the most freeing, beautiful feeling to fly, it’s the best feeling in the world.
“I’ve travelled to Mexico doing underwater modelling work and I also do talks for the police force and the fire brigade on how you can help with stress and anxiety through ocean work.”
After enjoying snorkelling and free-diving recreationally with pals, Emma decided to get professional training to ensure safety in the water.
She then trained to be an instructor so she could teach others.
Emma said: “I discovered that I’ve got big lungs and I was naturally good at holding my breath. My first dive down was 15 metres [49ft].
“As an ocean mermaid I take people out to deal with winds, swells, buoyancy and learning to equalise properly.”
She added: “We teach about safety, how to recover and we do a lot about ocean conservation and pollution.
“Once you’ve got that you can get insurance and work professionally. I avoid swimming with any mermaids who haven’t had any training because I have three children that I want to come home to.
“My husband sees how happy it makes me and how good it is for my fitness.
“I thought my children would be a bit embarrassed about me being a mermaid, but they’re quite proud.”
Not only does Emma take the safety of those she’s teaching seriously, but also the safety of the marine life she swims alongside.
She said: “I hate the idea of me promoting ocean conservation and then going in and putting loads of glitter and sequins everywhere.
“That’s why I look more minimal than other mermaids because I don’t want to dump stuff in the sea.
“I wear a cheeky bikini with two shells and I made sure I have a silicone tail that’s safe in the open ocean, I don’t want to make the situation worse.
“We regularly go into the water and do conservation work, removing rope and ‘ghost netting’ and other gear – including lobster pots that marine life can get trapped in.”
To anyone wishing to experience the world of mermaiding, Emma urges them to do their research and be respectful to the environment.